The drama on “Billions” will heat up as power dynamics and influence take center stage when Season 2 gets underway on Sunday.
Series creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien say this season will dive deeper into the background of the characters, as well as the moral dilemmas they all face.
Starring Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff and Malin Åkerman, “Billions” follows the power politics in New York’s financial arena. Giamatti portrays savvy U.S. District Attorney Chuck Rhoades while Lewis is ambitious hedge-fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod ― and the high-stakes big business of Season 1 is bound to get even more intense.
Koppelman and Levien didn’t waste much time when it came to writing Season 2.
“We started insanely quickly after finishing the first season,” Koppelman told The Huffington Post. “We finished shooting … There was a lot of momentum where we had left off, so we wanted to jump right on.”
Read on for more from our interview with Koppelman and Levien.
What kinds of real-world influences inspired Season 2?
Koppelman: What’s been really fascinating for us going into the second season is the way so much of what’s going on on the show kind of has resonances in the real world. We don’t do the rip-from-the-headlines thing, but we do feel like we were watching and listening pretty closely to the way Americans were interacting with powerful figures like this and the way in which powerful figures like this talk and the way the in which their words are both proven by and disproven by their actions and the way we celebrate a certain kind of success as a culture and the reasons for that. So, watching people engage with the show, become loyal fans, and then watching the way some of the stuff hits off in the world has been amazing ... We’re connected to something that’s happening in the culture with the show.
Levien: I think the season was largely written before the political realities played out. In a way, we weren’t reacting and I think we were fortunate for that. We were still shooting stuff while these world events were happening.
How much of the current political climate, including Donald Trump, seeps into the plot?
Koppelman: Before Season 1, we were already talking about the way Americans perceive billionaires. And we were already talking about why Trump and [Mark] Cuban were the biggest reality stars and what that meant about what we value as a culture. That is underneath the show the whole time … Our show is never going to be that reactive. But of course, the times you are working in, it seeps into the stuff you are writing about if you are writing about figures … The feeling of the times informs the way that drama plays out.
What’s it like to work behind the scenes with the “Billions” actors?
Levien: We feel beyond privileged to work with these actors. It inspires us to give them more and more interesting situations.
Koppelman: I sometimes wish people could see how these actors prepare because … these people are spending so much focused attention about who these characters are. They are not only off-book when they show up, but they looked up every possible metaphorical resonance. They’ve thought about where their characters were before. They’ve measured everything they’ve said in other episodes. They’re the collaborators you dream of. David and I have been doing this for over 20 years now and we’ve worked with some of the greatest casts you could ever imagine — the cast from “Rounders” or “Oceans Thirteen” or “Solitary Man.” We’ve gotten to work with people at the highest level of their craft. Every day we show up on this show and we look at each other in disbelief that we have artists like this to collaborate with.
“Billions” returns Sunday, Feb. 19, at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.
This interview has been edited and condensed.