Billions (TV series)
Billions is an American television drama series created by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin. The series premiered on Showtime on January 18, 2016, and has produced five complete seasons to date, with a sixth season in suspended production. The series is often set in large financial centers, most notably New York and Connecticut. The series tells the story of hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), as he accumulates wealth and power in the world of high finance. Axelrod's aggressive tactics to secure high returns frequently cross over into the illegal—acts that United States Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) attempts to prosecute. A large ensemble secondary cast supports the series' story arcs.
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||55 (list of episodes)|
|Production location||New York City|
|Running time||54–60 minutes|
|Original release||January 17, 2016 –|
Some plotlines mirror real-life prosecutions of financial crime by federal authorities. The series was inspired by the investigations undertaken by Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017, on whom Rhoades is based. Bharara's 2013 prosecution of hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen of S.A.C. Capital Advisors loosely influenced the first season, while Salomon Brothers' 1991 manipulation of U.S. Treasury bonds inspired the second. The series also interweaves subplots with Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), a psychiatrist turned performance coach, Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), a market analyst, and Mike "Wags" Wagner (David Costabile), Axelrod's right-hand man.
The series has received generally positive reviews. Billions is considered the first American TV series to have a non-binary character (Taylor Mason). As such it was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series in the 29th, 30th, 31st GLAAD Media Awards for its representation of the LGBTQ community. The series has been nominated for multiple Satellite Awards, a Critics' Choice Television Award and an Artios Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Pilot Casting, the latter for its pilot episode. The show's coverage of the hedge fund industry has been recognized as realistic. The fifth season premiered on May 3, 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 7 of the 12 episodes in that season have aired. In October 2020, the series was renewed for a sixth season. Season five resumes airing on September 5, 2021.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Chuck Roades (Giamatti) goes after hedge fund king and 9/11 survivor Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Lewis). A collision course, with each using all of their considerable smarts and influence to outmaneuver the other.
- Paul Giamatti as Charles "Chuck" Rhoades, Jr.: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who later attempts a run for governor of New York and is elected Attorney General of New York. Rhoades is ruthless and has a particular distaste for wealthy criminals who try to buy their way out of justice. Despite his significant power as U.S. Attorney, Rhoades struggles not to be overshadowed both by his higher-earning wife, Wendy, and by his well-connected, very rich father. He went to Yale (as did his father) and has a blind trust of which his father is a trustee. In private, he is a sadomasochist and engages in BDSM role play with Wendy and other women, acting as a "slave." The character is loosely based on the careers of Preet Bharara and Eliot Spitzer.
- Damian Lewis as Robert "Bobby" Axelrod: an ambitious billionaire manager of the hedge fund Axe Capital and a Hofstra University graduate who came from humble beginnings. He was one of his firm’s survivors of the September 11 attacks, reforming it as Axe Capital and paying the college tuition of the children of his colleagues who died in the World Trade Center. He is extremely charitable and generous in public, but uses insider trading and bribery to grow his firm's enormous wealth. He has animal-like instincts that make him extremely successful in his trading career. The character is loosely based on Steven A. Cohen and his former hedge fund S.A.C. Capital Advisors.
- Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades: a psychiatrist, in-house performance coach at Axe Capital and wife of Chuck Rhoades, Jr. She is self-possessed, motivated, and extremely successful and went to Yale. She has a strong relationship with Axelrod, her boss, with whom she has been working for more than 15 years. She participates with Chuck in BDSM role play activities and dominates Chuck.
- Malin Åkerman as Lara Axelrod (starring season 1–3, guest season 4): wife and later ex-wife of Bobby Axelrod and a former nurse (who maintains her professional license). She is from a lower-class, blue-collar upbringing but has left her former self behind. She was devoted to her husband and their children. Her brother Dean was a firefighter who died during the 9/11 attacks. Lara disapproves of Axe's close relationship with Wendy.
- Toby Leonard Moore as Bryan Connerty (starring season 1–4, guest season 5), the Chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force for the Southern District of New York and Rhoades's point man at the start of the series. He later succeeds Rhoades as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York until he engages in illegal witness tampering, eventually spending time in prison for his crime. Chuck transfers him to a white-collar prison after making a deal with his brother.
- David Costabile as Mike "Wags" Wagner: COO of Axe Capital and Axelrod's right-hand man. He is a known drug and sex addict and claims cocaine helps him focus on work.
- Condola Rashād as Kate Sacker: a former head of crime and Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, now attorney in Rhoades's office as Assistant to Attorney General of New York. She is biding her time until she has the opportunity to run for Congress. Her ultimate goal is to be President of the United States.
- Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor Amber Mason (recurring season 2, starring season 3–present): a talented financial analyst at Axe Capital who becomes close to Axelrod and is appointed CIO of Axe Capital. They later leave Axe Capital to form Taylor Mason Capital, which is later forced back to Axe Capital as a subsidiary in-house fund under Axelrod's control.
- Jeffrey DeMunn as Charles Rhoades, Sr. (recurring season 1–2, starring season 3–present): Chuck's father, a very wealthy and well-connected city/state power player who often uses his position to meddle in his son's affairs. He was abusive toward his ex-wife and frequently cheated on her. He had a child with, and then married, another woman.
- Kelly AuCoin as "Dollar" Bill Stearn (recurring season 1–3, starring season 4–present): a portfolio manager at Axe Capital with such loyalty to Axelrod that he would risk incriminating himself to save him. He was described by AuCoin as "the cheapest millionaire in America." Dollar Bill frequently resorts to insider trading and other legally dubious measures to create high returns for Axe Capital.
- Corey Stoll as Michael Thomas Aquinius Prince (recurring season 5; starring season 6) a business titan, grew up as small town Indiana farm boy, wants to give back to society. Prince attended New Castle High School where he was named Indiana Mr. Basketball as a senior.
- Frank Grillo as Nico Tanner (season 5): a modern artist who Axelrod funds for 8 more paintings for himself.
- Dan Soder as Dudley Mafee: an Axe Capital employee who joins Taylor Mason Capital as its first employee.
- Terry Kinney as Hall: a fixer on Axelrod's payroll.
- Glenn Fleshler as Orrin Bach: Axelrod's legal counsel.
- Stephen Kunken as Ari Spyros: a law school classmate and colleague at a private law firm of Chuck before his involvement in the public sector as an investigator for the SEC. In season 3, Spyros becomes head of compliance for Axe Capital.
- Ben Shenkman as Ira Schirmer: an attorney and a former law school classmate of Chuck, as well as former CEO/Chairman of bankrupted Ice Juice.
- Daniel K. Isaac as Ben Kim: A graduate of Stanford University and Wharton School of Business, he is a Korean-American employee at Axe Capital promoted to portfolio manager in season 3.
- Rob Morrow as Adam DeGiulio: a high-ranking DOJ employee and later judge of the Southern District of New York. Chuck manipulated a powerful senator to get him the prestigious job of solicitor general.
- Louis Cancelmi as Victor Mateo: an employee of Axelrod's fired in season 1, funded outside in season 3 and forced back in season 4.
- Jack Gilpin as Sean Ayles: runs Axelrod's foundation for Axelrod after his rise to power is revealed to the public in season 1.
- Timothy Davis as Chef Ryan: the Axelrod family's personal chef.
- Harry Lennix as Franklin Sacker: Kate Sacker's father.
- Jack Gore as Gordie Axelrod (season 1–3, 5)
- Malachi Weir as Lonnie Watley (season 1–4): a former Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He later joins a private law firm after being passed over for Head of Crim in favor of Sacker.
- Jerry O'Connell as Steven Birch (season 1–4): a rival of Axelrod's who leads a competing hedge fund.
- Arthur J. Nascarella as Bruno Caparello (season 1–4): former aging owner of Axelrod's favorite pizza shop.
- Seth Barrish as Dr. Gilbert: Donnie's doctor who becomes a key witness in the case against Axelrod.
- Nathan Darrow as Mick Danzig (season 1–2, 4): an Axe Capital employee, whom Axelrod got out of an automatic weapons charge, who quit the firm for ethical reasons after it bankrupted the city of Sandicot, but was hired back out of spite against Taylor in Season 4.
- Dennis Boutsikaris as Kenneth Malverne (season 1–3): a rival of Axelrod's who leads a competing hedge fund.
- Scott Cohen as Pete Decker (season 1, 3, 5): Decker financial later runs gym group thanks to Chuck getting him to agree to plea deal to prevent his parents going to jail for his illegal deals.
- Deborah Rush as Ellen Rhoades (season 1, 3, 5): Chuck's mother and Sr's ex-wife as of season 5.
- Christopher Paul Richards (season 1–2); Brian Beckerle (season 3) as Dean Axelrod.
- Susan Misner as Terri McCue (season 1, 3): an FBI agent
- Sam Gilroy as Michael Dimonda (season 1–2): a financial reporter.
- David Cromer as Donnie Caan (season 1): a trader at Axe Capital who is also Bryan Connerty's informant.
- Melissa Errico as June Raichlein (season 1): married to one of Axelrod's colleagues who died in the September 11 attacks.
- Steven Pasquale as Chase (season 1): a headhunter who works with Wendy
- Anthony Edwards as Judge Whit Wilcox (season 1): a corrupt judge who sent minorities to jail for profits from his personally invested private jails.
- Danny Strong as Todd Krakow (season 2–present): a hedge fund rival of Axelrod's and as of season 3, the new Secretary of Treasury
- Matt Servitto as Bob Sweeney (season 2–present): the New York Governor who was elected thanks to Chuck's influences
- Allan Havey as Karl Allard (season 2–present): assistant ASUA of EDNY sent to SDNY as Chuck's owed favor follows Chuck to State Attorney's office in season 4.
- David Strathairn as "Black" Jack Foley (season 2–4): a power player in the New York State political arena considered a king maker.
- Chris Carfizzi as Rudy (season 2–4): a rookie trader at Axe Capital.
- Eric Bogosian as Lawrence Boyd (season 2–3): CEO of investment bank Spartan Ives who gets Bobby Axelrod arrested in season 4 for his role in sabotaging the Ice Juice product launch and initial public offering.
- Christopher Denham as Oliver Dake (season 2–3): an official misconduct investigator and later United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Fired by Jock Jeffcoat in season 3, he becomes a law professor at University of Virginia.
- Marc Kudisch as Dr. Gus (season 2, 4): A therapist who works at Axe Capital during Wendy's absence.
- Shaunette Renée Wilson as Stephanie Reed (season 2): Axe Capital's Chief of Staff, hired to protect Axelrod from more trouble with the government.
- Mary-Louise Parker as George Minchak (season 2): a specialist in candidate-vetting for Foley.
- Richard Thomas as Sanford Bensinger (season 2): American Champion founder of the Giving fund, which encourages the giving of wealth assets to be used for greater good of the world.
- Ritchie Coster as Donald Thayer (season 2)
- James Wolk as Craig Heidecker (season 2)
- Tammy Blanchard as Melanie (season 2)
- Will Roland as Winston (season 3–present): Taylor's snarky lead quantitative analyst.
- Sarah Stiles as Bonnie Barella (season 3–present): a new trader at Axe Capital.
- Clancy Brown as Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat (season 3–4): Attorney General of the United States.
- Harris Yulin as Judge Funt (season 3–4): owes Chuck a favor for keeping his son's medical career alive and not sending him to jail for misusing his prescription pad for his own drug addiction.
- John Malkovich as Grigor Andolov (season 3–4): a Russian oil billionaire, who is shadier than Axe and ruthless criminal in Eastern Europe protected by various authoritarian governments.
- Mike Birbiglia as Oscar Langstraat (seasons 3, 5): a disruptive impact venture capitalist who has a fling with Taylor Mason. He pulls his funds from Axe Capital in season 5 after Taylor Mason rejoins Axe Capital.
- Saul Rubinek as Hap Halloran (season 4–present)
- Jade Eshete as Lauren Turner (season 4–present): an investor relations employee for Taylor Mason Capital
- Samantha Mathis as Sara Hammon (season 4–present): COO of Taylor Mason Capital
- Lily Gladstone as Roxanne (season 4-present), a Native American woman with whom Chuck Rhoades Sr. fathers a child, then marries.
- Nina Arianda as Rebecca Cantu (season 4): a billionaire financier and businesswoman who dates Bobby, grew up in small town Iowa.
- Michael Rispoli as Ritchie Sansome (season 4): a NYPD Captain who trades favors with Chuck
- Kevin Pollak as Douglas Mason (season 4): Taylor's Father
- Julianna Margulies as Catherine Brant (season 5): an Ivy League sociology professor and bestselling author
- Roma Maffia as Mary Ann Gramm (season 5): District Attorney of Manhattan
- Daniel Breaker as Scooter Dunbar (season 5): Michael Prince's right-hand man
- Rick Hoffman as Dr. Swerdlow (season 5): a medical man with unorthodox methods
- Wendie Malick as Leah Calder (season 5): a NY banking official
- Janeane Garofalo (season 5)
- Zachary Unger as Kevin Rhoades (seasons 1-5)
- Alexa Swinton as Eva Rhoades (seasons 1-5)
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||12||January 17, 2016||April 10, 2016|
|2||12||February 19, 2017||May 7, 2017|
|3||12||March 25, 2018||June 10, 2018|
|4||12||March 17, 2019||June 9, 2019|
|5||12||May 3, 2020||October 3, 2021|
The series was ordered by Showtime in March 2015, and the first season premiered on January 17, 2016. On January 26, 2016, the series was renewed for the second season, which premiered on February 19, 2017. Showtime confirmed in April 2017 that Asia Kate Dillon, who is non-binary, would be a series regular in the third season. Billions is considered to be the first American TV series to have a non-binary character.
Preet Bharara, the inspiration for U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhodes (portrayed by Paul Giamatti) was somewhat critical of his casting, jokingly referring to the Italian American actor as "noted Indian American actor Paul Giamatti".
On May 8, 2019, the series was renewed for a fifth season by Showtime, which premiered on May 3, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 7 episodes from Season 5 have aired as of February 2021. On October 1, 2020, Showtime renewed the series for a sixth season and Corey Stoll was promoted to series regular, with remaining episodes of Season 5 set to air in 2021.
|1||77% (55 reviews)||69 (37 reviews)|
|2||89% (16 reviews)||67 (6 reviews)|
|3||93% (27 reviews)||77 (5 reviews)|
|4||97% (19 reviews)||87 (4 reviews)|
|5||86% (7 reviews)||73 (6 reviews)|
On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an overall approval rating of 88%, with a rating of 77% for season 1, 89% for season 2, 93% for season 3, 97% for season 4, and 86% for season 5. The site's critical consensus for the first season reads: "Despite a lack of likable characters, Billions' soapy melodrama and larger-than-life canvas offer plenty of repeat viewing potential." For season 2 it reads: "An influx of new characters and a fresh narrative twist give Billions an added boost during its thoroughly entertaining second season." The site's critical consensus for the third season states: "Anchored by the performances of Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, the third season of Billions continues a convincing fable of greed, power and competition." On Rotten Tomatoes, the fourth season reads, "With tables turned and alliances formed, Billions's fourth season goes full throttle with sharp dialogue, better rivalries, and bigger stakes." On Metacritic, the show has an overall score of 72. The first season has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on reviews from 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews", while the second season has a score of 67 out of 100, based on reviews from 6 critics, also indicating "generally favorable reviews". Praise for the series has steadily grown over time—also on Metacritic, its third season scored a 77 out of 100, while its fourth currently holds a score of 87 out 100 based on reviews from 4 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". The show's coverage of the hedge fund industry has been widely recognized as realistic.
In 2017, after introducing Taylor Mason (played by Asia Kate Dillon) in season 2, Billions became the first American TV series to have a non-binary character and actor. The series has received positive comments because of its representation of non-binary gender, with praise for its depiction of inclusion of gender-neutral singular they pronouns in the workplace.
Billions has faced several lawsuits regarding both copyright infringement and defamation.
The first, brought by Denise Shull and the ReThink group in 2019 (Shull v Sorkin), alleged (among other things) that Billions ripped off Shull's book and based character "Wendy Rhoades" on her likeness. She also argues that Billions engaged her as a consultant on the show, but did not compensate or credit her for her time, as Shull claims is illustrated in a recently released video. The case was dismissed, but is currently being appealed.
The second, brought by the Cayuga Nation in 2020, argued that Billions defamed both the nation and its federal representative. In the show, the nation is depicted engaging in acts such as the illegal operation of a casino business, blackmail, and bribery. One of the Cayuga characters featured on the show had the same last name and occupation as a real-life member. The case was dismissed, but the Cayuga Nation is considering its options regarding appeals.
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