AceShowbiz - "Billions" introduces Taylor, TV's first gender non-binary character, in its season 2 premiere. Playing the character is Asia Kate Dillon, who, like the character, also does not identify as either gender. But showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien did not specifically seek out an actor who was non-binary for the role.
"You want to cast partly for veracity but primarily you want to cast the best actor for the part," Levien tells Entertainment Weekly. "People were coming in to [audition] from the entire LGBTQ spectrum. Some were in various stages of transition and some were asked if there was going to be a major change in [their appearance in the] next couple months."
But Dillon turned out to be the best choice for the part. Levien shares, "But when Asia came in and read they were so locked in and perfect for it. And it was only after that we learned how they lived their life. When casting a role you can't ask questions [about a person's gender] in advance, that would violate all sorts of decency."
On why they bring Taylor into the fold, Koppelman explains, "We were looking for a character that Axe could see himself in - someone as smart as Axe is and someone who Axe could potentially groom. And as you pointed out, to have this male-dominated world of hedge funds and then introduce a gender non-binary character who was brilliant and ambitious but also someone who could take their own moral inventory was really interesting to us."
He adds, "And of course, we noticed the way gender has become something that we're all discussing and learning knowing more about and grappling with. So it seemed really worth doing."
Dillon recalls reading Taylor's character description, " 'My gosh, this is incredible, this feels like me.' That a non-binary character was going to be on a show like 'Billions', on a network like Showtime, and they were going to be integral to the plot and their gender identity was just one of many parts that made up the character - that really drove me to want to play this part."
The New York actor shares, "I feel very proud to represent something on television that hasn't been represented before. I know it would have meant a lot to me, as a younger person, especially. Visibility and education are so important - particularly now in the face of the current administration."
In addition to conducting research and interview among the non-binary community, the showrunners are open for suggestions from Dillon in writing the role. "Brian and David and the producers and the crew were all very welcoming but also very adamant about the fact they wanted me to speak up and say, 'Hey, that's not how somebody is non-binary would say,' or, 'have you thought about it from this perspective,' " Dillon reveals.
Addressing Taylor in the script is one of the things that they had to well think about and in the end, "they" is the preferred pronoun. Dillon says, "Occasionally a script would come through where the pronoun would be wrong, and I felt very comfortable shooting an email to Brian and David and saying, 'Oh, I just caught this' and they didn't take it personally and it got changed right away. It made me feel really respected and comfortable during the whole process."
As Taylor is added to the show as someone who could match wits with Axelrod, the two will form an unlikely partnership this season.
"Billions" airs Sundays at 10 P.M. ET on Showtime.