Catching Up With Damian Lewis at
Bobby Axelrod’s Favorite Pizzeria

When I saw this tweet, I wanted to scream on top of my lungs “it is going to happen!” but of course I restrained myself 🙂 Now that everyone has seen the fantastic Episode 7, I can spill the beans! Join me!

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.

The day I “met” Bobby Axelrod on Billions pilot set, February 3, 2015, source: Damianista

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 Eleven Madison Park 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!

Well, now that I have seen Episode 7, I know that they actually filmed at Eleven Madison Park where we see Rebecca and Brian Dana having lunch. I think they filmed at the restaurant very early in the morning and they were done way before I arrived.

On the subway ride back home, I see another tweet saying Billions will be shooting on Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village on December 17-18 but there is no Billions sign picture attached to the tweet. But I certainly know the location the tweet is talking about: Capparello’s aka Bruno’s pizzeria which Lewisto and I visited two summers ago! So thoughts 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!) It is an hour-long subway ride followed by an Uber ride to the pizzeria. Is it worth it? But today is my last full day in the city because we are leaving tomorrow for a vacation. If they are really shooting there and if I do not try my chances today, won’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 Bruno’s in an hour and a half. I see Billions signs all over the street saying they will actually shoot here for two consecutive days. There is a “Closed for Private Event” sign on the front door and the Billions crew has already transformed Rosa’s Pizza into Capparello’s!

The only picture I took on location! 🙂

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 😀

My iPhone Health app showing the number of steps I took on December 17, 2018, source: Damianista

But, hey, the real challenge is not the weather. It is to find a restroom when you need it! 😀  And I am eternally grateful to the manager at C-Town 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 — Metropolitan Avenue is a long avenue — I miss Damian’s arrival. They are shooting inside the pizzeria but one can see what is going on in there thanks to the large windows and so I see Damian talking to Arthur Nascarella who is playing Bruno, and they are 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 and calls my name:

“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 that Damian Lewis told me to wait for him right here 😀

When he arrives back on set as Bobby Axelrod, Damian tells me he needs to be on set right away but he will come find me during his breaks!

YAY to that! Because this means I can watch them shooting! It is absolutely thrilling to see a show being shot… especially if it is your favorite show, and you stand just a short distance from some of your favorite actors and see them in action.

So here is what I am seeing! Axe and Bruno come together to the table where Wags, Dollar Bill, Ben Kim, Bonnie, Helena, Axe’s old friends from the neighborhood and a blonde young woman that I do not know are sitting… Hmmm…

It looks like a celebratory event. Axe looks genuinely happy, he says a few words, makes a toast and melts my heart when he gives a big hug to Bruno.

Then he takes off his jacket and sits next to the blonde which we did not see in the episode… Hmmm…

This is exactly how I watched the scene being shot… from these windows!

And the blonde touches Axe’s shoulder in a way that hints there is something romantic going on between them which we did not see in the episode, either… Hmmm…

😀 😀 😀

Here’s a couple of things I notice on set. Some of it is a repeat of what I observed last year when I was very lucky to see 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 store, “Dollar Bill!” 😀  I wish I could take pictures but I do not even touch my phone on set not to risk getting kicked out for inappropriate behavior!

And when he gets out for the break, he calls my name loudly from across the street:

“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.

His turn.

“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 Lewisto, 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 another break, Damian comes back and we talk about futbol! 😀

Damian Lewis at Anfield Stadium, the home of LFC, source: Getty Images

“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.

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 and his kids at the European Premiere of “Mary Poppins Returns” at Royal Albert Hall on December 12, 2018

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 😀

source: dailymail.co.uk

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, they shoot the same scene again, and when he comes back, we talk about the scene! I tell him Axe broke my heart when he broke Bruno’s so I am very pleased to see Axe and Bruno together again. 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 did you see?, he asks, and I tell him “Well, that blonde woman was touching you in the scene” and he goes “Ha! That! No, you cannot tell anyone about it, either!” 😀

Time for some business! I tell Damian how great both the blog and the site 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 our anniversary that 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 😀

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

18 thoughts on “Catching Up With Damian Lewis at
Bobby Axelrod’s Favorite Pizzeria”

  1. I love reading these. You do such a good job painting the picture of the day. And you show such amazing patience to tough it out. You really are a master at this. I am very grateful to be along for the ride.

    1. Thank you for reading! And you don’t know how happy it makes me to know readers enjoy my stories. I used to have the best memory, as I age, I feel that I do not have the memory I used to, but my memory is at its BEST when anything Billions or DL related is concerned! Patience is THE key!

      Here is my oath: ” “Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Dark Of Night Shall Stay Damianista From The Swift Completion Of Her Billions Set Visit.” 😀 😀 😀 I am so happy you are along for the ride. Thanks for being a great partner in crime, TTTWTD!

  2. Even though I knew some of this story, your encounters will never cease to amaze me! And Damian’s kindness toward you (and the blog) will never cease to amaze me either. We certainly picked one of the good guys to write about!

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! The fan girl in me does the job! 😀 She lives somewhere inside me and takes over when necessary. I sometimes can’t recognize myself because I am typically a person that always goes by the book! And, oh, yes, Damian is one in a billion for sure. I am grateful for his kindness and generosity, for making me feel like almost a friend on set. My big dream is for the whole team to meet him and hang out one day! Amen!

  3. Thank you Damianista for taking us along again! I love your sense of adventure and daring. As Cromwell said “Don’t ask, don’t get. “

    1. My pleasure — it was a very HAPPY day! And as the Turkish proverb says: “A quiet baby gets no suck” 😀

  4. Greetings from Atlanta, GA! I just discovered your site and found the recent story about your encounter with Damian to be fascinating. He seems like a genuinely good dude, and I’ve enjoyed his work dating back to Homeland. Thank you for taking us, your readers, behind the scenes. I’ll be back to read more, as I too am a big Billions fan! Peace. Kevin

    1. Hey Tide Fan! Check the blog she’s done this several times in London as well NYC! Our little ambassador and fearless reporter. Have fun

    2. Hi Kevin, welcome to the blog! Well, it was Homeland that made me a Damian Lewis fan for life, and a blogger, too! 🙂 Thank you for reading the set story — yes, Damian is as normal as an actor could get — no star attitude with the guy. I still can’t believe he spent his precious breaks with me on the set. A true gentleman. Please come back for more, we do Billions posts at least three times a week, scene by scene recap by yours truly on Mondays, a collective episode MVP awards post on Wednesdays, and another recap going deep into the financial side of the story by Lady Trader on Fridays. We’d love to get your comments and feedback! Greetings from North Carolina to Georgia!

  5. I LOVE everything about this post. I love your determination, Damianista to spend a great deal of time not even knowing whether you’d find them filming and then walking many, many “steps” on the chance that you’d get a moment with Damian. I love that you, the founder who had the guts to start a fan blog, has now developed a real friendship with the man about whom you blog. I love that we, your readers can live vicariously through your experiences with Damian and see a glimpse of the behind the scenes of filming Billions. I love that Damian trusts you enough to know that he can share information with you, knowing that you will not share it until the info becomes public. As I said in the beginning, I LOVE everything about this post. Thank you for sharing it and for all you do.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Nancy! I’m sorry for my late reply — it’s just that it’s end of the semester here and I’ve been buried under exams and papers to grade… And may I just say I LOVE everything about your comment? I can’t really say I’m his friend but yeah it feels extremely good that he knows my name and gives me a hug when he sees me and knows that he can trust me. Damian really made me feel like a special guest on set for which I’m grateful. But I’m at my happiest when I hear such nice words like yours and they keep me going and going, and encourage me to do better. So thank you so much for your constant support!

      1. Please, you do not ever need to apologize for the timing of your reply, Damianista! It is kind of you to do so, but it is not necessary. You have a full time job AND you run this blog with dedication and complete professionalism. I’m just happy for the opportunity to read what you write and express my thoughts in a forum with there are no attacks on one another – disagreements, yes but no personal attacks.
        And to me there are many kinds of friendships. While you may not “hang” out with Damian, but if you saw each other on the street I’m convinced that he would stop and talk to you as one friend to another.
        Good luck with your end of semester grading!

        1. You are so very kind, Nancy. Thank you! Yes we are very lucky to have a great group here – we may agree to disagree on things, which I think is inevitable, but always with certain kindness and civility. And this is the biggest reward I have received from launching this blog. One of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Thank you for being here!

          It’s true about friendship. Yes you are right if we bumped into each other Damian would certainly stop and talk to me. The thing is I’m not sure if he would believe we accidentally bumped into each other 😀

  6. Hey I’m sure you’re an asset to him as well! This site is a constant publicity stream that never deals in gossip or trash mouth. I’m sure as well he’s not immune to the appeal of a pretty and smart young woman!

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