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'Billions' creators flooded with calls from Wall Streeters

Julia La Roche
Reporter

Showtime’s (CBS) “Billions,” which had the biggest original series debut in the network’s history, returns this weekend for a second season.

The drama pits a hedge fund billionaire against a US Attorney with a perfect track record for insider trading convictions. It stars Damian Lewis, who plays a hedge fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, the CEO of Westport, Connecticut-based AXE Capital, and Paul Giamatti, who plays US Attorney Chuck Rhoades.

Yahoo Finance sat down with the show’s creators, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and they said both Wall Streeters and everyday Americans responded well to “Billions.”

“[The feedback] was better than we could have even dreamed. We hoped that we would get like a great response from Wall Street, especially on the East Coast like the Connecticut hedge fund area and Wall Street, but it went even beyond that. Across the country, all different socioeconomic levels, it was great,” Levien said in the video above.

The details in the show resonated with the finance community in particular.

“You’re always trying to get the little details right. And you really want the community that a show is about to recognize the veracity of it. And so if I show up at a poker game in New York and someone realizes that Dave and I are the showrunners of ‘Billions’ and then they call a billionaire and that guy gets on the phone and starts asking specific questions about trades Bobby Axelrod made talks about the short play the short squeeze episode as being legit. It feels really good to get the details right,” Koppelman said.

During the research process, Koppleman and Levien made an effort to meet with hedge fund managers. Now hedge fund managers are coming to them with stories.

“Since the show hit, I mean, it’s just like a flood of incoming calls now everybody wants to talk about it, they want to add their story,” Levien said.

Koppelman added: “So many of these people were really generous to us. And the commitment we made to them was to try to get it right. And the fact they saw that, got a kick out of it, liked seeing the things from the show that resonated from the show to their lives.”

They’ve also become friends with some of these hedge fund managers.

“Unlike Bobby Axelrod, they’re not sociopaths. You know in season one there’s a big question about whether Axe is a sociopath or not. They’re not,” Koppelman said.

As for those unusual, jaw-dropping moments in the show, they aren’t necessarily based on true stories.

“Well, we tried to get the essence of the truth in there, the spirit of the truth, but we’re not we’re not recounting stories we’ve heard and we’re not pulling things right out of the headlines,” Levien said. “But it feels like when you hear certain stories … there’s a universal element of the rapaciousness or the ego or the competitiveness and we try to recreate that under different circumstances.”

Koppelman added: “You try to get to the emotional truth.”

Season 2 debuts on Sunday, Feb. 19.


Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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