In the fourth episode of its fifth season, “Billions” sees Damian Lewis’ hedge fund king, Bobby Axelrod, embarking on a trip down memory lane. He returns to the town where he grew up and reflects back on the journey he’s made from his modest childhood to the luxurious lifestyle he’s acquired as an adult. The sequence, notably, shows Bobby participating in a loose game of street basketball with Savion Williams (Akili McDowell), a young boy living in his hometown neighborhood. But that’s not quite how the scene between Lewis’ Axelrod and McDowell’s Williams was supposed to go.
“Billions” co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien revealed during an episode of the “Behind the Billions” podcast that the scene was originally written with Bobby and Savion sitting on a rooftop together at night. However, that setup ended up being too costly of an idea, as it would have required attaching safety harnesses to the actors. The harnesses would then need to be removed in the editing stage of the episode. Instead, Koppelman and Levien reimagined the scene as a conversation happening between the two characters as they shoots some hoops on the street.
While the original version of the scene might have been more visually pleasing, the basketball aspect of Bobby and Savion’s conversation adds a looseness and street-level quality to their conversation that ultimately works well. In other words, the scene feels authentic and happens to be cost-effective. That’s just the kind of profit margin that Bobby’s whole team on “Billions” would appreciate.