This note tries to avoid spoilers, so be warned. But the greatest novelty of this fifth season of Billions, which premieres the last chapter of its fifth season on Netflix on Saturday, has already gone out everywhere: it is the farewell to Bobby Axelrod, the proud titan played by Damian Lewis.
While the character’s final scene is somewhat open, with Ax (as he is more commonly known), Lewis confirmed in an interview that he was leaving the show.
“Maybe there is a chance for me to come back,” he said from his home in North London. “But for now, generally speaking, that’s not going to happen.”
Lewis’s departure ends what amounts to “easily the longest time I’ve spent with a character,” said the actor who became known for his three seasons on Homeland.
It also comes just a few months after a personal tragedy. Lewis’s wife, the acclaimed actress Helen McCrory, died in April, shortly after the Billions production returned from its pandemic hiatus. Lewis filmed much of his final stretch on the show remotely, from England.
Through five seasons of the stock drama Big Fortunes, Ax embodied popular culture’s often contradictory sentiments toward the super-rich. He’s a capitalist monster, as he describes himself, who made himself just blatantly destroyed whatever – careers, lives, entire towns – that stood between him and his next billion. But he did it with enviable boldness and demeanor, with an equally appealing lifestyle of lofts and private jet.
“When I go out in New York, I say, ‘Ax, you’re the one!’” Lewis said. “He’s a really despicable human being, but nobody seems to care.”
That’s largely due to Lewis, who early on imbued a character that could have been a mocking cartoon with emotional depth and predatory physical presence. (When he was developing the character, his acting exercises included moving across the ground like a cheetah.) As well as Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston They made Don Draper and Walter White irresistible even when they were horrible, Lewis made Ax’s financial lust fun to watch.
“Damian Lewis is not an actor who is afraid of not liking the public,” said Brian Koppelman, who is showrunner for Billions along with David Levien. “He’s willing to play the character in the most caustic way that needs to be done, and he has faith that if he’s true to that, he will connect with the audience.”
But after 60 episodes of elaborate, sometimes inscrutable schematics, and Chuck and Ax facing off in various settings, Lewis was ready to move on.
“It’s hard to keep looking creatively,” he said. “We already know who it is.”
And after six years of spending months in New York filming Billions, she plans to stay close to home and her two teenage children after “we had a very big sadness in our family,” she said, referring to McCrory’s death. at 52, cancer.
It is a subject he is reluctant to talk about, and his normal expansiveness gives way to concise answers. He wants to stay in London for the foreseeable future for “obvious reasons,” he said. “It’s obvious why.”
Lewis said McCrory’s death does not explain his departure from the Billions. He initially signed for five seasons and “always assumed it would be enough,” he said. Koppelman said the series, which premiered in 2016, had been preparing for Ax’s departure for several years.
But it does explain why Lewis spent much of the last few episodes showing up remotely. The actors and crew flew to England to film scenes that were framed within the show as if he were going through a quarantine. (Lewis returned to New York for only part of the final episode that arrives this Saturday.)
“We would not ask her to come to America in that situation, right after the love of her life passed away, who was an extraordinary and incredible human being and artist,” Koppelman said.
From the beginning, the cat and mouse dynamic between Ax and Chuck has been the defining dimension of the series. (Add in the abundant awkward cameos from real-life financiers and Manhattan luminaries.)
When the show returns on January 23 for its sixth season, Mike Prince, played by Corey Stoll, who arrived this season, will be the rival for Giamatti’s ethically ambiguous legalist. The finale found Prince literally taking Axelrod’s seat, after buying his company in an offer Ax couldn’t refuse.
With his carefully cultivated image and his rhetoric of saving the world, Prince’s character has more in common with the current crop of space-traveling billionaires than he does with the hedge fund mercenaries that Ax channeled in the wake of the Great Recession.
“A long-running program has to evolve,” Levien said. “So it’s like an excellent recharge, at the right time.” A seventh season hasn’t been signed yet, but Gary Levine, Showtime’s president of entertainment, said, “From what I’ve seen of the sixth season, I’m very excited.”
But, it seems clear, he will not have Lewis.
“I don’t like closing chapters,” said the actor. “But it seems like the end of this for now for me.”
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Last chapter of Damian Lewis in “Billions” comes to Netflix: why did he leave the series? – Tvshow – 10/06/2021