Charles Rhoades, Sr.- A Tribute
Charles Rhoades Sr., often referred to as Chuck Senior, is played by the extraordinary actor Jeffrey DeMunn. Some of you may remember him from the Walking Dead, Law and Order and The Green Mile. He plays Chuck Senior on Billions with a noble, high-born conviction with not so subtle hints of a slime ball undercurrent magnified by that Bob Barker mischievous grin.
But who is this character, really, besides just Chuck Rhoades’ father? Let’s investigate his backstory.
Senior, as I will refer to him from here on, is an Upper East Side grand master with an astute perspective you’d expect from an Elder. He is the epitome of the WASP elite that dominated much of politics, the economy and high culture back in the day and is referred to as a “New York blue blood” with a thwarted political career. He went to Yale and was a Whiffenpoof, and is high on the social ladder.
He’s a member of the Yale Club of New York, stores his cigars in humidors at Nat Sherman Tobacco Lounge and hangs around with the likes of pals named Tate Tappan and Stuckey Brown, and rubs elbows with Kingmakers named Black Jack Foley.
He’s a wealthy and well-connected city power player with a mistress and varying relations at the highest levels of influence who often uses his social position to meddle in his son’s affairs and sabotage others who dare get in the way. No doubt he casts a shadow that constantly looms over Chuck Jr.
We assume his wealth comes from old money, a perfect antithesis to Axelrod’s new money, but some online research indicates the Rhoades family is sort of in between new and old money. Senior made his dough as a New York real estate mogul, not unlike many family dynasties whose fortunes are split among family members. Ergo Junior’s trust fund. And here is where the internet gossip begins – in the first season of Billions it was supposedly hinted that one of Senior’s properties was consumed by fire, many years prior to the current timeline of the show, in which several tenants perished. And as my fellow blogger Holliedazzle remembers, “When the press is calling you a slum lord.” Regardless of what led to his slum lord moniker, as a result of some scandal, Senior had such a tarnished reputation that he was unable to run for public office.
Therein lies the motivation for wanting Junior to achieve a higher political position. If given the chance to advance his son’s civic career while rescuing his own damaged reputation, Senior will jump at the chance and probably succeed. He made his family rich, but he also knows that there’s more to real success than just having a lot of money, so he wants his son to achieve what he never could. Interestingly, he isn’t above the very criminal activity that his son accuses Axe for—pumping company stock, market manipulation, insider trading and fraud (S1E4-Short Squeeze), let alone when he tried to negotiate a house arrest arrangement for an old family friend convicted of insider trading with his sonny boy, the US Attorney (S1E1 – Pilot).
Senior is an opportunistic bastard, but regardless, we love him and his sarcastic puns. Damianista has a not-so-secret crush on him! While the Wags character has great one-liners in Billions, Senior can throw the best shade that would put all the Real Housewives to shame—move over NeNe Leakes, there’s a new cynical in town. His savage jabs give me deep belly laughs every time, but for me, it’s not so much WHAT Senior is saying, it’s HOW Jeffrey DeMunn delivers the line and WHEN…with this dry sense of humor and perfect timing. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite Chuck seniorisms that I (and Brian Koppelman) lovingly refer to as ‘senior burns.’
Number 1: “Nobody gets to fuck ‘em all. You’ve got to choose which one you’re gonna fuck, and then fuck her good.” – Season 2, Episode 8, The Kingmaker. Senior, the pep talk giver. Junior is realizing in order to take the path of political office, he has to leave Axelrod behind.
Number 2: “He’s got piss all over his big boys.” – Season 2, Episode 8, The Kingmaker. After Junior digs up dirt on his political rival Buffalo Bob, Senior and Son run into him at Black Jack Foley’s soiree where Bob seemingly tucks his tail between his legs and runs.
Number 3: “Did Morgan at the front desk not offer you a courtesy blazer?” – Season 2, Episode 8, The Kingmaker. When Axe crashes the Rhoades party at the Yale Club wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket instead of the staple dress code.
Number 4: “Pound cake? 70% sour cream!” – Season 2, Episode 10, With or Without You. Senior, the Paula Deen of the Upper East Side showing his superficial hospitality with undertones of flirting toward political strategist George Minchak.
Number 5: “Unless it is broken plates and steak knives, you gut through it.” – Season 2, Episode 2, Dead Cat Bounce. Senior, the self-appointed marriage counselor giving his sage advice to daughter-in-law Wendy.
Number 6: “That’s Camelot right there.” – Season 2, Episode 7, Victory Lap. Senior commenting on Junior’s recent press picture showing him playing ball in the park with his son with a headline that reads, ‘Bringing down Lawrence Boyd of Spartan-Ives.’ Senior can taste Junior’s hints of running for Governor. Proud father-son moment. Bonus video.
Number 7: “Upside down day! Breakfast for dinner. Put some syrup on it, it’s delicious.” – Season 2, Episode 7, Victory Lap. Senior’s nutrition advice. He’s no Martha Stewart. And he sure can crush childhood dreams by revealing to Junior that all along, he has been eating froffles (frozen waffles) and not mommy’s homemade concoction. L’Eggo my Eggo.
Number 8: “It’s a six figure ring son, it’s who they all are.” and from same scene “You’re talking like a man with a terminal disease.” – Season 2, Episode 2, Dead Cat Bounce. Senior, the hopeless romantic. Senior believes the opportunity to be the First Lady of New York is good enough for Wendy to stay with Chuck, Jr. and that a ring will seal the deal. When his son turns down the offer, Senior infers that to killing off Junior’s political run.
Number 9: “You sound like a fucking hippie.” – Season 2, Episode 8, The Kingmaker. Brian Koppelman said it best: ‘Only Senior can refer to his US Attorney son in a 3-piece suit as a fucking hippie!’ Chuck is surprised to find out Black Jack Foley will support a different second-tier show pony, Buffalo Bob, in the primaries instead of Chuck just because Chuck didn’t gargle Foley’s balls and get his granddaughter a Clerkship. Junior reminds Senior, “We don’t have kings, Dad. We live in a democracy. The age of the kingmaker is past. I don’t need a power broker.” Senior schools his son further on the real way politics works and thus, his reply.
Number 10: “Well, you did have that Ice Juice today.” – Season 2, Episode 11, Golden Frog Time. The Armageddon hits Ice Juice investors and Ira is apologetic to both Senior and Junior. Senior reveals the fact that he invested Chuck’s entire blind trust on Ice Juice and it is all gone. As Ira feels like he is going to throw up, Senior delivers Damianista’s all-time favorite line…and steals her heart all over again.
Number 11: “You cannot be an effective candidate if your marriage is in the crapper. Son, you do know why you need her in your life, don’t you? She’s a natural-born killer.” – Season 2, Episode 7, Victory Lap. Senior, the complimentary father-in-law and Campaign Manager wanna-be by proxy.
Number 12: “This is goddamn ridiculous.” – Season 1, Episode 4, Short Squeeze. Senior being told by Junior to essentially shut up and take his medicine (licks) for pumping company stock, market manipulation, insider trading and fraud. Daddy had to eat over $400,000 to stay in good, legal graces with his US Attorney son.
BONUS HONORABLE MENTION: “Honey, I took a pill.” – Season 1, Episode 3, YumTime. Senior reminding his “side piece” (and holder of his former board seat) that she can’t leave the hotel now after the advice he just gave her about defeating Bobby Axelrod because the little blue wonder was in effect.
And there you have it folks, a baker’s dozen of seniorisms. As Bobby Axelrod stated, “I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.” I certainly look forward to more seniorisms in season three!