Condola Rashad Has Always Been the Secret Assassin of 'Billions'
The actress had a blast getting snippy with her BFF Paul Giamatti in Season 6.
Condola Rashad’s Kate Sacker is an ace. From Season 1 of Billions, back when she was the Assistant United States Attorney to Paul Giamatti’s Chuck Rhodes, Kate’s acuity was obvious. She could trade barbs and deep-cut pop-culture references with the best of them. She soaked up Chuck’s battles with the billies, namely with Damien Lewis’ Bobby Axelrod, until they ran him out of town at the end of Season 5. And then, as Chuck’s mission against the moral sliminess of benevolent wealth, represented by Corey Stoll’s Mike Prince, turned into a gnashing crusade in Season 6, she did what was previously unthinkable in the Billions-verse: going over to the private sector to head Prince’s legal counsel as he made a bid for New York to host the Olympics in 2028. Chuck did not mince words over his distaste for her decision, pitting the two against each other in tense, venomous face-offs over who’s in the moral right.
“Me and Paul had so much fun doing those scenes,” Rashad says over Zoom last week about working with Giamatti this season, especially the last two episodes, “Succession” and “Cold Storage.” “Everybody on set knows if me and Paul are called on the same day, it's going to be laughter on set, just shenanigans galore. We are troublemakers. It's been like that for six years. Literally, I'm ride-or-die Paul Giamatti. Like, he's genuinely one of my best friends. I love him so much, and so we just have so much fun.”
Even before Sunday night’s finale—where Kate helped Prince pull off an ankle-breaking move on her former mentor, baiting him into a game of chicken over crypto codes that briefly landed him in jail and cost Prince $3.5 billion—the fan response to Kate’s character pivot this season has been decidedly divided. On Twitter (and at Thrillist), people are elated that she finally struck out on her own. “It's funny, I get messages like, ‘You betrayed Chuck. I can't look at it.’ I'm like, ‘Well, I didn't do anything. I'm just playing the role,’” Rashad says, laughing. “Even when people meet me, they're always very, very shocked, because they're like, ‘Oh, you're not like [Kate]. You're kind of a goofball.’ Actually, if there are any characters I've ever played, she's kind of like the farthest away from my actual personality.”
Rashad isn’t wrong; over our video call, she’s downright effervescent—"Sagittarius sisters!!" we squeal when I tell her her birthday is the day before mine. It’s no doubt a far cry from the stoic Kate Sacker, who maintains an unreadable poker face when the stakes are high or counters a line she finds ridiculous with a perfect, hilarious side glance or eye roll. “Basically any thoughts that I'm having, unless I'm actively not supposed to show what I'm thinking, I do just allow them to just be present, even for a second, and then letting it go, covering it immediately,” says Rashad, who started her acting career in theater, racking up four Tony nominations between 2012 and 2018, and landing bit parts on shows like The Good Wife, before getting cast on Billions. “[TV and theater are] the same energy, just channeled differently. That's definitely something that I had to learn how to channel in a specific way for the camera.”
Until Billions starts shooting Season 7 in the fall, Rashad is reconnecting with theater this summer in Italy, a country she’s felt a deep connection to all the way back when she visited for the first time as a kid with her mother, actress Phylicia Rashad, best known for playing Claire Huxtable. “Even as a 9-year-old, there was a feeling of like, ‘I know I'm not from here, but am I from here, though?’” Rashad says from an apartment in Milan. “I hadn't seen any of the iconic films. I had no pre-preconceived notions. It had something to do with the earth and the land itself. It was like a memory of mine. And even with the language, I was like, ‘Do I understand what you're saying?’” These days, she indeed does understand what they’re saying: She’s near fluent in Italian, and is using her particular set of skills to be an “ambassador for harmonious intercultural relations” abroad, collaborating with other artists outside of her comfort zone.
“For me, what it means to be an artist is not to just go where it's the strongest, or where you will get the most exposure or whatever,” Rashad says. “That's all fine, nothing against that. However, the heart of it for me, especially in this day and age, it's really more so about connecting. For me, this is how I can actually give back to us, to our society as a global environment.”
But back to Billions. Now that Season 6 has hit the reset button yet again, with Chuck out for blood in a special ops mission at the behest of his attorney general successor, Sakina Jaffrey’s Daevisha Mahar, and Prince about to launch his campaign for president of the United States, Kate is in an opportunistic but precarious place. She had been exploring the reality of her own political ambitions throughout the season, unearthing some payoff dirt about her politician dad that got her out of trouble in college, and failed for the first time in her life, in front of her new allies in Prince, Wags (David Costabile), and Scooter (Daniel Breaker) no less, who all scoffed when she tried to resign.
“What does it mean for someone who holds themselves to a certain standard and has met it all the time, so literally does not know how to compute failure?” Rashad says. “I mean, she's not a robot, but essentially in that moment, she kind of is. Like, my wires are not able to compute what's happening, so this is the part where I walk away now, because I don't know what's happening. She's been raised by people that love her, but the way that was translated was like, ‘We're going to teach you how to be a cutthroat queen on a chessboard.’ That's how she knows how to move through space. In terms of the comeback from it, it was just a matter of allowing that feeling of failure to be the thing that completely reignited her, essentially.”
While Kate being in the private sector has given Rashad the chance to play in a new kind of sandbox, getting scenes with Wendy (Maggie Siff), Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), and other Mike Prince Capital figures, she does miss being regular scene partners with Giamatti. “Honestly, I'd say the only downside [of this season] is that I didn't get to play as much with Paul, so other than missing Paul, this season was so much fun for me to get into. Similar to the two worlds that are represented on camera, even behind the scenes, it's a totally different experience.”
When I ask what she wants for Kate moving forward, I do put some of my own hopes out there: Will she ride Prince’s coattails and then chomp on the men around her when she sees her opening? “I think that that sounds in line with what I would think her to do,” Rashad agrees. “[Prince has] actually given her room to do what it is that she does, whereas she didn't really have that before. And even the setback of learning about her past at school, and how that set her back a little bit—I don't think that's going to be something that completely derails her. I think it's just a matter of just being more strategic and staying in a place that allows her to actually be able to recoup and regroup. Either that, or she just finds a way to jump ship on everybody and does her own thing entirely.”
But if there’s one thing she’s eager for more of, it’s fighting with Giamatti. “Honestly, there were sometimes we would be doing a scene, and we would literally just start laughing because of how bitchy it was. We were like, ‘Yeah, we’re totally having a lovers’ quarrel right now.’ At some point, everyone was like, ‘Guys, get a room already.’ I hope there's more of it,” Rashad adds. “It's so much fun to be snippy with Paul Giamatti.”