Preposterous Rings True to Hedge Funders at ‘Billions’ Premiere

  • PointState's Schreiber, Samlyn's Pohly are Showtime's guests
  • Actor playing wife says she'd never want that Hamptons manse

The unveiling of a television show about a hedge-fund manager may be another sign (besides dismal returns, closing of shops and insider-trading convictions) that these masters of the universe have jumped the shark (or is it lost their mojo?). Dips in global markets and a rout in China, within hours of Thursday night’s premiere party for “Billions," would appear to reinforce this thesis. 

Erica and Michael Karsch, Jackie Siegal and Robert Pohly

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

And yet: The real-life people in finance attending Showtime’s screening looked chipper enough as they arrived at the Museum of Modern Art. David Solomon of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was smiling and Lazard Ltd.’s Tom Tuft said markets were experiencing “an overreaction to China."

And even if one did need soothing, could there be a better distraction than watching TV alongside Anna Wintour and Preet Bharara?

“I was sitting on the edge of my seat a third of the time," said Michael Karsch, chief executive officer and founder of Hunter Peak Investments. “I was really intrigued, really riveted by it." Others joining him: Marc Lasry of Avenue Capital, Zach Schreiber of PointState Capital and Samlyn Capital’s Robert Pohly.

Fleece, Khakis

"Billions" stars Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti flank Showtime CEO David Nevins

Photographer: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Part of the show’s appeal may be the wholesome side of Bobby Axelrod, the hedge-fund manager character played by the handsome Damian Lewis. He quizzes his kids on American presidents over dinner and enjoys one of the most universally loved, inexpensive New York meals: pizza. His dog’s name is Elmo.

Other details may seem preposterous to an outsider -- like the psychiatrist working at Axe Capital to bolster traders’ confidence -- but hedge-fund guests at the event said that rings true, as does the analyst’s wardrobe of fleece and khakis.  

Nathan Darrow knew enough to wear a fleece to his audition to play a guy working at the fictitious hedge fund. His favorite scene: when he’s told by the psychiatrist to “go back to your Bloomberg and cut bait on your losers.” (Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, provided product support and creative input to the program.) Darrow has since moved on and now sports a mustache, not for a role but because his wife likes it.

‘Pretty Cool’

Lewis, meanwhile, was in prime hedge-fund form wearing a suit, no tie, taking in the scene from the very alpha spot in MoMA’s atrium where financiers who support the museum usually sit. (His other show uniform is a hoodie and jeans, which he wears for a regular day at the office while eating White Castle in sight of a Basquiat painting.).

After-party decor: Lewis in a hoodie, ’Billions’ matchbooks

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

How did hedge funders come off to viewers who aren’t in the business? “They seem pretty cool according to this," said actor and comedian Judah Friedlander as a sliders-and-bourbon bar beckoned. “This show makes me want to go out there and do some deals."

Malin Akerman

Photographer: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Meanwhile, would the actors on the show actually want to live a hedge-fund lifestyle? Malin Akerman, who plays Bobby Axelrod’s wife, said she’d never want that humongous beachfront house in the Hamptons.

“I like to be cozy," she said.

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