I personally promised several of you to write about my conversation with Damian when I caught up with him on Billions set back in December as soon as I come back from vacation. I have been buried under teaching and committee work and meetings since I came back that I have just been able to find some time to sit and write. And while it may be a while ago and that I do sometimes not remember what I had for dinner last night, I vividly remember my conversation with Damian 😀
This blog has had an interesting relationship with Billions. I launched the blog only two weeks before they started shooting the pilot in New York and I have been very lucky to catch up with Damian on the set once every season since. I do not know how many times you need to do a thing for it to become a tradition, but catching up with Damian on Billions set once a year certainly feels like a tradition now.
And when I saw Billions signs on Park Avenue on a Saturday evening in December, I thought I could continue the tradition. The signs hint that they might shoot at an ultra fancy restaurant where I could easily imagine Axe eat with other billionaires, and was happy that I could continue the tradition.
Not too fast, Damianista!
When I arrive on the set, which I thought would be in full swing, I see no Haddad’s trucks. Besides, all the signs I saw over the weekend were removed! Did they shoot very early in the morning and leave? Did they reschedule the shoot? Bummer. Bummer. BUMMER!
On the subway ride back home, I see another tweet saying Billions will be shooting at a different location on December 17-18 but there is no Billions sign attached to the tweet. Thoughts start to fly in my mind: “There is no picture… Could it be that 17th is the day people need to move their cars and 18th is the shoot day? (see the sign above for clarification!) The location the tweet talks about is remote. An hour-long subway ride and then I should take an Uber… is it worth it? But then again today is my last full day in the city because we are leaving town tomorrow for a vacation. If they are really shooting there and I do not try my chances today, wouldn’t I regret later? So I am going, aren’t I? Yes, I am. YES, I AM!”
So I change trains and I arrive at the new location in an hour and a half. I see Billions signs all over the street saying they will actually shoot here for two consecutive days and the Billions crew is already on location getting the place ready for the shoot. I ask a crew member and find out they will start shooting in a few hours. This means I take more than 15K steps on a single street in a few hours because it is the only way to keep warm 😀
But, hey, the the real challenge is not the weather. The real challenge is to find a restroom when you need it! 😀 And I am eternally grateful to the manager at CTown nearby for being so kind and letting me use the restroom they do not typically let customers use because it is dangerous to go there — very steep stairs to the basement — and telling me to come back when I need to use the restroom again! Besides, when he finds out why I am waiting there, he says he loves the billionaire guy on the show! Yeah, me, too!
While I constantly walk up and down the block — they are filming on a real long street — I miss Damian’s arrival. The set is an interior location but one can see what is going on in there thanks to the large windows and so I can see him talking to the cast and crew and they are all laughing. While we already know these people enjoy each other’s company, it is very lovely to witness it!
When Damian leaves the building unexpectedly in a few minutes, I am sort of glad my fan girl self is there because she has the confidence to call his name loudly as he is getting into a big black car. Damian turns back:
“B! How are you?”
He comes and gives me a hug. He says he needs to leave now to get ready for the shoot but will come back soon.
“Wait for me here.”
I will! And it is a good feeling to be able to tell the crew member whose job seems to be keeping people away from the set that Damian told me to wait for him right here 😀
When he arrives back on set in his Bobby Axelrod attire, Damian tells me he needs to be on set right away but he will come find me during breaks!
YAY to that! Because this means I can watch the shoot! And it is absolutely thrilling to watch a show being shot, especially if it is your favorite show, and you just stand a few feet away from some of your favorite actors and see them in action. You also find out how serious this business is. The particular scene I have seen being shot will probably last about a minute or two in the episode. But they shoot it again and again and again with breaks in between. No wonder they have 14-hour days on set and it takes about two weeks to shoot an episode and six months to shoot a season!
Here’s a couple of things I notice on the set. Some of it is a repeat of what I observed last year when I was very lucky to watch one of the most hilarious scenes from Episode 3 A Generation Too Late being shot around the corner from my apartment!
Damian carries a chapstick in his pocket and uses it often.
Damian drinks a lot of water between takes.
Damian talks a lot on the phone between takes.
Damian takes a puff from a cast member’s cigarette.
Damian has presence on set. So much fun to see him calling out to David Costabile “Costy!” and to Kelly AuCoin who is literally standing in front of a Dollar Tree “Dollar Bill!” 😀 I wish I could take pictures but I do not even touch my phone on set not to risk getting kicked out by the crew.
When Damian gets out for the second break, he calls my name loudly from across the street as he walks towards me:
“B! How can I help you?”
I just tell him how happy I am to be able to spend a bit of time with him because there is so much I want to tell him and so little time.
“Tell me whatever you want.”
Well, I say, first of all, I am extremely happy I could catch up with him on set today since I am leaving town for a trip tomorrow night. So he asks about our trip. We’re going to South East Asia. He asks if I’m going with my husband and for how long. Yes, him, and two of our best friends. 4 countries in 17 days! He asks if we have made detailed plans. Well, I say, I know he will understand me because we, the Aquarians, are obsessed about perfection and I also know he said in an interview once that he even wanted a trip to the zoo to be perfect! And, yes, I am the kind of aggressive tourist who plans every second with no real break so I always need a vacation when I come back from a vacation.
“Are you still doing game theory?”
Yes, I am, and I have just published a paper in the top journal in my field. It is incredible to see that he is genuinely interested. He could have said “Bravo, B!” and moved on, but instead he asks:
“What’s the paper about?”
So I tell him my co-author and I study how the bargaining between a government and a rebel group works in a game theoretic model. We derive and empirically test the conditions under which the rebels are able to receive concessions from the government. It turns out that the civilians, especially the middle class, showing support for the rebels via peaceful protests or marches makes it more likely for the government to grant concessions to the rebel group.
“So direct action doesn’t work. You need sponsorship.”
WOW. I later tell my husband, who is also an academic, that I would not have been able to summarize my own work as precisely as Damian.
They want Damian back from the set and I get to watch a little bit more of the same scene filmed for several times. When they take a break, Damian comes back and I know what to talk about next: Football.
“I am a Liverpool fan, too.”
I tell him how much I love it that he loves and plays football and how it was my dad who gave me the love of football like he gave it to his own son. I tell him about the Sunday afternoons at our home with my dad sitting on the sofa and me sitting on his shoulders watching football together. And while my dad passed away when I was young I still feel football is my connection to him. Oh, and I was finally able to ask Damian how he became a Liverpool fan! It turns out we became fans exactly the same way: Liverpool won pretty much every cup when we were kids! And he adds how nice it is that my dad gave me the love of the sport and that his dad was not an influence when it came to football. Damian’s dad is a rugby guy 😀
And I tell him it was a very happy moment for me when I received an email from a sports reporter inviting Damian to the UEFA Championships Liverpool – Manchester City game last year (yes, we receive such emails from reporters and interviewers who do not know the contact information for Damian’s representation) and it was a true pleasure to forward the message to Damian’s PA because I knew deep down he would do it.
And HE DID.
Damian says he and Gully may again go to Liverpool – Manchester City match, this time an EPL game in Manchester early January. We later find out, thanks to a fan on Twitter, that father and son watched the match at a pub in London.
Son and I watching City – Liverpool game in pub, in walks dad with kids, says hi, orders food, roars on the reds, just a decent normal dad, good work @lewis_damian
— Simon Coll (@bozcoll) January 5, 2019
The conversation turns to his kids. I tell him how much we loved the pictures of him with Manon and Gulliver from Mary Poppins Returns European Premiere blue carpet.
Damian’s eyes are lit when he talks about his children. He thinks Manon may become an actress, she seems to have it in her. Gully is preparing for his next school and he has been doing very well in his interviews for very competitive schools. And he protests when I say it seems the ginger gene has dominated in the kids. It should be the light in the pictures because it turns out neither of the kids is a red head. So this lovely family picture Gully drew when he was little is accurate with dad being the only ginger in the family 😀
It is Damian’s turn to ask the questions. How come do I get to spend so much time in New York? I am an academic so I can be anywhere when I am not teaching. We have a tiny apartment on the Upper West Side and the kind of things this city has to offer, from food to theater to music to art, is second to none. Does the university pay for our housing in North Carolina? Oh, no, this is not Oxford 😀 Some universities in New York, Boston, and California have subsidized housing for faculty to attract more academics to places where living expenses are considerably higher, but not in North Carolina. We have our own house there. Does my husband do consulting? I love this one! Damian definitely knows how academics, especially economists, make some extra money. Yes, he sometimes does 😀
They need Damian back on set. So he goes, does his thing, and when he comes back, we talk about the scene they are shooting (I can’t give any details here but will update the post after the episode airs!) He tells me (this conversation occurred before the official announcement) Season 4 will premiere on March 17 but I cannot tell anyone. And I tell him, well, I have seen something else that I probably cannot tell anyone, either. What, he asks, and when I tell him, he responds: “No, you can’t tell about it to anyone either.” 😀
Time for some business! I tell Damian how great both sites are doing and it is all thanks to having the best team in the world. When he hears it will be our 4th birthday on January 5, he makes a little video for the fandom to celebrate an anniversary he calls “amazing.”And it turns out he is as good a stage manager as he is an actor 😀 I notice later when I watch the video that he has his jacket collars raised for the video. FUN!
Look at me! Can anyone smile bigger? But I mean, what other actor would hang out with a fan on set, make her feel like his guest, and play along to make a video for her website? Thank you for everything, Damian! Thank you for your time, your kindness and your generosity. We are proud to be Team Damian!
As we say our goodbyes, Damian says the filming will probably go very late that night. And he walks, hands in his pockets, to the catering service set up next to the set, to have a bite. He was not able to eat so far because he has been busy nannying me. Sorry!
The first question Lewisto asks when I come home is:
“Did he comment on your new coat?” 😀
I know this question makes some of you smile, and those of you who do not know about the story may find about it here. But, no, he did not comment on my new fancy coat 😀
Update 04/30/2019: Now that we have watched episode 7, you can see the updated version of this post here.