The power struggle continues in a new season of the hit SHOWTIME® Original Series BILLIONS. After being deftly outplayed, brilliant hedge fund king Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod is upping his game and using his considerable resources to exact revenge on ruthless U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades. Axe’s aggressive move sends Chuck reeling as he finds himself under investigation, forced to scramble to hang on to his Office and his family. But the embattled prosecutor still has some tricks up his sleeve and it’s not long before Axe learns that money can’t buy everything – or everyone. We sat down with BILLIONS star Paul Giamatti to discuss the new season, and he had some interesting tidbits to share with our readers. Check out our exclusive interview with Giamatti below, and make sure to catch the season premiere of BILLIONS this Sunday, February 19th at 10/9c on SHOWTIME ®.
What can you tell us about Chuck?
He’s the U.S. attorney for the Southern district of New York, which is a very powerful position in the Justice Department. He’s a sort of Machiavellian guy, a pretty hard-assed and very ambitious guy. One of his big mandates in his office is to go after financial crime.
And he has his sights set on one person in particular…
He gets particularly obsessed with the big kahuna of the financial world, Bobby Axelrod (played by Damian Lewis).
Last season, Chuck and Axe literally tore the seams of their lives apart.
There’s a constant game of one-upmanship, and they both kind of imploded last year. In a funny way, they ended up kind of even. They both had advantages over the other, but they had both crapped out in ways too. Axe was sort of threatened and in a paranoid place, but he ended bereft of a lot of things, particularly his wife. That’s the interesting thing, she’s the component that was taken away that left both characters really screwed up. She was some sort of stability for both of us.
What are we going to see this season?
It’s even more complicated this year! Everybody’s getting pulled into these power plays… everybody’s in some kind of jeopardy and jammed in there fighting among themselves—it’s getting even more intense if it’s possible. One of the interesting things about this show is the constant shifting of power dynamics. You really don’t know who the hell to root for this season. In the beginning of the season, Axelrod’s gotten away and Chuck is without his wife. Chuck’s sort of stepping back a little and reassessing that maybe his approach hasn’t been all that effective. He gets drawn into some interesting ideas about ways to go after Axe, but he gets caught in an illegal bind and lawsuits that threaten to really screw him over, so his career’s completely in jeopardy. Axe gave Wendy (Maggie Siff) a cash bonus, and that becomes a huge potential bribery problem for Chuck. I get investigated by the justice department—they send in a guy named Oliver Dake (Christopher Denham). It’s almost like there’s a Chuck Rhoades on Chuck Rhoades.
How has the Chuck-Axe rivalry changed?
He’s kind of going after me, which is ironic. He’s nailing me with all these lawsuits. In terms of the power dynamics of it, my character is trying to find a different approach, and I think he’s a little bit more paranoid and a little bit more off-center. Axe is a bit off his game, too, because I’ve gotten closer to really nailing him. I nail one of his buddies, who’s the head of this investment bank called Spartan Ives.
How does Chuck’s perception in his office change?
He’s still the big kahuna in his office, but the three deputies are jockeying for the position of Head of Crime. They’re feeling doubtful about me because I’m in a weak position since I’m being sued. There’s a lot more Machiavellian stuff going on among them, which is really interesting. I’m a little bit suspicious of Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore). He seems like he might be a turncoat of some kind.
One of our favorite quotes at the end of the first season was, “The only thing more dangerous than a man who has everything is a man who has nothing to lose.” Why is that such a perfect setup for this upcoming season?
Both of them actually kind of have nothing to lose. Axe has got more to lose in some ways. I’ve already lost my wife and I might lose my job. I’m really screwed. Chuck starts taking Jujitsu. It’s all about being able to win from a position of vulnerability, that you seemingly are on your back. And this season, I really am on my back!