You know, friends, we walk a thin precarious line as fans of a real life man. Of course, there is the contingent of fans who send this real life man all kinds of nice things in the mail (start the vid at about 3:00 to see what I’m talking about). And there is the contingent of fans, particularly on this blog, who can’t stop talking about Damian’s projects, imagining new projects for him, postulating character development, the way he has developed the characters given to him, the way we can develop character in our own writing, not to mention forensically examining the positioning of his feet dependent on the role (but, I know, that last one is just me…)
The thin line comes in when we start to talk about him as a romantic lead. Because, squee, it’s all too much, isn’t it? Seeing him in certain cable-ready circumstances: a bucolic cabin in the woods, a seedy hotel room, drunken parking lot, codpieces un-retouched by Puritanism, etc. etc. We have the utmost respect for him as an actor and as a man. So, when we enter a certain territory, there is an..ahem…danger of going too far, no? All of this to say: we are all anxiously awaiting Damian’s return to cable. Billions, a show airing on Showtime? Our imagination is aflutter. The fantasy lives large, friends, and it burns vivid.
I’ll tell you one thing I’m imagining from the trailers we’ve seen of Billions: an interestingly convoluted love/sex quadrangle among the four leads.
The players: Bobby Axelrod (played by Damian) is married to Lara Axelrod (played by Malin Akerman). Bobby’s nemesis as he wheels and deals within the world of NY high finance is the U.S. attorney out to get him, Chuck Rhoades (played by Paul Giamatti). Chuck is married to Wendy Rhoades (played by Maggie Siff).
The Axelrods: Bobby and Lara are both from humble beginning. He’s from the Bronx and eats pizza like a true New Yorker (ya gotta fold it to keep the grease from dripping and envelope that cheesy goodness right into your gaping mouth, amiright or amiright?). Lara was a nurse. Now, both have moved on up. They’re super rich with their house in Westchester and in the Hamptons, lording over tables full of sycophantic admirers, delivering orders to a crew of minions. They are members of the sect of beautiful people, the class of people that own NY, those “greed is good” folk first introduced to us by Oliver Stones’ Wall Street. We know they have kids, but we don’t see much of them in the trailer, indicating, perhaps, that the Axelrods have nannies taking care of their little rugrats.
No doubt to anyone who’s seen the trailers, Bobby comes off as a recalcitrant prig. Only in the second trailer do we see that Lara may not be any kinder or gentler. We see her bullying some sorry sap who doesn’t seem, if hair and makeup is any indication, quite deserving of the ass-kicking. Yes, we see Bobby and Lara being dicks, and then we see them all happy and kissy-faced. This leads me to believe that, at least superficially, they see themselves as partners in crime. Watch Bobby lean and loaf at his ease as his perfectly blond arm candy tiptoes up to him, both complicit in believing themselves above reproach.
The Rhoades: On the other side of the aisle (or the East River as the case may be), we have Chuck and Wendy, living and raising their kids in Brooklyn, within more modest means. Chuck is obviously frustrated that the laws he’s obligated to defend don’t seem to be designed to manage the new forms of thievery practiced on present-day Wall Street. His work hasn’t caught up to the work of people like Bobby. Additionally, we see general family stress as Chuck drags his kids to school and then sits at breakfast to hear a pretty word or two when he suggests to Wendy that she may need to scale back on work in order to take better care of the kids.
We see Wendy being her own version of bad-ass, a brilliant med student trained as a psychiatrist, and, now, a performance coach for business leaders. In short, she seems to know how to play with people’s brains, with their sense of themselves. And perhaps most intriguing of all, in a brief flash of a scene, we see Chuck on the floor gagged and tied as a slick black boot crushes down on him. Is Chuck the Anastasia Steele to Wendy’s Christian Grey, perhaps? Something perverse is certainly afoot in the dynamic between Chuck and Wendy and their modest Brooklyn brownstone, no doubt, hides some juicy secrets.
The Quadrangle: Thus, we have the four cornerstone characters, but what makes me think it’ll be a love/sex quadrangle? Oh, just a snippet of a scene between Bobby and Wendy across a desk from each other. No words are exchanged in the clip but check out Wendy with a look of a cat who has swallowed the canary. And check out Bobby smiling despite his better instincts, ogling Wendy in a quick boob scan that most men think isn’t noticeable (and always is). He seems intrigued by this woman who he may or may not know sleeps with the enemy. There’s some overlaid dialogue about trust. Is Wendy hired to “performance coach” Bobby? If so, does he not realize she is Chuck’s wife? If he does know who she is and is still drawn to her in some way, possibly (hopefully!) to her wickedly sharp mind, what then? Will she work him for incriminating info? Maybe some part of him, the part of him that’s the kid from Yonkers, will tacitly allow her to? Or will he turn the tables on her somehow? The possibilities are downright limitless. Also, can I just say, Damian and Maggie look positively gorgeous together. Can you tell? I’m already on Team Wendy in this cat and mouse.
And more: Recently we’ve heard of more additions to the guest cast of Billions, which only add to the intrigue. Bobby has an old friend from the hood (played by Noah Emmerich) who appears for one episode and purportedly serves as a catalyst for him to remember his roots. Also brought on to perhaps remind Bobby of who he is beneath the crisp white shirts and perfect suits will be a young musician (played by Kerry Bishe) who will force Bobby “to question his life choices.”
If one had any doubt before, let it finally be put to rest, there is no chance that Bobby Axelrod will be a cut and dry, black and white, easy-to-figure-out character.
Oh, look, a Bobby/Damian sandwich!