Corey Stoll raises his stake in 'Billions'
As it starts its sixth season, "Billions" is banking on some very big changes.
The Showtime drama series marked the end of Season 5 with the exit of Damian Lewis as hedge-fund king Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, who evaded federal attorney Chuck Rhoades' (Paul Giamatti) prosecution by relocating to Europe. His former firm was bought by financial rival Michael Prince (Corey Stoll, now elevated from guest star to co-star), who starts setting ground rules as "Billions" resumes new episodes Sunday, Jan. 23.
"It was a unique experience," Stoll reflects. "We had to take a year off because of COVID, then we went straight into Season 6 before we'd even finished filming Season 5. It was a real challenge to turn this antagonist into a protagonist, but after defeating this character (Axe) that the audience knew so well -- and loved, or loved to hate -- we focus the story on Prince. And that created a whole new dynamic in how to play him."
Among those on whom Prince's new role has immediate impacts are Chuck's estranged performance-coach wife Wendy (Maggie Siff), Axe's ex-aide Wags (David Costabile) and business whiz Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon).
"The first new episode (written by series co-creators and executive producers Brian Koppleman and David Levien) is very much about Prince going around to everybody and trying to define what those relationships are going to be," Stoll confirms. "And other people have their own ideas about that."
Stoll reveals he knew when he was hired for "Billions" that he eventually would succeed Lewis as a series lead ... and with the COVID-caused production delay added, he had to keep that secret for a long time.
"I felt a certain power, knowing where I was headed," Stoll allows. "I really did want to tell people, and I felt very relieved when the Season 5 finale finally aired. It's certainly helpful for me to be able to be upfront now about who I am on the show."
Also heard occasionally as a narrator of such programs as PBS' "American Experience," Stoll is an alum of "House of Cards" and "The Strain" who's been enjoying an active movie career as well, Steven Spielberg's remake of "West Side Story" being one of the latest examples. Since he enjoys bringing fresh aspects to his projects, Stoll appreciates "Billions" letting him explore potentially positive aspects of wealth, which the show has treated as a weapon so often.
"The question this season, and hopefully going forward, is whether there is such a thing as a good billionaire," Stoll notes. "Is it possible to amass that much and still be a force for good in the world? And that's an open question."