Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Maggie Siff, star of Showtime’s hit drama “Billions.” Siff plays Wendy Rhoades, the in-house performance coach at Bobby “Axe” Axelrod’s (Damian Lewis) hedge fund — and the wife of district attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), Axe’s nemesis. At the end of the season, she had a surprise reconciliation with her husband after a season-long estrangement.
“I saw it coming a little bit before the end of the season,” admits Siff. “Sometimes it’s hard to parse out what my character wants and what I want. I love working with Paul, so I think we were both hoping that the relationship would be rich and ongoing.”
Siff says she often gets asked what Wendy and Chuck see in each other, what keeps them together, but that viewers understood that more deeply this season. “You began to see how they do connect, the joy and the commonality that they do find in each other,” she says.
But their reconciliation came after Wendy had a very emotional moment with Axe, right before he got arrested by the D.A.’s office. So just how real is that reconciliation? “I had some questions, and I have some questions going into the story as it resumes,” she says. “One of the things about the character that keeps it interesting is that she’s surprising.”
Siff says she’s looking forward to exploring Wendy’s relationship with Axe going into Season 3. “What’s always interesting about their relationship is the depth of their history and their love for each other,” she says. “It is platonic, but there is something about him that she wants to be near. And something about her that he wants to be near. There are mysteries that are yet to be revealed.”
|Maggie Siff photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety
That relationship, though, Siff says, is threatening to Lara (Malin Akerman), Axe’s wife. “Perhaps it’s the feeling that if anyone can save him, it’s Wendy as opposed to her,” she says. “But I’d be interested to get Lara’s perspective on that.”
Another question Siff has going into next season is about Wendy’s big financial move — profiting off of a deal she knew her husband was working on, and that Axe was trading on. “Is that insider trading? I think it is,” says Siff. “She, too, is corruptible. How can you not be in that world when the stakes are so high and things happen so quickly? People fall into all kinds of traps and she’s not immune.”
And as for those sex scenes, which find Wendy and Chuck engaging in S&M role play, “I had a lot of trepidation about it,” she admits. “I didn’t want to be in my underwear in every episode. I didn’t want to be naked. I have a lot of natural modesty. And I didn’t want it to be salacious. I was interested in it as a function of their marriage. And that it exposed a psychological component of how these people are together. I can only get down to my underwear if I feel the conviction of the storytelling and if it does something really interesting and authentic for a character.”
You can listen to this week’s episode here: