'Billions' Star Set to Exit Showtime Series After 5 Seasons

Billions will start a new phase with Season 6 because Damian Lewis has left the Showtime series. During Sunday's Season 5 finale, Lewis' Bobby "Axe" Axelrod made a decision that will make it impossible for Paul Giamatti's U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades to bring him to justice. Lewis' decision to leave the show had been in the works for awhile, and comes after the death of his wife, actress Helen McCrory, in April. (Spoilers follow!)

In "No Direction Home," Chuck seemed close to an arrest of Axe, but Michael Prince (Corey Stoll) swopped in and betrayed him by buying Axe Cap and Taylor Mason Carbon. Axe then fled the U.S. to go to Switzerland, leaving Wendy (Maggie Siff) behind. Wendy, Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), and Wags (David Costabile) also wound up working for Prince, who is now leading Axe Cap and becomes Chuck's new target. Viewers will not have to wait long to see how the show moves on without Lewis, as Season 6 will premiere on Jan. 23, 2022.

In a post-show interview with Entertainment Weekly, co-creators Brian Koppleman and David Levien confirmed Lewis is done as a series regular on Billions. However, Koppelman noted that they are not saying goodbye forever. "The guy delivered for us in such an incredible way. What he did in making Bobby Axelrod an icon is really remarkable," Koppelman noted. "Knowing the conditions in which he performed, traveling back and forth to England for years to be with his family, it's impossible to imagine just how hard and focused that guy worked. We feel really honored and lucky to have had five years of being able to know that Damian Lewis was Bobby Axelrod. But, again, not saying it's goodbye forever."

The writers began talking with Lewis about Axe leaving the show about three years so he could spend more time with his family in England. "It was amazing that he came to us that far in advance and trusted us with what was going on in his life and with what his thinking was so that we could do things like bring Mike Prince in and be really aware in the plotting and planning of season 5," Koppelman explained. "And it also made us know, okay, here's where season 4 needs to go to set up the events of season 5 so that we could do this at the end of it."

Some shows might lose a step when they lose a main character, especially one played by Lewis, but Koppelman and Levien are confident the show will find a new wind under its sails with Stoll as the new lead. They also poined out that Giamatti, Siff, and the other talented stars are still in the cast. "It's all new opportunities," Levien said. "We're as fascinated with this world as we were at the beginning and why we wanted to do the show."

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Lewis won an Emmy in 2012 for starring as Nicholas Brody on another acclaimed Showtime series, Homeland. Lewis left that show after three seasons, and it ran another five years without him. Lewis also earned an Emmy nomination for playing King Henry VIII in Wolf Hall. As for Billions, it began in 2016 and has earned mostly critical acclaim, although it has surprisingly never scored an Emmy nomination.