Oh yes Billions is coming! The anticipation is heightening by the second. Brian Koppelman is tweeting about 18 hour set/mixing/writing/editing days… They are shooting all over New York, from Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens to Long Island, and Bobby Axelrod even jet-setted to Quebec City to rock to Metallica a few weeks ago 😀 The first series poster is out, we’re already past mid-October and now have just three months to go for the series premiere on January 17, 2016! And, as we can’t wait to see Bobby and Chuck playing the ultimate cat and mouse game, we continue to let our imagination work at full force about Billions.
As the executive producers repeatedly point out at TCA Summer Tour, their interest is not in moralizing Wall Street, but as David Levien explains, it is instead “in sort of digging underneath and understanding who the real people are on both sides of this question, if there’s this battle between capitalism and regulation. One guy represents one thing in a way, and the other guy is trying to police it. But both are driven by individual things in their personalities and their pasts, and our interest was in trying to sort of get past those preconceived notions into something that we feel is more true and interesting.” So, Billions, is a character-driven show where we will go deep into our protagonists’ lives and relationships. And, to be honest, isn’t it always about relationships? The real world as well as the fictional world we immerse ourselves in books, movies and TV shows are always about relationships. Take a TV show – it can be about CIA, about cops, about drug lords, about war, about ad men, or about Wall Street… The essence, the spirit, if you will, of the show always starts and ends with the characters and the complex relationships they have. As Damian Lewis has recently pointed out at New Yorker Festival we now have this new world of TV where we have this “novelistic form of storytelling in 12-hour seasons… it’s a place where characters are riddled with ambiguity. So everyone is an anti-hero. Every villain has a likeable side to him and every hero is compromised in some way. This is what makes TV so exciting at the moment. There is no Gary Cooper anymore or, you know, some bald guy stroking a cat. It’s more complicated than that.” 🙂
That’s why, since day one, I’ve been thinking about potential connections between Team Axelrod and Team Rhoades. The obvious connection, of course, comes from the very fact that the U.S. Attorney is following the money the hedgefund king has, which in Damian’s words, sums up to “a cat and mouse thriller as you wonder who will come out on top as they seek to maneuver one another.” Yay!
But still… It should be more complicated than that!
You know we already talked its being time to pick your Billions team and we say GO Team Axelrod! And when you take a look, the teams are pretty much well-defined: Bobby and Lara Axelrod along Bobby’s right-hand man Mike “Wags” Wagner are the main players on Team Axelrod where as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Connerty (Toby Moore) and Kate Sacher (Condola Rashad), who, in fact, makes the key discovery that makes Rhoades go ballistic on Bobby Axelrod, are the main players on Team Rhoades. Condola Rashad, who portrays Kate in Billions, speaks highly of her character at TCA Summer Tour: “She’s a problem solver, but quietly. She sees everything. She doesn’t comment on everything, but she sees everything.” Well, I hope Bobby has “Kate” on his team as well 🙂
There is only one player whose team choice seems to be a bit more complicated than others. And, that is… Wendy Rhoades!
Sometimes a picture is more effective in telling a story than words, isn’t it? This is Wendy Rhoades who is a “highly in demand performance coach who works with some of the most powerful and influential figures in the world of high finance” — read Bobby Axelrod! While she is married to Chuck who is chasing Bobby, Wendy has this “doctor-patient” confidentiality with Bobby at Axe Capital!
Before we talk about why Wendy is probably having a hard time in choosing her team though, I would love to talk a bit about the wonderful actress that brings Wendy Rhoades to life on Billions: Maggie Siff.
Brian Koppelman, one of the executive producers on Billions has a wonderful podcast series The Moment and Paul Giamatti was on it this summer! Hearing it on the beach, I felt like I was eavesdropping on a great conversation between two friends that I highly recommend it. You can hear the program in its entirety here. Anyhow when Koppelman asks Giamatti about what things make it really great for him want to go to work with some actor, Giamatti says that he really likes working with actresses who are not kids anymore… He says: “If you can survive as a woman in this business and keep acting at a high level of it, you have to be so good… So when I work with those women, it’s like the perfect experience, they are so prepared, they are so professional, they are so present, they are so not full of shit, they are not dicking around… like Maggie Siff… It’s just absolute straight ahead… Let’s just do this!” And Brian Koppelman responds: “She’s just the smartest person in the room most of the time she walks into the room, she’s an incredible person and she is beautiful.” So, Billions team has at least two BIG Maggie Siff fans!
Now, I know most Maggie Siff fans got to love her as Tara in Sons of Anarchy. Unfortunately, I have not seen the show… Instead, I got to know and LOVED Maggie Siff as Rachel Menken (later Katz) in Mad Men.
Rachel Menken was by far the coolest Don Draper girlfriend and she made a lasting impression not only on Don that he was never able to forget her but she also made a lasting impression on Mad Men team that they brought her back for a cameo in Season 7.
Hey Damian Lewis fans, doesn’t this ring a bell with us?
Oh, yes! Homeland team also loved Damian Lewis so much that they also brought him back for a cameo in Season 4. So, that’s one thing Maggie Siff and Damian Lewis have in common as actors! They both came back to the shows they were LOVED in for a cameo and both appeared in a dream kind of way representing lives not lived… Of course, another thing we know is that Damian Lewis is a big Mad Men fan, so I am really curious if he and Maggie chat about the show at all on the set 🙂
Now… Back to Wendy Rhoades and her possible responsibilites at Axe Capital as a high performance coach.
High performance coaches, in a nutshell, train individuals with their professional development in the work place. So, Wendy is working at Axe Capital to energize Bobby’s team into reaching their full potential. And, we see Wendy in action in the series trailer as she tells an Axe Capital employee to believe in himself. She tells him: “Feel that!”
And, it seems “feel that” training works effectively on the Axe Capital team that we see Bobby assuring Wendy that her value for the firm is absolute…
But… Why does Bobby feel the need to assure Wendy of her position at Axe Capital? Is it that Wendy is coming to Bobby to tell him that the US attorney that is chasing him is, in fact, her husband, and given the conflict of interest she wants to know what Bobby is thinking about her position in the firm… Or is it Bobby that finds out about the connection and tells Wendy that everything is OK? Independent of who initiates the conversation though it is good news for Wendy her boss is happy with her… still we then see some shady guy asking Bobby if he still trusted her… and Bobby goes: “I want to.” Who is she they are talking about? Could it be Wendy? See? Trailers usually bring more questions than answers — but after all this is what they are supposed to do, right? 🙂 And, Billions trailer does it just right!
And how are things at the home front for Wendy?
At this point we know much more about Bobby and Lara’s background — Bobby is from Yonkers and Lara is from Inwood — than that of Chuck and Wendy. I had suspected the Rhoades were coming from more privileged backgrounds and schools compared to the Axelrods and Damian Lewis confirmed that, at least for Chuck Rhoades, at New Yorker Festival: “He’s a WASPy, Ivy league kind of guy born into privilege.” The Rhoades seem to have a typical, urban Brooklyn life: Two ambitious professionals living in a Park Slope brownstone, two kids, maybe walking the dog in Prospect Park, and shopping in their local coop, too… They are obviously not as affluent as the Axelrods, but they are certainly doing more than okay with their two well-paid jobs! My hunch is that Chuck dreams BIG and believes his case against Bobby Axelrod could take him to bigger and better things in his already bright career. His wife being an Axe Capital employee seems to be a problem for Chuck though and him saying this loud may be leading to some domestic friction.
Chuck: “I am the goddamn U.S. Attorney, Wendy!”
Wendy: “Are we teaching the kids daddy’s job is always more important than mummy’s? You quit your fucking job.”
Wendy needs a drink. She is obviously pissed off! Still… As much as Wendy and Chuck may not be on the same page when their careers are concerned at this point, it seems they are very much on the same page when their love life is concerned… Oh, the little pleasures of married life 😀
I can’t wait to find out about how this unusual love life will play out in Billions storyline… I am curious if Bobby somehow finds out about this and threatens Chuck somehow with it? I’d say who cares about what a married couple is doing in their bedroom or kitchen or wherever… But, seriously, what if a US attorney makes headlines that he’s kinky in bed? I have no idea. And, hey, I am here working under the assumption that those stilettos belong to Ms. Wendy Rhoades… Otherwise… Ha! Well, we’ll find out in three months 🙂
Now… Where does Wendy stand in terms of her team? I just don’t know. And, besides, I don’t want to know right now. I just want to see how her loyalty to her husband and to her boss will play out in the show over time… This is a woman who has obviously worked her ass off for years to build both a successful career and a happy family life. And now her own husband is kicking the hornet’s nest… and she probably knows her boss is not that innocent, either… So, while the first Billions trailer makes my partner JaniaJania think about Bobby Axelrod sandwiches, it makes me think about a pretty delish Wendy Rhoades sandwich.
Bon Appetite! 😀