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Asia Kate Dillon on ‘Billions,’ Acting and Non-Binary Choices

Asia Kate Dillon has already walked into TV history as Taylor Mason, the razor-sharp intern for hedge-fund wiz Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) on “Billions.” Taylor is the first major non-binary role on American series TV, and Dillon — a non-binary actor who likewise prefers “they”/“theirs” pronouns — sees it as a landmark. Viewers will be seeing a lot more of them, too: Showtime has promoted the character to series regular for season three.

Dillon: Taylor was always a non-binary character, even before they auditioned or cast any actor to play the part. I was given basic, broad-stroke information on the character in the casting breakdown. A few descriptive words and who they were: An intern at Axe Capital. So I made some choices, and I went into my initial audition with the casting director, Allison Estrin. Allison gave me some very helpful insight and some feedback into where the creators were hoping to take Taylor.

When I got the script for this second episode, I saw that Taylor walks into Bobby’s office and says, “These are my pronouns,” and Bobby says “OK,” and then they get right down to business, and then they have that amazing conversation on the balcony where Bobby says, “You know, the difference in you is actually your advantage.” This scene in particular, I think, really solidified for me that Taylor was going to be a well-rounded, fully fleshed-out character, which ultimately was important to me when considering the role.

I really couldn’t ask for better scene partners than the ones I’m working with. Damian Lewis is a consummate professional. He is kind. He’s compassionate. He’s able to engage in real conversation when we’re not rolling, and then the minute we’re rolling, he’s totally present and reacting truthfully in the moment and listening.

Every take is a little bit different. I just felt like that scene was able to come alive because I was working with Damian. I’m only as good as my scene partner will allow me to be, and he is extraordinarily gracious.

There are a couple of things we’re seeing with Taylor’s journey on the show. Taylor is able to be the most successful person other than Bobby at Axe Capital, simply by doing their job and making money. Taylor doesn’t have to be hyper-masculine or competitive in the same way that the other people who work at Axe Capital are, or have felt they needed to be in order to be successful.

I feel a lot of pride for the fact that this script was coming to me, and it had been written by two self-identified cisgendered, straight, white men [executive producers Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote the first episode introducing Taylor].

When Showtime said they wanted to submit me for an Emmy nomination, I found myself in the unique position, as a non-binary performer, of actually wanting to know more before I could make that decision.

I reached out to the Academy and just asked them: What do these words mean to you? They said Academy rules have always stated that any performer can enter either category for any reason. They said, “But given where we are now, what would you like to do?” And when given the choice between actor and actress, I used the word “actor,” because it’s not non-gendered and non-sexed.

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