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‘Billions’ Team Talks Blue-Collar Showdowns, Strong Women and Power

Showtime’s “Billions” celebrated its lucrative first year run with a panel discussion for TV Academy members Tuesday at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills.

Stars Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman, David Costabile, Condola Rashad and co-creators and exec producers Brian Koppelman and David Levien were joined onstage by Variety‘s Maureen Ryan, who moderated the panel.

“The constant work is nice,” said film veteran Giamatti, who will have the chance again for the show’s second season. “It’s like the best of both worlds. It’s like doing a play because you get the same character to work on all of the time. But, it’s the good part of a movie in that there is always new material to work on.”

Giamatti’s character is Chuck Rhoades, an ambitious U.S. Attorney hell-bent on taking down Bobby Axelrod (Lewis), a self-made Wall Street billionaire who submits to the temptations of greed and power over his own moral standards.

“In spite of the despicable things that I think he’s capable of doing, it makes him likable because I think deep down people still respond to that idea of the working class guy who succeeds,” said Lewis.

At Axelrod’s side is his wife, Lara Axelrod (Akerman) who positions herself as a tough, yet family-oriented woman. She is among the many female characters in the series —  in addition to those played by Siff and Rashad — who is equal to their male counterparts.

“She’s a bit of a puppeteer behind the scenes pulling the strings and I feel like that can be quite true to life,” said Akerman. “Behind every great man is a great woman.”

The drama gives viewers an inside look into the political and power struggles on Wall Street. To bring the series to life, the series’ creators consulted multiple hedge fund managers to give the show a sense of realness.

“We had looked at how billionaires who made their money in hedge funds have this tremendous amount of power and influence and the United States Attorneys seem like kings,” said Koppelman. “The idea of examining this world through the prism of two heads of state, if you will, coming at each other really set us up for something fascinating.”

Koppelman added, “This is a world that really sets itself up for the things we’ve been obsessed with and has been our passion for a long time.”

(Pictured: Maureen Ryan, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff, Damian Lewis, Malin Akerman, Condola Rashad and David Costabile)

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