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Interview: Asia Kate Dillon

Currently airing its fifth season on Showtime, Billions has become one of the biggest hit series on television today. One of the reasons for the success of the series is the character Taylor Mason, played by the wonderful Asia Kate Dillon.

Not only has Taylor become one of the most popular characters on the show, but they have also become a trailblazer in their portrayal of a non-binary character on television. Asia has used their platform to push for LGBT+ rights and people are listening.

We had the chance to sit down with Asia to talk about Taylor’s return to Axe Capital, playing both sides with Axe and Chuck and what fans can look forward to with the fifth season of Billions.

Pop Culture Principle – In the fourth season, we say Taylor becomes a major player in Billions. As an actor, how does it feel knowing the creators behind the series have faith in your ability and reward that with a bigger impact in the series?

Asia Kate Dillon – Oh gosh, it feels great! It’s incredibly humbling to be respected by people that I greatly respect and I love a challenge. So, the more that they write for Taylor, the more that I get to do as an actor, the more fuel it gives it me, the more fire it puts in my belly and the more energized I am. It’s really great.

Pop Culture Principle – The ending to the fourth season was fantastic and planted the seed between Taylor, Axe, and Chuck. Taylor has now positioned themselves in the middle of the battle between Axe and Chuck. How difficult with this be for them to manage to play both sides in Season 5?

Asia Kate Dillon – Well, it’s a real credit to all of the writers of the show. It’s because of the way they write Taylor that I am able to maintain whatever balance Taylor is maintaining. If Taylor is in a scene and the scene is written were Taylor is pulling one over on Chuck as an example, then maybe we’ll do a take where the director will say don’t give anything away and then maybe we’ll do a take and the director will say give a little bit away in case we want to use that. So, it sort of depends on what is required for the story, for the scene, and for the moment.

Pop Culture Principle – Your scenes with Damian Lewis are a joy to watch. Can you talk about working with him on Billions?

Asia Kate Dillon – Well, Damian is wonderful and it’s wonderful working with him. He’s extraordinarily kind and generous and hard-working. When he shows up on set, he is ready to go. When we show up to set, we will rehearse the scene a couple of times before we shoot. We make sure we are on the same emotional page and give the scene what it needs. Sometimes Damian will ask a question and sometimes I will ask a question.

Sometimes, we’ll come into the scene thinking it will go one way and it ends up going in another direction. It’s a credit to Damian and everyone who works on the show that everyone shows up so on top of their game and that everyone is also incredibly adaptable in case something needs to change, so that makes it a continuously exciting environment to be in.

Pop Culture Principle – Comparing the Taylor who we first met in Season 2 to the Taylor we see at the beginning of Season 5, do you think they’ve somewhat compromised who they are to survive in this world, and was that inevitable?

Asia Kate Dillon – I definitely think they’ve compromised who they are. I don’t think there is a person who exists in the Billions world who hasn’t and I think that answers the second part of your question which is I think it was inevitable. But just because it was inevitable doesn’t mean that the way in which It happened wasn’t unique and what it does mean is that Season 5 has Taylor contending with that very thing specifically.

They have done morally reprehensible things to get where they are and they have to deal with that and Season 5 continues to put them in situations where they have to figure out how to be and if they can be a morally good person while existing in the parameters of the Billions world.

Pop Culture Principle – Obviously, living in the cut-throat world of Billions, it’s hard to trust people. Does Taylor truly trust anyone?

Asia Kate Dillon – I want to answer that question, but I don’t think I can without it being a little bit of a spoiler. What I will say is that I went into Season 5 with a lot of excitement and a lot of curiosity, specifically around the issue of trust and whether or not Wendy and Taylor would be able to repair their relationship considering the number of times the trust was broken between them and also Axe and Taylor. Is there trust that remains or can it be re-excavated? The tagline for this season is to trust no one, so therefore I see that tagline as a challenge or a question that even the producers ask. If you can trust no one, what does that mean? Can you actually trust anyone? Should you trust anyone?

Pop Culture Principle - You’ve inhabited this character for five seasons now. How protective are you of Taylor Mason?

Asia Kate Dillon – Again, it’s a credit to the writers of the show. It has always felt very collaborative in that on the rare occasion that something was in the script where I didn’t think Taylor would say something, I could send an email to the writers and producers, but those things have been minor.

An example would be from Season 2. It was written that Taylor would say “policeman” and I thought that Taylor wouldn’t gender that job, Taylor would just say cop or police officer. Nothing has come my way where I thought it was totally out of character for Taylor. Even if there were something that seemed out of character for Taylor, my response isn’t that’s out of character and I’m not going to do it, but my response is why is Taylor behaving seemingly out of character or what about this is out of character or what’s under this or how does this help the story.

Pop Culture Principle – We find out in the premiere that Axe new Taylor is a spy for Chuck Rhodes. Do you think Chuck knows or expects Taylor to spill the beans to Axe?

Asia Kate Dillon – I think all of these characters are smart enough to know that anything is possible at any time. I think Chuck knows that it’s certainly possible and is hoping, trusting, and relying on Taylor not double-crossing him.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the best scenes in the Season 5 premiere was Taylor in the rage room. How therapeutic was that for them and what or who were they thinking about while in the room?

Asia Kate Dillon – Well, it was incredibly therapeutic for me as an actor, but also Taylor the character. I think Taylor at that moment is actually overcome by how much rage and grief is in them. As I’ve said before, Taylor has done morally reprehensible things to get where they are and they know it. I think Taylor is young and came into working at Axe Capital bright-eyed and bushy-tailed thinking they would not have to act in morally questionable ways.

So, I think this moment in the rage room is the last four years of their life coming to the surface and them contending with all the decisions that they’ve made, all of the people that they’ve messed over and what they’ve done to get where they are and the person that I don’t think they ever thought that could be and now see that they have the capacity to be. A lot is really said in that scene and it was really fun to play.

Pop Culture Principle – Why do you think Billions continues to be so successful and resonates with its viewers?

Asia Kate Dillon – As a fan of the show myself, I love the show because it manages to be both extraordinarily entertaining and it leaves me thinking and asking questions about the systems that we live in. It makes me think about capitalism, about patriarchy, and about anyone’s inherent ability to be good so to speak. What does it mean to be good? What are the ways in which we engage in all of the systems of oppression no matter who we are? I come out of the show having had a great time and feeling like I got fully absorbed into this entertaining world with these bananas people! So, I think in that way the show is a success because it’s doing its job.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the fifth season of Billions?

Asia Kate Dillon – We have seven episodes in the can and as soon as we get to go back, we’ll finish the final five. This season, I think all of the characters are forced to confront everything they’ve done up until now in a way that they haven’t had to yet. I feel like the first four seasons, there was a lot of behavior and now Season 5, there is still behavior, but they will also have to deal with the consequences of that behavior. Everyone is trying to figure out whether or not they could be a good person and a person of integrity within the Billions world. I think that the situations the characters are put in this season, test them in the most profound ways that they’ve all been tested so far over the course of the show.

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As you can guess, Asia Kate Dillon has had a very busy schedule promoting Billions, so we truly appreciate them taking the time to talk with us. You can catch new episodes of Billions every Sunday night at 9/8c on Showtime.

**All photos courtesy of Mark Seliger/Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME**

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