Between takes on the set of “Billions,” Damian Lewis is standing amid a sea of Bloomberg computer terminals singing Hall & Oates to no one in particular. “Because your kiss, your kiss, is on my list,” croons the actor, clad in jeans, Pumas and a gray buttondown.
But don’t let the breezy vibe fool you: In the drama, Lewis plays a cutthroat hedge fund manager and self-made billionaire named Bobby “Axe” Axelrod whose extraordinary track record arouses the suspicions of a combative U.S. attorney, Chuck Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti. Rhoades’ righteous zeal is tempered somewhat by a giant conflict of interest at home: His wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), just so happens to be the in-house shrink and performance coach at Axelrod’s firm, Axe Capital.
The series, premiering Jan. 17 on Showtime and co-created by New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, arrives more than seven years after the financial crisis, at a time when anger at Wall Street remains a potent force in American culture, fueling campaigns for the White House (Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont) and Academy Awards (“The Big Short”).
Though it is set in a post-crash universe, “Billions” suggests that greed, ego and corruption are still alive and well in the financial industry. “Part of the goal of this show is to help spur conversation and debate around some of these larger issues of inequality,” Sorkin said, “around the 1% and the 99%.”