Corey Stoll Becomes New Lucky Face in ‘Billions’

“Living in a 30,000 square foot townhouse in Gramercy with everything just like that? It’s fun to pretend it’s really my place. ”

Corey Stoll is not immune to the glamor of huge fortune, or at least a sound stage meticulously designed simulacrum of them. Considering the character he portrays in “Billions,” that’s probably a useful tool in his arsenal.

Stoll portrays Mike Prince, the dashing, decent New York billionaire who teamed up with the state attorney general, Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), to take down Chuck’s white whale, the hedge fund wizard around co Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis, who departed the show last season).

But in a trend where neither of the show’s main characters appeared, Prince made a last-minute deal with Bobby to prevent the sponsoring investor from being prosecuted and incarcerated, with the the price to pay is to transfer his business. Now Prince presides over the newly baptized Michael Prince Capitalplacing him in the dilemma of both Rhoades and Mike’s own potentially confusing employees.

As if replacing one of the show’s stars wasn’t hard enough, but achieving “Billions” so far has been a bigger challenge because of Covid-19. “I did half of Season 5, and then we sat on it for a year and went back,” Stoll said of the show’s pandemic-induced shutdown schedule. “We shot a half and a half all at once – it was all a little blurry.”

Now the show – created by Brian Koppelman, David Levien and The New York Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin – is back for a sixth season, which premiered on Showtime this Sunday. In a phone conversation earlier this week, Stoll explained how Prince was cut from a different fabric than Ax. But the new boss is similar to the old boss in one important respect.

“I think the show is essentially the same thing,” Stoll said. “It gives the same joy of watching extremely intelligent, driven people betray each other, and then become allies, and then betray each other again.”

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

For a series so clearly defined by the relationship between two characters, is it a challenge to step in and shoulder that weight on your shoulders?

You know, that’s not really the challenge. Brian and David did a great job of establishing the terms of the Chuck Rhoades-Mike Prince relationship differently than it did with Ax.

For me, the real challenge is going from being a villain to being a protagonist. In Season 5, I was the engine of almost every scene I was in. I attack, pursuing this target, and Ax and Rhoades are reacting to me. In just the first few days of filming Season 6, I had all of these scenes as I stood behind a large table, catching the raging fire. I didn’t really predetermine how different it would be. It uses very different muscles like an actor.

I admire that scene in Season 5 It was just a long walk for the Prince and Rhoades to eat breakfast together. I can’t imagine Ax standing still for that long.

Ax really couldn’t sit still. He is a shark. From the very first scene, when I received the first script, I felt that the defining feature of Mike Prince was that he was at home wherever he went, that he was completely comfortable in his own skin. me. It’s also his greatest weapon: He can disarm people by agreeing with them. It’s a really fun power move to play, just deal with someone when they really want to fight.

Prince spoke to Chuck sounding sincere.

One hundred percent. Contrary to Ax, Mike Prince dislikes having enemies. You get the feeling with old Ax Cap that having enemies is good for you, almost. It’s an engine. It was a driver. Mike Prince is obviously extremely motivated, but his first instinct is to earn allies. When that doesn’t work, that’s when other tactics come in.

The first scene that Paul and I shot in Season 5 – it was this very intimate scene, and I went to him for help – Paul was just… he was really taken aback. He said, “I’ve never shot a scene like this in the five seasons of the show.” It’s completely new. He almost felt a little out of place. [Laughs.] “I don’t know who Chuck Rhoades is without an immovable strength to fight back.”

Prince describes himself as an ethical billionaire. Is there such a thing?

That is an open question. There are billionaires who certainly do amazing things with their wealth, and their companies create wealth for others, and they can be good people. I think the show really gets more attention… There’s a cliché “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” The other side of that is what great fortune is upon that person – what power and wealth and resources do to one’s soul, for lack of a better word.

In my own view of it, it took me a giant leap to imagine having that kind of wealth and hoarding it, keeping it to myself, and doing whatever I had to do to develop it. I find it very difficult to put myself in the shoes of such a person. I understand greed and covetousness as much as anyone, but on that scale I find it really hard to imagine what would cause you to underpay your workers when you already have tens of billions of dollars. la.

Was that what you thought when Prince tried to convince everyone that he wasn’t like other boys?

Yes. I think his worldview, his concept of self, is fundamentally different from most people. It is a backward type, a circular type. At the cellular level, he somehow knows that he is a good person, and that his judgment about the use of capital, resources, and power is exceptional; so everything he does is good. That’s what really drives him, and that’s how I play him. He believes what he says.

Could that confidence lead him to make even more morally questionable decisions?

The short answer is yes. That’s been his struggle, and it’s going to be the engine of a lot of drama and conflict this season, both with Chuck and with his staff.

His belief in his own morality also means that, unlike Ax, he has to worry about what they think.

Well, there is a difference between giving people what they want and giving them what they want. speak what they want and that’s the real key to Prince’s success. There are times when he does the most popular thing at the cost of possibly the most profitable. I think he also knows when to switch and put profits above popularity, but for Mike Prince, how something is perceived is paramount.

Much of the show’s appeal lies in the voyeuristic thrill of witnessing the other half’s life – the best restaurants, the best clothes, the best gadgets, the dream life. Was there a time during filming that you had to push yourself?

Yes. There were some guests, who are the best in the world at what they do and experienced in hosting them, you know? They are out of their comfort zone, even though they are masters of world history. To have the experience show them how to make their mark and save themselves for close-ups and all that technical stuff is unbelievable.

At the same time, it feels like public opinion has legitimately changed and there’s a larger audience now than when the show started, people who think, “I don’t like these billionaires. Maybe things shouldn’t be this way, in fact. ”

Yes, but I feel like it was there from the start. The idea of ​​the program began shortly after the financial recession and the Great Depression.

I think there is tension. The eroticism of wealth, fantasies of fabulous apartments and clothes, cars and private jets – the dirty pleasure of that remains. As a society, we want to see these rich, powerful people and imagine how they live. But we also want to hurt them. We want to see them miserable.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/arts/television/billions-corey-stoll-season-5.html Corey Stoll Becomes New Lucky Face in ‘Billions’

Fry Electronics Team

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