It’s Time to Make Billions. It’s Time to Meet Bobby Axelrod. A First Sketch.

source: showtime
source: showtime

It was last October but it really feels like yesterday that we found out about Showtime ordering a pilot for a new drama series Billions starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Then we followed the pilot shoot in New York closely in January and held our breath until the cable network finally picked Billions as a series in March.

And… Look where we are now! Billions is currently coming to life in casting sessions and table reads. Season 1 shoot is starting in New York this week and will last about six months. Moreover, the first series teaser is out and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do — teasing us and raising a billion questions whose answers we will constantly look for when Billions hopefully hits the small screen in early 2016!

Ok. Now that it’s time to make Billions… It’s also time to meet Mr. Bobby Axelrod properly — not that we have a lot of information on him, but the short description that Showtime gave us, a hint that Damian Lewis gave in an interview as well as the 60-second series teaser give several hints that I can put together and have a first sketch of Bobby!


Before we begin with our sketch, it’s worth making a side note about Damian Lewis currently moving from one end of the American Dream to the other end of it! Damian just finished a very successful 10-week run in David Mamet’s American Buffalo on West End stage. Teach, the character he played in American Buffalo is a man that could not be further away from the American Dream where as Bobby Axelrod in Billions seems to culminate the idea of American Dream itself.


Playing these two “contrasting” characters back to back attests to the variety Damian Lewis has in his acting portfolio, well, in contrast to the typical Hollywood hunk that always plays the same character in exactly the same way, just with a different character name.

Now… Who is Bobby “Axe” Axelrod?

Let’s start with the name.

We have found out from the first teaser that Bobby’s company is called “Axe Capital” — so is the nickname “Axe” for Bobby!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Our Lady Trader has hinted that, on Wall Street, if you are called “axe” on a stock, that means you are THE expert on that name. We naturally do not know if the name “Axelrod” has been chosen accordingly, but chances are, it should be!

The description that Showtime has given us about Bobby is short but it’s pretty loaded.



Hedge-fund King.

We all know what a King is, but what is a hedge-fund king? And, at least, for some of us, what is a hedge-fund?

Here’s a brief description:

“In the investment world, “I run a hedge fund” has the same meaning as “I’m a consultant” in the rest of the business world. In general, a hedge fund is a private partnership that operates with little to no regulation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
A hedge fund uses a range of investment techniques and invests in a wide array of assets to generate a higher return for a given level of risk than what’s expected of normal investments. In many cases, hedge funds are managed to generate a consistent level of return, regardless of what the market does.

To understand what a hedge fund is, it helps to know what hedging is. Hedging means reducing risk, which is what many hedge funds are designed to do. Although risk is usually a function of return (the higher the risk, the higher the return), a hedge fund manager has ways to reduce risk without cutting into investment income.

A hedge fund manager can look for ways to get rid of some risks while taking on others with an expected good return. For example, a fund manager can take stock market risk out of the fund’s portfolio by selling stock index futures. Or (s)he can increase her return from a relatively low-risk investment by borrowing money, known as leveraging. Keep in mind, however, that risk remains, no matter the hedge fund strategy.

The challenge for the hedge fund manager is to eliminate some risk while gaining return on investments — not a simple task, which is why hedge fund managers get paid handsomely if they succeed.”

This is pretty basic information but gives a rough idea about what a hedge-fund manager does. And, a successful hedge-fund manager is essentially a member of the “one percent” — sort of a king in his own right. Note that there are 40 names from the hedge-fund industry in the most recent Forbes’ annual world’s billionaire’s list!

It may well be that our Bobby has the capacity to make it to that list in the fictional world of Billions. How do we know that? Well, Lady Trader points out the series teaser gives hints!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Remember this brief scene where Bobby is speaking to an audience — and maybe even looking into the eyes of US attorney Rhoades and stating in a rather cocky way: “The moment I let someone in a government office tell me what I can or cannot buy, I can as well close the shop, but I’m not closing the shop.”

Now, take your eyes off Bobby, if you can, and read the background: Delivering Alpha. Well, thanks to Lady Trader, I now know what a big deal Delivering Alpha is in the world of high finance!

Well, it turns out Delivering Alpha is an annual conference hosted by CNBC (please note that Andrew Ross Sorkin, one of the Billions 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. This year’s conference is coming up in a few days on July 15. Here’s a brief description of what the conference is about from the conference website:

Delivering Alpha continues to be an incomparable who’s who of the investor community, with hedge fund titans and institutional investors offering candid views, along with illustrious political and economic commentators appearing in panel discussions moderated by top journalists from CNBC and II.”

Given that our Lady Trader says “a hedge-fund manager can make or break a stock with his comments” at this conference, and given that Bobby has been invited to offer his views there, he’s no doubt a very influential character in the world of high finance and at the end of the day “a brilliant, ambitious, hedge-fund king.”

What else do we know about Bobby?

Damian Lewis gives a critical hint in an interview with the Evening Standard. He says he will play a “self-made man – though he does work his way up to be a hedge fund manager.”

Now, THAT IS interesting. Bobby is coming from humble beginnings — maybe from a family whose dreams were never realized or were shattered somehow… that further motivated young Bobby to make it! I wonder, if we will have any flashbacks to Bobby’s past where he remembers opportunities missed because of his background or some family moments from when he was a young boy? I believe, Bobby being a self-made man, adds layers to the story.

A self-made man implies Bobby is NEW MONEY — which brings me to discuss the differences between OLD MONEY and NEW MONEY. Old money has been there for generations, and because they have been able to keep the wealth in the family for generations, they feel secure and confident about their status in the society even though there is always a possibility that they lose it all. NEW MONEY, on the contrary, is always on the fence about losing. Because they know how hard it is to climb the socioeconomic ladder, they can do what it takes to protect what they have. NEW MONEY is anxious, NEW MONEY can be ruthless, and Bobby seems to be exactly THAT, which, I think, can play into the story with gripping twists and turns! And, most importantly, it is very likely to create this quite complex persona in Bobby, a very confident looking and acting man with some deep insecurities and anxieties. And, because he is a “I will never ever be back to where I came from” type, Bobby can get completely merciless — so an “Axe” in every meaning of the word!

And, this is one cocky Axe! Man, that “F*** you money” line that Bobby delivers to U.S attorney Rhoades in the teaser is priceless and a messenger of what’s to come in terms of writing quality in the series – HURRAY!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

The teaser, in just 60 seconds, also gives the sense about Bobby that he is constantly scheming — look at this guy, don’t you feel the urge to get into his mind? I do!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Completing our first sketch of Bobby Axelrod is the only seemingly relaxed moment we see him having in the teaser: a kiss with his wife Lara, who, according to Hollywood Reporter, “is a former nurse who, once from humble beginnings, is now married to billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod.” I am very curious how her “humble beginnings” will drive her character in the series, it could go either way, you know 🙂 As someone that believes in relationships as the main drive for any movie or TV show, I just cannot wait to find out more about the Axelrod family dynamics which deserves a separate post!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

So… What do I make of this first sketch on Bobby? Well, I just think we have another wonderful anti-hero in making! I just know that I will desperately root for Bobby and certainly be shocked with myself that I am rooting for the Wall Street hedge-fund king! Damian Lewis’ magic touch will give us a complex character that always stays in that “gray” area teasing us, enticing us and confusing us… Having seen just 60 seconds of him, and quoting the great Charlie Crews, “I am not attached to Bobby Axelrod. I am not attached to Bobby Axelrod. I am a little attached to Bobby Axelrod.” 🙂

You can see all our Billions-related posts here.

In the meantime, as we keep making BUZZ for Billions and have fun with it, there is a couple of ways to have even more FUN!

Showtime now has a webpage for Billions, a Facebook page and a Twitter account that you can follow for latest news and updates about the series!

Last, but absolutely not the least there is a GREAT Billions fan group that you should join and chat about the show on Facebook and follow them  @Billions_F on Twitter!

Let’s make it BIG for Billions together!

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!

2 thoughts on “It’s Time to Make Billions. It’s Time to Meet Bobby Axelrod. A First Sketch.”

  1. Another great post! And giving background regarding hedge funds is a big plus for people who have no idea what they are! You gave a great description. There are many different types of hedge funds (long only, long/short, M&A, etc.). I can’t wait to see which one Bobby runs.

    I am so looking forward to this show and talking about it with you!

    1. Thank you, Lisa! I know that, even though I teach in an economics department, I still do not know much about hedge funds just because it’s not my field of expertise in any way, so I thought it could be good to at least have a rough idea about what Bobby is doing — we’ll see what kind of hedge fund he’s managing 🙂 I’m sure Damian Lewis is nowadays getting an expert on types of hedge funds and all, too; this is so much FUN!

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