When a major character leaves a television series after having been with said series since the beginning, many will see that as the kiss of death. So was the case when it was announced that Damian Lewis who played Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod would be leaving Billions. Fans began to wonder if the series could continue without his massive presence.
Well, with its sixth season premiere and the debut of Corey Stoll as billionaire Michael Prince, the show delivered its most-watched opening weekend to date. One of the constants for the series has been the stellar work of actor Asia Kate Dillon who plays Taylor Mason.
Taylor has become a fan favorite since they joined the series in the second season. They have worked with and gone to battle with Axe and now, they are dealing with Michael Prince and what he can and does bring to the table. Can he be trusted? Is he out to change the world for the better? Taylor has high hopes for Prince, but still has their doubts.
We sat down with Asia to talk about the current season, if there is such as thing as an “ethical” billionaire and if there is anyone that Taylor Mason can truly trust.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you see Season 6 of Billions as somewhat of a reset for the series or just the next evolution of the series?
Asia Kate Dillon – Next evolution feels right to me or perhaps the word pivot. You still have the Chuck against billionaires scenario which the show is somewhat based around, but now Chuck’s aim has literally pivoted to Michael Prince.
Pop Culture Principle – As a viewer, it seems that Chuck vs Axe was basically a good vs evil battle, but with Chuck and Prince, this impending battle seems a bit more complex. Would you agree?
Asia Kate Dillon – I do agree, and I think it’s a really astute observation on your part. One of the things that is fascinating about the character Michael Prince and that Corey Stoll is able to act so brilliantly is that Michael Prince seems like a really good guy. It is really hard to read him. With Axe, he wore his emotions on his sleeve, and you never had to guess on which side of the line he stood. With Prince, he is so hard to read, and I think it’s one of the things that makes him a fascinating character and addition to the show. It makes it really fun to play with and against him as a performer.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you talk a little bit about what it’s like to work with Corey Stoll who plays Michael Prince?
Asia Kate Dillon – Corey is awesome! It’s an incredibly difficult thing to come into a show with a cast that has been working together for years. The show has a specific rhythm and a feel, and I imagine it could be very intimidating to walk into that scenario, but Corey really came in with so much grace, vulnerability, and talent that it’s just been a joy. I have said this for years to you and anyone else who would listen, but we really have a lot of fun on this show. Corey has only added another level of fun. He’s a performer that I’ve admired for years, so it is personally for me also fun and gratifying to get to work with him in general.
Pop Culture Principle – How do you think Taylor truly feels about the Prince List and how serious Michael Prince is about it?
Asia Kate Dillon – I think Taylor at the start feels both optimistic about the idea of the Prince List which is similar to Wendy. Taylor has a vision for how a hedge fund could work if it were really trying to optimize itself to be the best and have everyone’s highest interest at heart. I think Taylor, like Wendy, is naturally skeptical of what Prince is really after and if he is as good as he appears on the surface.
Nothing is purely good or purely bad on our show with a rare exception, so I think it’s a really interesting window or mirror for Taylor to be confronted with someone like Prince who is worth ten billion dollars and everyone seems to love him, and he really doesn’t do anything illegal. I think Taylor is really fascinated by how Prince is who he is and more how versus why.
Pop Culture Principle – With what Mike Prince is trying to do with the Prince List, do you think there is such a thing as an ethical billionaire?
Asia Kate Dillon – I mean I think that is the question that the show is asking. At its core, the show is asking a lot of questions and that is certainly one of the biggest and I think Prince really offers an opportunity for audiences to delve into that question themselves and for Taylor as a character, she has been trying to figure out that since the beginning of their journey. Can there be an ethical capitalist? We get to see that Taylor is learning and growing and figuring out who they are and how they can be who they want to be.
Pop Culture Principle – We see an interesting dynamic happening between Taylor and Rian. Do you think Taylor see themselves as a mentor to Rian who is a rising star, but someone they will need to keep an eye on?
Asia Kate Dillon – Definitely. I think that is a great way to put it. Getting to act with Eva Victor who plays Rian is such a joy. We have so much fun, and Eva is so talented, and I feel so lucky to get to work with Eva. I totally think that they see themselves as a mentor to Rian. I think Taylor is trying to be the mentor to Rian that Axe wasn’t to Taylor. They would step up in ways that Axe didn’t for Taylor and really be there for Rian in ways that Axe wasn’t for Taylor. Taylor is certainly making those comparisons in their own mind, and I think it would be natural for the audience to make them as well.
One of the really fun things for me about the fact that Taylor Mason Carb is within Michael Prince Capital is that we get to see Taylor both be a boss and have a boss. That is just really fun for me to play were in one scene Taylor is laying it out to Rian and telling them this is how it is, and you need to listen to them and then the next scene with Prince they have to ask Prince for money or permission to make a play. That is really fun for me as a performer to get to oscillate between those relationship dynamics.
Pop Culture Principle – We see that Taylor and Mafee have kept in touch since he left and have a weekly dinner. They have always had a special friendship. Can you talk a little bit about their friendship and working with Daniel E. Soder?
Asia Kate Dillon – We love Mafee! All those scenes, particularly the ones in the restaurant with Mafee are so much fun. As you can tell, I love working with everyone on the show!
Pop Culture Principle – Initially we see Taylor accept the fact that Mafee and Dollar Bill being ruined is just a part of business and they knew the risks, but after their most recent dinner with Mafee, they had a change of heart and helped save the two. Do you see Taylor have an issue in the future walking that tightrope of protecting their friends and still being loyal to Prince?
Asia Kate Dillon – I don’t think that Taylor calculated the human cost of their decision. There have been a handful of moments over the seasons where we see Taylor be emotionally affected. Whether it’s the betrayal from Axe and we see Taylor go to Wendy’s office and they hug, or we see Taylor sitting alone in the office after we see what happened between them and their father.
We get these moments of Taylor being affected and I think it’s beautiful to me that it was their friendship with Mafee that you can step outside of what you think is only business when it actually is personal because it’s someone that you care about, and you can actually do something about that and it’s not in conflict with your business mind or whatever. It just shows how much Taylor and Mafee care for each other and how close they are, and I love that for Taylor.
Pop Culture Principle – Who do you think Taylor truly trusts if anyone at all?
Asia Kate Dillon – That’s a great question. I think my answer to your question comes in two layers. I think Taylor trusts that people will do whatever is in their best interest. It’s not that they can’t trust anyone, but they can trust that people are going to do whatever is in their best interest which I think is different than not trusting anyone. I’m not sure how it’s different, it just feels different as I am saying it to you. They don’t think everyone is out to get them, they just know that everyone is out for the own best interest probably and I think that gives Taylor a sense of calm within that potential chaos.
Asia Kate Dillon – I think it’s again a version of what Taylor tells Rian in the first episode we came back with after lockdown. Taylor says that they should have gone and done the Ph.D. program, but if I’m not going to do that, you should know what you are going to give.
Axe didn’t tell Taylor what your life was going to be like, he just told her to turn her hate into fuel and you’ll become the winner that you’ve always wanted to become, but there were no details involved. I think the advice would be Taylor telling themselves what was in store for them. Taylor might still have made the same choice to still work for Axe, but they would have known what they were in store for. Knowing what they were in store for, would they have made the same decisions, I don’t know and that would be a totally different show! 😊
Pop Culture Principle – You’ve inhabited the character of Taylor Mason for six seasons now. How protective of the character are you?
Asia Kate Dillon – In Season 2 and Season 3 the writers were still developing Taylor and getting to know Taylor and me as a performer. There was a line were Taylor referred to a cop as a policeman and I would say that they wouldn’t gender, they would just say cop. Stuff like that doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally a word or something will come through and I will ask to change it.
Other times honestly, it has to do with blocking or how Taylor moves. At this point, we’ve worked with most of our directors multiple times and occasionally we have a new director come in who is amazing and will suggest that on this line if Taylor would move from there to there. It’s thankfully such a safe and collaborative space that I can say that actually Taylor would stand and deliver, and that Taylor so rarely paces.
I love being directed and taking directions and love trying something new and as you said because I’ve inhabited the character for several years now there are certain things that I am able to say like actually that isn’t a typical thing that the character would do, so if we are going to do it, it needs to mean something and come from a real place. 😊
Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the rest of season six of Billions?
Asia Kate Dillon – I think it goes back to something you said earlier in that can you be an ethical billionaire and can you be an ethical capitalist. I continue to be so proud to work on a show that is socially relevant, reflective, and entertaining. I think folks can look forward to being entertained and they can look forward to grappling with some real questions if they choose to grapple with them and I think that it continues to be fascinating to me as a fan of the show to learn why these people are they way they are and how they continue to justify the ways in which they move in the world.
A huge thank you to Asia Kate Dillon for taking the time to talk with us. The sixth season of Billions is currently airing every Sunday night only on Showtime!
**All photos courtesy of Jeff Neumann/Mark Seliger/SHOWTIME**