Despite Bobby “Axe” Axelrod absence, Billions will still focus on its conflict between capitalism and regulation as it returns for Season 6. Executive producers say the spirit of the show — and its cutthroat dynamics — are still very much in play. “It is set in the same world,” says co-creator Brian Koppelman. “But as the world changes, the show has changed too.” Koppelman adds: "What is happening is part of an evolution which started when we were examining a certain kind of billionaire. We wanted to see if there can be such a thing as a billionaire who isn’t a drain on society. Is it possible to be a beneficent figure in that position?” As fellow co-creator David Levien notes, “when we started the show, we were very much captivated by silent hedge fund guys trading stocks, trying to stay in the shadows and not become famous. Over the years, we’ve seen people use their prominence and their wealth in the public space to try and move discourse and use that as an extra source of power.”
Billions was right to not try to create a new Axe: "There’s no replacing Bobby Axelrod, an antihero whose uniquely frantic energy made him seem more like a cult leader who has a tasteful collection of hoodies and the temperament of an overtired toddler—someone who could probably convince his employees to jump off a cliff if it meant a strong return on investment," says Miles Surrey. "But the good news is that Billions hasn’t really tried to fill the void in Season 6. Creating Axe 2.0 would’ve been a losing battle for both the series and any actor tasked with living up to Lewis’s engrossing performance. Instead, Billions has swung in a different direction by setting up an aspirational billionaire whose more subdued brand of narcissism blinds him from his own shortcomings. We knew who Axe was. The intrigue of Billions going forward is that we don’t quite know who Mike Prince is—and neither does Chuck. The Axe era is over, but a worthy Prince has taken his throne."
Corey Stoll discusses taking on a bigger role on Billions following Damian Lewis' departure: "You know, that really wasn’t the challenge," he says. "(Co-creators and showrunners) Brian (Koppelman) and David (Levien) did a good job of setting the terms of the Chuck Rhoades-Mike Prince relationship differently from the way that it was with Axe. For me, the real challenge was turning from an antagonist to a protagonist of sorts. In Season 5, I was the engine of pretty much every scene that I was in. I was on the attack, pursuing this goal, and Axe and Rhoades were reacting to me. In just the first few days of shooting Season 6, I had all these scenes where I’m behind the big desk, taking incoming fire. I hadn’t really prefigured how different it would be. It uses very different muscles as an actor."