Showtime’s ‘Billions’ Premiere: Paul Giamatti, Neil Burger, Producers Talk Provocative Opening Scene

The golden shower in the first 80 seconds of Showtime’s “Billions” definitely got guests talking at Thursday’s Museum of Modern Art premiere for the new drama.

“It wasn’t scripted that way initially, but then we found it was the most provocative, powerful and entertaining way to begin the series,” explained pilot director Neil Burger.

“I didn’t think about it one way or another,” said Paul Giamatti. “When I read the whole story I was all for it. Just a part of the character that was interesting.”

The Wall Street drama about the ultra-wealthy on Wall Street, pits hedge-fund titan, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) against an ambitious U.S. attorney, Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti).

“That scene was always in the script from day one,” said exec producer Brian Koppelman. “There were times when it was the second scene and not the first, but it was always the way you met Chuck Rhodes. But after Neil shot it, we knew it had to be the first shot of the show.”

Koppelman along with David Levien and author-New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin created and wrote the series, which formally begins its 10-episode run on Jan. 17.

Sorkin, who cringed when asked if he should take credit for writing the scene, explained that his mother was in attendance.

“We all contributed, but I try to keep a pure mind,” Sorkin quipped before adding, “We have a wonderful writers room and over the course of the season some of them did have some very unique thoughts about things that people do that I had no idea about.”

As for making the show’s main focus the one percent, Koppelman said that, “It’s always time for a battle between kings.” But when it came to who those “kings” were based on, the exec producer kept his lips sealed.

“You’d have to get me really drunk to tell you that. So drunk that I’d only tell you right before I passed out…as I was hitting the floor.”

Showtime Networks’ president David Nevins said that despite the current critical climate towards the world’s one percent, 2016 was the perfect time for the series to air.

“This show examines hidden issues of class and what’s fair and what’s not fair, which are issues that are important and relevant right now. There is also a real fascination around it,” Nevins said. “In many ways this show plays like a Western. You can root for the law man or the outlaw, but there is real ambiguity between the two. You, as a
viewer, find your loyalties and sympathies changing.”

The first episode of “Billions” was available online on Jan. 1.

(Pictured: David Levien, David Nevins, Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Matt Blank and Brian Koppelman at the “Billions” premiere)

Atmosphere at the Museum of Modern Art premiere party
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/Rex Shutterstock
Neil Burger and Malin Akerman
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

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