If it was only being judged on cast alone, the new Showtime series “Billions” would be considered a hit. The strength of the drama about power politics in the world of New York high finance stars Emmy and Golden Globe winners Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis.
Giamatti plays U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, while Lewis portrays ambitious hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod. The pair are on an explosive collision course with billions at stake.
It’s going to be up to these two talented performers to play what promise to be very complicated characters.
“I think to find any sort of general representation of an idea or a moral viewpoint in Paul’s character or my character is only going to end up being misleading for people. I think what’s going to be interesting about this story is specifically this story,” Lewis says. “Who will Bobby Axelrod turn out to be, and what is he prepared to do to retain power? You’ll see powerful men kings struggling to retain power within their kingdoms. Maybe exert power over other kingdoms.”
The potential of how explosive the battle between the two men will be is why Giamatti was willing to commit to being part of the TV series. The majority of his acting has been in films with only an occasional TV appearance.
Before “Billions,” Giamatti’s biggest TV role was the 2008 miniseries “John Adams.” That was a different challenge because he knew exactly where the story of “John Adams” was going.
He has no idea where “Billions” will take him.
“Thus far, it’s been really interesting. I mean, I’m finding that, potentially, there’s the best of both worlds of theater and movies happening in TV that I get to constantly rework the character, but it’s different material every time that I’m reworking the character on,” Giamatti says. “I keep having this funny conundrum of do I want to know the specifics of what’s going to happen, or am I enjoying learning it as it happens? The kind of joy of that is really unique, too. I’ve never felt that. So the whole thing is super interesting to me. And a lot of actors have said to me, ‘You are going to enjoy doing TV if it’s a good show,’ like this, with great writing and fairly good actors around me. It’s just been so much fun so far.”
You can see how much fun he’s having when “Billions” debuts at 10 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17, on Showtime.
The Showtime series “House of Lies” is heading to Cuba. Filming in and around Havana, the episode will mark the first time an American scripted series will be shot in the country since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations last summer.
Marty (Don Cheadle) and the Pod are en route to Cuba for one episode of the fifth season premiering later this year.
Mystery on ‘Angel From Hell’
If you watched the series opener of “Angel From Hell,” you are probably dealing with the same big question that the cast faced when they heard about the new CBS comedy. Is the character being played by Jane Lynch a real guardian angel or just a person with mental problems and a gift for finding information on the Internet?
Series creator Tad Quill wants to keep that mystery going as long as possible. That’s OK with Kevin Pollak, who plays the father of the woman (Maggie Lawson) who becomes the focus of the angel from Hell.
“It’s more fun that we don’t know. I remember ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ was probably my first entry into this world of ‘This is an incredible spirit, and I love this character, and I don’t actually want to know.’ I enjoy both sides of the argument,” Pollak says. “In terms of when I heard Tad talk about upcoming shows and episodes and the relationship between the father and the son also and what we think of her and what she’s doing to my daughter/his sister, doing for and with, yeah, it I think there’s a tremendous opportunity. I guess what I was getting at is it’s easy to be skeptical and say, ‘She couldn’t be. That’s nonsense.’ But, like you were saying, the hope behind what if she is is just a little too wonderful.”
So I think that if the show isn’t cynical, which is the plan, then we win with the is she or isn’t she debate.
This is second CBS comedy featuring strong female characters for Pollak in as many years. Spoiler coming, in case you plan to power watch “Mom.” He became available to be part of the “Angel From Hell” series when his character on “Mom” died.
Pollak loved working on “Mom” because of his co-stars, Allison Janney and Anna Faris, and that the show gave him a chance to do more comedy. He jokes that after appearing in “A Few Good Men,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Casino,” many forgot he had been a stand-up comic for 15 years.
“So ‘Mom’ was just an extraordinary opportunity to walk into this world with these incredible actresses that was meaningful and pathos and funny. So I enjoyed the ride thoroughly with never the intention of I was staying. In fact, it was only supposed to be a few episodes,” Pollak says. “So the fact that it turned into, I think, 15 or whatever it was was more than expected and incredibly fun.
“The fact that I get to work with three extraordinary women again so quickly is beyond ridiculous, quite frankly.”