Showtime Billions at TCA18

It’s been a long winter, but now that Billions has announced a return date of March 25 for Season 3, bluier skies may be ahead. On Saturday, showrunners and stars graced the stage for this year’s Television Critics Association winter press tour, where they dropped the first promo and got the buzz up and running for the new season.

The party got started in some fun Facebook live sessions. These short interviews were great at revealing actors’ insights into the characters they play as well as some fun behind the scenes bits.

First was Asia Kate Dillon. As we’ve seen, Taylor has been playing an increasing bigger role since first appearing on canvas. Last season, Axe promoted Taylor to CIO. It looks like this season their role may be even more significant.

Q: “Axe doesn’t trust many people, why does he trust Taylor?”
A: “In Taylor, Axe sees something unique and something practical: Taylor can make Axe a lot of money… Axe can see there is no ulterior motive.”

Q: “They can appear almost impenetrable. Do you think they have any weaknesses?
A: “Taylor is full of emotion, certainly, but is aware of when and how to titrate those emotions to get a desired result.”

Brr, that sounds cold, doesn’t it? Also a bit magical that Taylor is able to envision a result of something while also living that thing. In a show where the brain butts up against the heart, the practical against the ideal, a character like Taylor seems to function as a fulcrum on the scale.

Next came Malin Akerman and Maggie Siff. They were asked to describe Season 3 in one word. Their answer: “Fierce.” Then they played a game.

Q: “Who is the funniest on set?”

Malin commented that Damian has that British quick wit charming sense of humor. And Maggie agreed that he was very funny even though she picked professional comic Dan Soder as the biggest tickler of the funny bone.

Q: “Who nails it on the first take?”

“Maybe two,” Malin clarifies. Maggie says of Asia, there’s a “clarity out the gate.”

Finally, showrunners David Levien and Brian Koppelman’s session was a riot of behind the scenes anecdotes. First, our very own Gingersnap got a shout out for asking her brilliant question on who plays better ping pong, Koppelman or Damian? You can read her bit and hear the clip here.

Then there was the requisite talk on Damian’s accent. As we’ve heard before, Damian stays in the American accent throughout their shooting days, on and off the camera. Levien and Koppelman quipped:

“As soon as we got on the plane last night, he became a British flight attendant.”

Levien: “He became a very elegant man…full service was beautiful to watch.”

Koppelman: “Quite a mixologist too.”

That settles it. A cocktail party, you esconced safely behind the bar mixing it up for your coterie of adoring fans. How about it, Damian?

Koppelman dropped names of hedge fund guys who “threw in with [them] early.” Marc Lasry and Jim Chanos “both lent info we were able to use, words that ended up coming out of Axe’s mouth.” He continued: “And Preet Bharara, we’ve spent time with as well, to learn the US attorney’s side.”

On the topic of food, Koppelman teased that Episode 5 will feature a quintessential NY restaurant with a quintessential NY chef. He remarked that the food press have written favorably on how Billions depicts “social structure as it’s revealed thru restaurants.”

Talk turned to story. Levien summarized:

Chuck had a great victory on one hand, but he had to alienate a lot of people in the process and that left him very vulnerable to somebody coming back at him. Bobby Axelrod’s the kind of guy who’s going to pick up on that opportunity to go after him.

Levien and Koppelman had their chance at one word to describe Season 3.

Levien: “Exciting.”
Koppelman: “Fucking great.”
Interviewer: “That’s two words.”
New Yorker Koppelman: “Yeah, to you.”

We didn’t attend the TCA event ourselves, and, unlike commercial media, we don’t get advance episodes, but we followed along closely as flies on the flies in the room. Diane Gordon from Surf Report treated us to a storify with some official photos, worth checking out here.

Some great reveals from her reporting are the new faces we’ll be seeing this season:

Koppelman confirms Mike Birbiglia will be recurring:

And apparently Damian does a killer impression of the comedian:

They pulled another casting coup for film nerds such as themselves, wrangling Clancy Brown who played Kurgan in Highlander, a film that has featured more than once in Billions dialog:

Now for the promo:

The tagline is: What has the stronger pull: Fear or Money?

When Wendy notes Bobby’s hesitation, neither fear nor the potential to lose his money figures in his explanation. It’s rage. Could the show be going into an examination of the stultifying and self-defeating nature of rage?

Axe has been confronted by the possibility of prison, for doing something that comes naturally to him, something he’s convinced himself hurts no one, the simple act of making money. He may say otherwise, but he is defeated, the floor has dropped out from under him. As someone charged with a crime, he is effectively without power.

Given the niceties of the criminal justice system, white collar criminals are free to walk about untethered even when under investigation, so he’s still able-bodied enough to hand over his business activities to eager-to-please trusty Lieutenant Taylor. How that works out for him remains to be seen, of course. The line “I needed total loyalty, I got less than that” is most likely inserted totally out of context as promos often do. But, it gets you thinking anyway, doesn’t it.

In short, his admission of rage, not resolve, not empowerment, but sheer rage, is very telling I think. Coupled with the fact that he may have lost his family in the bargain, yeah, he’s angry. And I can see it being a sort of helpless “but all I wanted to do was make money” kind of anger. And the rage itself may be his kryptonite.

Deadline Hollywood shared:

“That was a box that we wanted to put the character in. We had these characters that are super powerful within their worlds,” said Levien. It’s fascinating to us to put them in situations where they become vulnerable or less powerful. It’s a changing landscape. The question is how will Axe react?”

“By the 3rd episode of this season it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to accept that that’s his modern life,” expounded Koppelman. “He’s going to work really hard to change that. We just wanted to take a superhero in a way and put them in a box for which it’s hard for them to escape.”

“People go down on this show but they get back up pretty quick,” Lewis teased. “That buoyancy is what makes it so exciting to watch… He has a lieutenant now and they are the avatar of everything that he likes and believes in. He will find a way to come back.”

In the promo, we see Connerty offering his insight:

They’re meat eaters, the only win they can live with is total….he expects to get all of it, everything.

If that particular cut of the promo is to believed, Chuck doesn’t seem very convinced. Gotta say, neither am I: Bobby is cornered, and he’s blinded by rage. Given the desperateness of such a position, some radically new shit is definitely going to do down.

On to Lara and Wendy’s roles in all of the power play.

I’m like the girl version of an 11 year old boy every time I hear the expression “between a rock and a hard place”, so, forgive the prurience when I say, given the return to cowhide and other gear for Wendy and Chuck, I do believe that Axe may be the rock in that formula.

We’ve seen the exhilarating back and forth between the two ends of the scale in the last two seasons, and this season will most likely continue that dynamic in new interesting ways. Axe starting at the lower end bodes well for Season 3 being a compelling ride!

Looks like cast decided to make a full day and night in Los Angeles out of it. Here they are at Showtime’s Golden Globe party:

ETA: Gotta add this pic of Damian and Asia, speaks volumes:

(L-R) Executive producer & creator Brian Koppelman, executive producer creator Davied Levien, actors Asia Kate Dillon, Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff and Malin Akerman of the television show BILLIONS speak onstage during the CBS/Showtime portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 6, 2018 in Pasadena, California.

Also, that Southern-sounding chain gang blues march you hear behind the promo? Why, another young new face that belies the depth of his voice, Barns Courtney, “Glitter & Gold”

15 thoughts on “Showtime Billions at TCA18”

  1. Fantastic post and fantastic GIFs! One of the GIFs is my favorite Bobby Axelrod look from the promo. *side eye Axe*

    1. Thanks K! Gotta admit that seeing you put up like three articles on in the time I took to put this together was awe-inspiring. Gotta inject myself with Red Bull or something to keep up with you guys! 🙂

        1. I will just say, and I believe it, Damian is lucky to have this crazy group of women incredibly dedicated to him and his brilliant work. Have I ever told you the nickname Lewisto gave to Damian? 😀 There cannot exist better team work. We all have jobs and so weekend is precious but we gave up on our Saturday to follow TCA and do these posts. Go figure 🙂

  2. I am so excited and really proud that we are kicking off the festivities for Billions Season 3 with this post. YOU ARE INCREDIBLE. This is a wonderful post written in such a short time and that it does not only give us all we need to know about Billions as TCA 2018 but teases about the promo which is mind-blowing! Thank you, partner, for taking care of this *Saturday evening* <3

    1. With your help!! Great practice for the pace this blog will have come March 25. Looking forward to getting back in the saddle of churning out those weekly recaps! <3

  3. I add to the comments above, incredibly fast, well written and insightful… totally excited about season 3!!!

    Loving the posts by Gingersnap in Damian-lewis page.

    I have to say that you guys to be the “flies of the flies” in the room do incredible job putting all that together, info, gifts, post, video, you are very professional!!!

    Thanks for adding the song…goes with the promo and I loved it 🙂

    Have a great beginning of week

  4. Ok but are they at a new office, or am I losing it? Would they have maybe had to move into an office in New York due to Bobby’s bail terms or something? They look like they are in a skyscraper.

    1. Yes! It’s a NEW office. It should be about his bail terms – he may not leave the state of NY and Axe Capital HQ is located in Westport, CT. He also seems to have a penthouse condo in NY with a view of the Freedom Tower. It seems to be all NYC this season — at least the first half of the season. My mind is still spinning about the trailer. Will put something together about it soon – most probably for Monday. Need to think about it a bit more so I can put together something coherent. Look forward to some lively discussion! Cheers!

    2. Yes! I think the aerial shot of the skyscraper they show is Axe’s new digs after Lara kicks him to the curb (until he figures out how to handle the indictment, that is). Not sure about Axe capital…i can see the view from the windows looks like it’s a high-rise, at least higher than it was before. Guess the minions get to commute into Manhattan this season!

  5. What do you think of the scene where Lara is signing some papers in an office with Bobby and his lawyer (and others) looking on? I think that scene is the most ominous.

    1. Or it could have been edited to make us feel it is the most ominous. I am still trying to digest the trailer – mind-blowing indeed!

    2. It IS ominous! Splitting of assets, or whatever it’s called, in a divorce settlement? A rigid non-disclosure agreement so she can never be called to testify, even if they divorce? Maybe a contract with Axe Cap for her IV business? Or it could just be the check on the company lunch order. 🙂 Who knows? Let the speculation begin!

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