This blog and Billions have had an interesting relationship. I launched the blog only two weeks before they started shooting Billions pilot in New York City in 2015. Damian found out about the blog on Billions pilot set. And since then we made 450 posts on Billions varying from weekly reviews to analysis of characters and relationships to the music, books as well as locations and restaurants that appeared on the show!
And, to top it all, it was on Billions Pilot set in NYC that Damian found out about Fan Fun with Damian Lewis! So how about we go back to 02/03/2015, exactly six years ago, to a very cold day in NYC for a heartwarming story?
In our collective blog about Best of Billions Season 1, I said the following about my favorite Axe line of the season:
“Axe is all about effing: **** Chuck! **** Carly, Channing and Hlasa! **** Eads Family! Hey, he even wants to say **** You to gravity! It is his “**** you money” that gives him the power to do it and Axe perfectly sets the tone in The Pilot with my favorite line of the show: “What’s the point of having **** You Money if you never say **** You?” And, besides, it is very personal.
Yes, it is VERY personal because, believe it or not, Damian Lewis found out about our blog while he was filming that very scene!
I told you earlier Homeland was our local show. They filmed it in Charlotte, two and a half hours from our house, and we never made it to the set. So, when I found out they would shoot Billions pilot in New York, and New York being our second home, I promised myself if they filmed somewhere in the city, I would go just not to regret later! That’s my MOTTO, I guess, for everything in life. Life is TOO SHORT to postpone anything if you could afford to do it now! 🙂
February 3, 2015: Exactly five years ago. The blog is just one month old and I am dying to find a way to tell Damian Lewis about it. But how? You know he is not listed in the phone book 😀 So when I find out on Twitter they are shooting Billions in midtown NYC and just ONE subway station from our apartment… Well… Nice! The only downside is that it is one of those sunny but freezing mornings with temps in teens! Is it really worth going without even knowing if there is a slim chance of seeing your favorite actor? But then again what’s the point of having a fan blog for him if he never finds out about it? 🙂 Fair enough. Lewisto and I put on our warmest puffy jackets, complete with hats, gloves and boots, and off we go to Billions set!
First, we notice the yellow NO PARKING signs on the street… Honestly, I never noticed them before… until I found out they are posted by film crews. Lo and behold, I am an expert now!
They film indoors at New York Times Center which I blogged about in our Billions NYC locations post. We need to wait outside and keep fingers crossed Damian will get out for some fresh air or food catered set up outside on the sidewalk. That is our one chance.
We see many extras, men and women in nice business suits, and with badges saying Delivering Alpha on them. I have no idea then about what Delivering Alpha is about. Now I know it is an annual conference hosted by CNBC (please note Andrew Ross Sorkin, one of the Billions Season 1 executive producers is also a co-anchor on CNBC’s pre-market morning news program Squawk Box) and Institutional Investor and held in New York City. We, in fact, have hedge-fund titans Bobby Axelrod (Axe Capital) and Steven Birch (Piedmont Capital) on a Delivering Alpha panel discussion in the Pilot!
Back to us standing in the cold… The catering staff is the sweetest people in the world that deserve a special mention here. They offer us tea/coffee, and food; in particular one of them even offers us her hand warmers!
In the meantime, Paul Giamatti comes out for coffee, David Costabile comes out for food… On a regular day, I’d go say hi and even ask for a picture, but I cannot even think about it now. I mean… Paul F***in’ Giamatti is standing next to me having coffee, and I don’t even say hi? And I love him! But I am glued to the glass windows keeping an eye on what’s going on inside… The catering staff has been working on the set for a while now, so they know everyone. And, they say “the tall guy” is rarely coming out. Ok. It seems we will have a longer wait than we thought we would.
Confession: We, give or take, waited for 10 hours.
It’s 5 pm. We now know filming is not a 9 to 5 job. Not even close. As people get outside for a smoke or some snack, I ask them if they are still shooting and they tell me they now start shooting rehearsals, and it can go until late, 9 – 10pm or so. One guy I talk to asks me whether I am a friend of a cast or a crew member and I say I am just a fan… And, hey, that guy turns out to be no other than… Steve Gilroy that plays Mike Dimonda, the journalist from Financial Journal, to whom Axe feeds information about Steven Birch in the Pilot! Remember Dimonda is attending Delivering Alpha to work on his Pulitzer! 🙂
10pm??? What? In fact, in the following days, there were tweets from Brian Koppelman saying they were done by 3am in the morning! Yes, actors are paid well here, probably better than anywhere in the world, but they work REALLY hard. They seem to have very long working hours which I did not figure out before… but I am thinking more about my freezing hands and feet more than their long working hours now. At least they are warm inside 🙂
So when I hear “10pm” I am ready to leave. And, Lewisto says, “Ok, you go… I will wait.” Seriously? And, we wait… taking turns going to the New York Times Building nearby for 10 minute breaks to indulge in its wonderful heater… And at some point we buy hand and foot warmers as well. What a day!
Then I spot Damian. He’s walking left and right but never towards the door. I spot him, but then I think, with my feet going numb and all, maybe I am seeing some kind of “mirage” like the people in the desert do 🙂 But no, I spot him right… THAT walk… You cannot miss that walk — you know what I am talking about, don’t you? 🙂
I am glued to the glass window. I see Toby Moore and Condola Rashad at the head of the stairs. They are obviously shooting downstairs. Remember the scene downstairs at NY Times Center? Yes, you do!
It is almost 8:30pm. All of a sudden, Damian appears at the head of the stairs. He turns around and starts walking… towards the entrance… towards us. The “tall guy” that rarely goes out is hitting the door… I feel like I am rooting for a quarterback going for his touchdown. “Come on, Damian, come on!”
And… touchdown! All of a sudden, it’s me, Lewisto, the catering staff and Damian Lewis on the sidewalk. Damian asks about the ribs, someone told him they were good, alas they are all gone. And I am sending my heartfelt thanks to the person who recommended the ribs — whoever you are, you made my DAY!
I know from what I read earlier that Damian likes to stay in character on set but now I understand what THAT means. This is the hedge-fund king standing next to me studying the food table.
Me: “Mr. Lewis?”
Damian: “Hi, honey, how are you?”
This is not Damian. This is Bobby “Axe” Axelrod. Damian is totally in character and speaking in his American accent, too. How cool is that? And, oh, I am doing well, I have not been doing well until a minute ago, but I am actually doing super well at this moment 🙂
Me: “Do you have five minutes?”
He smiles: “Yes, I do.”
So I properly introduce ourselves and tell him about the blog.
“Thank you so much for doing this.”
One can tell he’s a little bit puzzled that a college professor is doing a fan blog for him. But, believe me, this is not much different from thinking about Jean Jacques Rousseau and his work, and write about it. And, honestly, it is much more fun to think deeply about Damian Lewis and his work and write about it.
Damian is sorry to hear we have waited for 10 hours. And I even show him the hand warmers to add to the drama 🙂
Then he is not Bobby anymore… but still in American accent. I tell him about Fan Fun with Damian Lewis and he seems to be intrigued. He is very kind and generous with his time, he asks for my information and puts it into his jacket pocket, asks about our jobs, what we teach, and in fact, poor guy cannot get to eat anything because he talks to us until someone comes to say he has to go back for the shoot.
They are shooting rehearsals when Damian comes outside. So they shoot the real “FU money” scene after he gets in. And this means he has my information in his pocket as he delivers THAT line and no one can take this memory away from me! 🙂
And as much as I think Axe’s “FU Money” line has become a classic in TV history, I believe Lewisto’s line to Damian as he is leaving is an instant classic, too:
“Hey, Damian, you know what? She broke up with Kevin Costner for you. Her first blog post is about that. You should read it.”
*****Damianista blushes big time*****
Damian (laughing): “I WILL read it.”
I do not know if Damian has ever read that post. But if you want to read it, it is here.
And, as my dear Bookworm says:
“You won’t be out in the cold if you stand by your Axe! “