You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

When Dueling Leads on ‘Billions,’ ‘The Night Manager’ Face Off

Dueling leads always bring an extra edge to any show, be it comedy or a drama. If it’s the former, the zingers and barbs carry more weight and land with greater impact between two actors on the same footing. If it’s the latter, a protagonist and antagonist squaring off is far more interesting and entertaining when the scales could tip either way at any time. This season alone has seen heavyweights like Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston (“The Night Manager”), Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen (“The Dresser”) and Hugh Dancy and Aaron Paul (“The Path”) face off.

In Showtime’s “Billions,” Paul Giamatti’s U.S. attorney and Damian Lewis’ ruthless hedge fund billionaire lock horns and ask audiences to takes sides; should the government win, or the Wall Street oligarch? Although the two leads share little screen time, that’s fine with Giamatti. “I like the fact that we’re not together very much,” says the actor. “I didn’t really get to see him that much, so it was always really exciting when we got to do a scene together. We get really amped up in the characters. Every one of the scenes we have is always going to get volatile in some way.”

Adds Giamatti, “We’re obsessed with each other. So when we do see each other, it’s like you see this weird person that you’ve been in love with from afar, obsessed with from afar. That kind of weird obsession thing is a great thing between the characters.”

Noting the thin line between the law-abiding and lawless, the actor describes his federal prosecutor as “a tricky character. In some ways, Damian’s the criminal, but I’m kind of the bad guy in some ways too. I loved the idea of a bit of a prince of darkness guy who was the lawman.”

“I didn’t really get to see him that much, so it was always really exciting when we got to do a scene together. Every one of the scenes we have is always going to get volatile in some way.”
paul giamatti

As the brilliant but lactose intolerant Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, Johnny Galecki has played the straight man opposite co-lead Jim Parsons’ even nerdier Dr. Sheldon Cooper in CBS’ hit “The Big Bang Theory” for nine seasons. “A whole lot’s changed since the show began, and of course you all go through ups and downs, both professionally and personally,” says Galecki, who was Emmy-nominated in 2011. “But the chemistry’s always been there, and we hit it off immediately and talked for 12 hours straight the first time we met. So you do this ‘accelerated bonding,’ where you share all these very personal experiences with someone you hardly know, and that helped a lot with quickly developing and understanding our characters and their dynamic.”

In terms of that dynamic and working as co-leads, “Leonard has fewer peccadilloes and issues than Sheldon,” notes Galecki, “but I’ve always been very uncompetitive both personally and professionally, thanks to my Chicago theater background where it’s so supportive. And as ‘the straight man’ in the relationship, I’ve always felt that comedy’s like hockey — you get a lot of credit for assists. Working with Jim is so much fun, as our processes are very similar, but our comedy influences are very different — and those differences really serve what we do in the show.”

Even though he had “no idea” what the show was about, or what to expect, Steve Buscemi “didn’t hesitate” when writer-director — and self-distributor — Louis C.K. asked him to play brother Pete (to his Horace) on “Horace and Pete.” “I’d never worked with him before, but I’m a huge fan. I was thrilled to work so closely with him and see what he came up with each week.”

The comedian didn’t disappoint. “He really listens in a scene, and can just play off the moment,” notes Buscemi. “But then the director takes over from the actor, and he’ll suddenly throw you a curveball, to change things up a bit.”
The actor reports that the duo rehearsed “a lot, and we worked fast and did long takes, like filming a play, without ever worrying about where the camera was. And I was always surprised at where it ended up, which was part of the joy of working with Louis.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • 'Lizzie McGuire' Reboot Series in the

    'Lizzie McGuire' Reboot Series in the Works at Disney Plus

    Get excited “Lizzie McGuire” fans because a reboot series of the much loved Disney Channel teen show is in the works at Disney Plus, according to sources. Lizzie McGuire herself Hilary Duff, who is set to reprise the role, is expected to announce the series at Disney Plus’s D23 Expo event. Created by Terri Minsky, [...]

  • Disney Fans Lineup to Subscribe to

    Fans Line Up to Subscribe to Disney Plus at D23

    Disney fans lined up to be among the first to subscribe to the company’s forthcoming streaming service. The D23 Expo convention hall, filled with giant Marvel exhibits and cos-players also featured a kiosk to sign up for Disney Plus. The incentive? An offer to save $23 per year on a three-year subscription to the service. [...]

  • Cine-y-Series

    Chilean TV Grapples With Globalization

    SANTIAGO, Chile – Globalization was the key word in a TV panel held during Sanfic where Mega TV’s International Content chief Juan Ignacio Vicente, CNTV development head Ignacio Villalabeitia and DirecTV programming director Rossy Hernandez debated the myriad challenges Chile’s television industry faces today. Like its counterparts worldwide, Chilean TV is dealing with the spectre [...]

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

  • PHINEAS AND FERB - "The Fast

    'Phineas and Ferb' Disney Plus Movie Details, Including Title, Revealed at D23

    Five years after summer ended for “Phineas and Ferb,” the show returns with a new movie on Disney Plus in 2020, new details of which were revealed on Friday at the D23 fan convention. In “Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe,” currently in production for the new streaming service, stepbrothers Phineas and [...]

  • Brews Brothers Netflix

    Netflix Orders Comedy Series 'Brews Brothers' from Schaffer Brothers

    Netflix has put in an eight-episode order of “Brews Brothers,” a comedy series from creative sibling team Greg Schaffer and Jeff Schaffer. The show follows estranged brothers Wilhelm and Adam Rodman, who wind up running a brewery together. According to Netflix, each is a “beer genius … but they couldn’t be more different in their [...]

  • Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas.

    Jonas Brothers Shine a Light on New Jersey Via VMAs Asbury Park Performance

    The Jonas Brothers will pay homage to their New Jersey roots at the MTV Video Music Awards this Monday (Aug. 26) with a performance on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. The brothers — Nick, Joe and Kevin — were raised in Wyckoff, NJ. With the awards ceremony being held for the first time at the Prudential [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content