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As did many of the other shows that have come in front of reporters at the 2017 Television Critics Association winter press tour thus far, the Billions team faced a question about how Donald Trump’s presidency would impact the second season of its Showtime Wall Street drama.
But while the reporter asking the question noted that the concern of business corruption might not be on high on the priority list of the president-elect, “I think that makes it even higher on the priority list for the rest of us,” responded executive producer Brian Koppelman.
Another pertinent theme for the series as a whole, given Trump’s election? “Being interested in why Americans are so fascinated by real-life billionaires on television,” he added.
He also drew parallels between the incoming administration and Billions‘ ruthless, power-thirsty leading men. “The show has always been and will be about ambition, power, abuse of power, what people will do to gain the resources that they want,” said Koppelman. “Those unfortunately, clearly, for the next four years, are going to be really important.”
Although work already had begun on the show’s second season when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in November, the writers were aware of the shift going on domestically. “What was the status quo isn’t anymore,” said Koppelman. “There are relevancies in this season to what’s going on in the world, for sure.”
Returning in February, the upcoming season two picks up immediately after the season-one finale, which concluded with a head-to-head battle between U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and billionaire hedge-fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis), both of whom were facing investigations that could tear them apart.
“You see vulnerabilities in them,” said Lewis, also pointing to Bobby’s marriage to Lara (Malin Akerman). “There’s a fracturing there as the game, as the desire to win starts to become burdensome. People get taken for granted, and I think maybe his wife was one of them a little bit, but these vulnerabilities and frailties start to emerge.”
Lewis also pointed to the greater struggles Bobby is facing at work in the new era. “A lot of hedge-fund guys are feeling the pressure as the fees go up and people aren’t coming to invest anymore,” he said. “They’re finding it harder to make money. … That affects Bobby, and that puts him under strain.”
As for Chuck, this season will see him sporting new facial hair and learning a new skill (jiujitsu). “He tries to focus and hold himself together,” said Giamatti. “He definitely tries to pull himself together and gather his forces. … He channels his energy in a different way.”
Like Bobby, Chuck also is dealing with marital issues since Wendy (Maggie Siff) left him at the end of last season. “That shakes me in a lot of ways,” said Giamatti. “Things are exposed in him. He’s hit by Axelrod with something that also throws him back in his heels. He’s really vulnerable in a lot of ways.”
These issues that Chuck and Bobby both are facing personally also will impact them professionally, specifically when it comes to their battle with one another.
Billions returns Sunday, Feb. 19, at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Watch the season-two trailer below.
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