Your money's worth: Damian Lewis and Maggie Siff chat about Season Four of Billions
As legend has it, the American TV drama series Billions is loosely based on the activities of Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his legal battles with hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors. Starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis in lead roles, the show has already aired four seasons, while the series was renewed for a fifth season that’s set to premiere later in May this year.
We got to chat with Damian and Maggie, who plays his longtime confidante and aide about the twists and turns in Season Four of the show.
What is Season 4 of Billions all about?
Damian Lewis: The transactional world of Billions is increasing and it’s fun actually. There are favours to be done. There are favours to be given, there are favours to be taken and Chuck and Axe have found that their worlds have started colliding a little bit more.
Chuck is under the guy called Jeffcoat whom he dislikes. Chuck wants some autonomy, probably as you know, he always wanted autonomy, and they find themselves forming an unlikely alliance where they can help one another, where actually he can help him in the political world, maybe take the pressure off for him as he attempts to become the attorney general of New York state.
Chuck has also got a situation with Taylor Mason who has set up his own shop. It’s like one of your little chicks living with you, you bring them up and then they fly the coop and for someone like Bobby who has only seen betrayal.
So, he and Chuck find themselves sitting around Roy’s kitchen table, wondering how they can help each other out. Season 4 really exposes that. I have promoted Tylor Mason really as my wunderkind, my young trader, an analyst who everybody should do business with.
Tell us about the relationship between Axe and Tylor?
Damian Lewis: Axe has always liked Taylor because they have a quick and intuitive understanding of the numbers in the marketplace. He might be actually the only person who is just as quick as Axe.
Thematically within the story, they represent something more rational, logical and algorithmic. Axe is still more emotional, creative, instinctive, more than Ally camp, that’s where he comes from. They are actually raising money to set up their own company.
What is that we are going to find at the beginning of Season 4?
Damian Lewis: Axe is now infuriated that anything could have happened without him knowing, and a lot of things have been going on, like the small print in contracts that he should have had an eye on, but he didn’t because he was sitting up in his office on the first floor on the mezzanine floor.
So, we find Axe at the beginning of this season in Captain Kirk’s desk right on the floor surrounded by his traders. He is right amongst them so that he can keep an eye on everyone. He is an increasingly paranoid person.
Axe has always had paranoia and his paranoia this season manifests itself by micromanaging everybody and every trade. He has securities which follow him wherever he goes now. It looks like a box walking into the rain with his team.
There is always a team of blue-suited security guys around him and his paranoia keeps on increasing.
Now, he wants to know everything, every last breath for him is about working on how to bring down the Maize Cup.
How was your experience of working with Paul?
Damian Lewis: It’s just great fun working with Paul. You know we became great pals over the seasons, and I think he is a great actor, so I love working with him.
How do the two characters find themselves working with each other? What draws them together?
Damian Lewis: Well, it’s about a need, the New York of Billions is transactional.
Anything is fine as long as the transaction is done to the satisfaction of both parties.
It doesn’t have to be legal; it doesn’t have to be above the law, it’s just about honour amongst thieves effectively and that’s where we are.
Chuck finds himself in his desire to succeed his father playing Lady Macbeth in the background, but his dad is just putting him forward to attend high office.
Chuck is a fascinating character because against his will, he has a better inclination for not being like his father, but on the contrary, he is entirely like his father.
He is ready to take whatever it takes to succeed. So, he and Bobby ended up not being this similar and there is an unlikely alliance which is formed because they both need things.
He needs things in the political sphere which I can influence, and I need things in the financial world which he can influence.
What is Bobby’s main motivation this season?
Damian Lewis: Well, revenge is the main motivation and that too revenge in total and not just the destruction of the Maize Cup.
Tell something about your character, Wendy.
Maggie Siff: I believe the end of the last season was sort of the first season where you see both chuck and Axe kind of on their backs, you know defeated and my character Wendy is sort of in the position to finally recognise opportunities where she can bring these two forces together and she chooses to do that.
At the end of this season, Taylor really betrays her as well as Axe and I feel very manipulated by the end of Season 3 in such way that I think I recognise that Chuck and Axe can now finally make an alliance, put their heads together and as a team, as a trio, the three of us can sort of takedown anybody we want to take down. I think it’s a step into power and another level of ruthlessness, in a way, to think about things that way.
Where do we take off with Wendy at the start of Season 4?
Maggie Siff: Wendy is in a slightly different place, now that Taylor has left and sort of struck as large a blow as they did to the business. Wendy is sort of doing double duty at Axe capital. She is both, kind of, the company manager and she moves into Taylor’s upstairs office.
At the same time, she is sort of like conducting the business and taking care of people’s minds and souls, and you know the job she has always had. Maybe she is not taking care of their souls, anyway!
So, she is doing double duty and that is taking its own kind of toll on her, and you know, she is helping Axe to formulate a plan and a strategy for revenge basically, which is also not that good for her, but it gives her lot of interesting places to go in these seasons.
She and Chuck are back. They are pretty much where we saw them last season, sort of in the marriage and doing their thing, and this season starts at least with them as a team and very much aligned with each other.
You know that where she lands by the end of the season, really digesting that betrayal and deciding that she is not going to be anybody’s fantasy.
And she herself steps into a certain kind of power that you haven’t seen her really willing to step into before, which has to do with a little bit in Season 3, but it’s more profound in Season 4 - the willingness to manipulate and exploit, and use information that she has.
What is the biggest motivating factor for Wendy this season?
Maggie Siff: I think it changes as the season goes on. I mean, I would say that revenge is the big motivating factor for Wendy this season, and it has to do with Taylor’s betrayal.
I think at a certain point, however, Wendy is so exposed and so humiliated that this becomes into play, a quest to reclaim self, reclaim ground, reclaim confidence and power - and some of that gets dark and distorted.
For her, I think it’s a lot about using power in different ways. She is somebody who has always been so comfortable operating her power from a distance behind this man, behind closed doors - doing it in very subtle psychological ways, and I would say she is stepping into a more aggressive place and a more externalised version of that.
What are you looking for most out of this season? What can fans look forward to in Season 4?
Maggie Siff: Always with the show, there these shifting alliances between Chuck and Axe, and Alice and the enemies that they make - but I would say that in this season, we see people behave in really pretty extreme ways to get what they want.
In ways that are a little bit more gloves off, but it’s still in the world of intellect and money, and you know it’s not like there is more blood on the shoulder or anything. It all gets twisty and dark.
Billions airs every Saturday and Sunday at 10 pm on AXN.
— Team Indulge