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Showtime’s “Billions’” has the First Non-Binary-Gender Character: Asia Kate Dillon

asia-kate-dillon

Asia Kate Dillon


Here’s the viewing stats for this show:
“The Wall Street drama starring Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff and Malin Akerman has performed pretty wellparticularly in delayed and multiplatform viewing. The on-air premiere drew about 900,000 viewers and a 0.2 in adults 18-49, which grew to 950,000 and 0.3 in episode 2.”
Performing well in Hollywood these days really just means pushing an agenda.
From Hollywood Reporter: Asia Kate Dillon uses the pronouns “they, their and them.” Because, like their onscreen character Taylor Mason on Showtime’s Billions, Dillon self-identifies as nonbinary. And thanks to this groundbreaking role, these are pronouns that more people will hopefully feel more comfortable using in the very near future.
Taylor made their debut on the current second season of the Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis drama this month. As an intern at Axe Capital, their sharp intellect and hedge-fund know-how quickly caught Axe’s eye, launching a storyline that sees Taylor’s importance with the company grow as the season progresses.
Offscreen, the role is just as important, as it marks the first time a character has openly identified as gender-neutral on television. The fact that Dillon also self-identifies that way is kismet; showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien auditioned many members from the LGBTQ community for the role of Taylor, but a nonbinary person was not a prerequisite.
Fresh off of Taylor’s debut, which has sparked a conversation about gender identity on social media, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the Orange Is the New Black alum to discuss the historic role, crafting the character and their relevance in today’s climate.
What was your casting and audition process like?
There was an initial audition, and then there were two callbacks over the course of about a month. The first audition was with Allison Estrin, the casting director, and then at the callback, I met the co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and then the second and final callback was with Allison, Brian, David and Reed Morano, who directed the first episode of season two. My audition scene was the scene from the first episode, between Mafee (Dan Soder) and Taylor. I remember doing research was key for memorizing my lines. There some jargon in that speech, and I couldn’t quite commit it to memory, and I had to research all of that stuff before it really stuck. I still only know marginally a bit more than I did before. Taylor knows much, much more than I do.
What was appealing about this specific part?
The aspect that Taylor’s identity is one part of the many parts that make up Taylor is certainly what was appealing about playing the character. On top of that, Taylor is highly intelligent, a left-brain person and fits in really well, actually, at this hedge fund as this intern.
After you got the part, did you have conversations with the writers to help flesh them out?
I’d like to give a lot of credit to the writers in that, while they were writing the character of Taylor before I was cast, they auditioned people from the entire LGBTQ spectrum. They spoke with nonbinary people. They really wanted to make sure that they had an understanding about something that — as Brian and David like to say, they self-identify as white, cisgender, straight men, so this was unfamiliar territory for them. And so I really credit them and respect them for reaching outside of their comfort zones to investigate non-binary-gender issues and gender-identity stuff in general.
Then, once I was cast, as the season progressed, occasionally a script would come my way when a pronoun would be wrong, and I would just sort of send off an email to Brian and David with the catch. It would come back and it would have been changed right away, which made me feel really respected. It was a really collaborative experience.
Did you identify with the scene involving Taylor’s introduction to Axe about their pronouns?
There is a struggle involved, certainly, but then there’s also a lot more visibility and a lot more acceptance as well. I find that often when I tell people what pronoun I use, I don’t get a lot of backlash. I’m really lucky in that respect. That’s a credit to the visibility that we’re seeing and the conversations that are happening around the topic. I also think it’s because people actually have a much more innate understanding of gender being fluid and gender identity being on a spectrum than they even thought that they might. Those moments of conversation I find particularly exciting.
Do you feel personal responsibility with this role? What kind of reactions have you had from people so far?
Although my casting as a nonbinary actor to play this nonbinary character on a major television series was, in fact, a coincidence, it is certainly significant. Not only are people responding to the character of Taylor on Twitter and on Instagram and things like that, but I’m getting messages from strangers all over the world — mostly young people saying how much it means to them as a nonbinary person to see nonbinary representation in the media. Those messages just mean everything to me. That’s really what it’s all about — the media having the ability to reach places in the world where there may be someone who is isolated from anyone else who is having a similar experience. That’s the power that art can have, and I’m really proud to be a part of a piece of art that is reaching people. Particularly at a time like this.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Billions airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.
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