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Wifely role with bite

‘She’s a woman who says what she means and makes s… happen.”

So says Swedish-born Canadian actress Malin Akerman of her Billions character Lara Axelrod, the tough-as-nails, no-nonsense wife of hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis).

For Akerman, portraying Lara in the sleek, high-stakes drama — now streaming episodes of its second season weekly on Stan in line with the US — has allowed the actress to dig deep with a meatier role and flex her creative muscles.

“It’s so much fun to play this powerful woman who is an equal to her husband, who’s respected, who’s really edgy and she doesn’t mince words at all,” she enthuses on the line from New York.

“I’m sure there are people in everyone’s lives who we wish we could say certain things to, but we don’t because we’re diplomatic, or at least I am. So that’s what makes her so wonderful to play, I get to live vicariously through her a little bit.”

Picking up from a tense finale that seemingly signalled the beginning of the end for Bobby’s hedge fund Axe Capital — which was under investigation for insider trading — season two opens with the tables turning on Bobby’s arch-rival, federal prosecutor Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti).

Rhoades comes under scrutiny from his own office when it is found his estranged wife Wendy (Maggie Siff) had received a $5 million payout from Bobby upon leaving her role at Axe Capital.

While the company’s downward spiral tested Bobby and Lara’s relationship, Akerman says the couple emerge from the ordeal stronger than ever.

“That’s what I love about them as a couple, they challenge one another,” she says.

“I feel like in the first season they’re like this impenetrable superhero couple, and then in season two we start to see them as a human couple as we peel back the layers a bit more and see the humanity in them and how they deal with obstacles. And obviously in the second season, they’re preparing for this second battle.”

Having relished her portrayal of the gutsy, independent Lara, Akerman says she’s encouraged by the rise of strong, multi-faceted female roles on TV.

“I think there’s been so many more enjoyable characters in television these days, with all these new networks like Amazon and Netflix, there’s a lot more space to be creative and to write for women, so I’m really excited about that,” she says.

“It’s like art imitating life and vice versa, you’ve got strong female characters who are respected, and I feel like television is sort of shifting that way as well.

“It’s a very exciting time. As women, we want to be equals and we want to be able to have the same opportunities, so it’s a great moment for us.”

Having portrayed a trophy wife in the 2013 TV series of the same name, Akerman insists Lara is far from that label.

“There’s nothing trophy about her, she’s a survivor, she takes care of her own business,” she says.

“That’s the one thing I do appreciate about her, is that she really isn’t a trophy wife, she has her own agenda, she is her own independent woman, and her and her husband they’re like a team.

“I think that she does push the boundaries and we’ll see that even more in the second season that she can do things on her own, she doesn’t need her husband to do things for her and she’s very capable. So hopefully throughout the season that label will dissipate.”

Season two has already earned praise from critics and Akerman is hopeful a third is on the horizon.

“It’s so much fun to be a part of a show that people are enjoying, I’ve never been part of a show that’s had a second season so it’s exciting,” she says.

“I’m also just really proud of the writers and the co-stars that I work with, I just feel like this is a great show and I’m glad people are appreciating it.”

Billions streams on Stan, with new episodes added each Monday in line with the US.

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