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Billions introduces non-binary character

Nick Duffy February 20, 2017
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Showtime drama Billions has introduced a non-binary character.

The acclaimed TV show, which stars Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, is based around the battle between a top hedge fund and the New York District Attorney’s office.

The season two premiere, which aired in the US on Friday, introduced Taylor, a gender non-binary character who does not identify as male or female.

Played by Asia Kate Dillon, who is also non-binary, Taylor is an intern at the hedge fund who is super-intelligent, a vegan, and also happens to use the pronoun ‘they’ – as briefly discussed with another character.

Dillon explained: “When I was growing up, if there had been someone like Taylor on TV, it would have meant something to me. So it feels good to be playing a character who might mean something to someone else.”

The show’s creators spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the decision to introduce the character.

Showrunner Brian Koppelman said: “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.

“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.”

Of the sensitive process to find the right actor for the part, co-creator David Levien added: “You want to cast partly for veracity but primarily you want to cast the best actor for the part.

“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 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.”

Dillon, who previously made an appearance on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, said the showrunners worked to make sure the role was accurate.

They explained: “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?’

“They wanted it to be a collaborative experience and it was. 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.”

However the show’s fans have posted a stream of abuse on a video introducing the character.

One wrote: “F**k this. This was one of my favorite shows. Not going to watch it now because of this madness. This gender insanity has to stop”

Another insisted: “This character does not suit the show at all just stuck in there to suit the producers political and social agenda!”

We would think the show’s plethora of straight white cisgender male characters would still be able to suit those with other “political agendas”, but apparently one drop of queer blood is enough to be cast out.

Billions airs on Sky Atlantic in the UK.

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