SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “No Direction Home,” the Season 5 finale episode of Showtime drama “Billions.”
Damian Lewis has signed off of “Billions” after a five-season run as the alpha-male hedge fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod.
The Showtime drama series set in the world of billionaires and global high-finance has already been renewed for a sixth season. Production is under way with Corey Stoll’s Mike Prince character taking center stage alongside Paul Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades and Maggie Siff’s Wendy Rhoades. Daniel Breaker has been upped to series regular for Season 6 in his role as Scooter, Prince’s ever-scheming chief of staff.
Lewis’ status on future “Billions” seasons had been unclear until Sunday night, when the long-delayed Season 5 finale, “No Direction Home,” finally aired. In the end, Lewis’ Axelrod, once again under the gun from law enforcement, escapes in cloak-and-dagger fashion with a hoard of money to Switzerland to avoid prosecution in New York.
Showtime confirmed that Lewis will no longer be a series regular going forward, but producers hold out the possibility of the character returning to the “Billions” universe one day. Season 6 is set to premiere Jan. 23 as “Billions” seeks to keep up its momentum after a more than yearlong, pandemic-induced delay between the airing of the first seven episodes of Season 5 in 2020 and the final five installments that were shot earlier this year and rolled out starting on Sept. 5.
“Billions” is the second long-running drama that Lewis has helped launch for Showtime. The British actor went straight from his Emmy-winning, three-season run as the tortured U.S. Marine Corp. Sgt. Nicholas Brody on “Homeland,” from 2011 to 2013, into development on “Billions,” which premiered in January 2016.
“This is not the first time I have said goodbye to Damian Lewis,” said Gary Levine, Showtime’s president of entertainment. “What a testament to his talent that he inhabited two wildly different characters — Axe and Brody — on two of our most successful series — ‘Billions’ and ‘Homeland’ — and made them both so iconic. He is an extraordinary actor and I hope there will be a third time.”
Brian Koppelman and David Levien, “Billions” co-creators, showrunners and executive producers, echoed Levine’s praise for Lewis’ performance as the character at the heart of the series. Lewis experienced a personal tragedy in April when his wife, actor Helen McCrory, died at age 52. The fact that Lewis was shooting his final scenes on “Billions” — at least for now — made the finale all that much more emotional for the entire company.
“You can see how hard that all was in the show,” Levien said. “There was no hiding the feeling that we were saying goodbye,” Koppelman added.
Stoll joined “Billions” in Season 5 as Mike Prince, another self-made billionaire who was a rival for Axelrod. Stoll’s character represents the new breed of ultra-wealthy individuals who aim to burnish their legacy with socially responsible and green investments and grand philanthropic gifts.
The shift in perspective to Prince allows “Billions” to stay current with trends in private equity and global investing. The real-world focus on the growing wealth gap and the gains that the 1% have made during the turmoil of the pandemic sets up fertile ground for the show to explore in Season 6 and beyond.
“The show has been asking the question as we go forward — is there such a thing as a beneficent billionaire, or are they by their very nature agents of harm?” Koppelman told Variety. “Are you automatically a monster or can you use your money in ways that add to the utility of the world?”
Here is the Season 6 “Billions” trailer released by Showtime on the heels of Sunday’s Season 5 finale:
(Pictured: Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod in “Billions”)