“30 Coins” Season 2 Finally Gave Paul Giamatti the Chance to Play a James Bond Villain [Interview]

This is it. The season two finale of the HBO Original Series “30 Coins” arrives on Monday, December 11, concluding a season long, high stakes battle between our heroes and ruthless enemies led by sycophant billionaire Christian Barbrow (Paul Giamatti).

Expect things to get wild as hell.

Directed and co-written by Álex de la Iglesia, along with co-writer Jorge GuerricaechevarríaMax’s “30 Coins” takes viewers into a world where nothing is as it seems, and nobody can be trusted. Bloody Disgusting spoke with de la Iglesia about Season 2 last month, where the horror filmmaker touched on his overarching plans for the series as well as casting acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti in the role of this season’s terrifying villain.

This week, Bloody Disgusting caught up with Giamatti to find out how he came to play Christian Barbrow, the inspiration behind the character, and his love of horror. 

There were a few reasons that Giamatti was drawn to the role of Christian Barbrow, with “30 Coins” giving the actor the chance to finally play a James Bond villain chief among them.

He explains of joining season two, “I’m a horror fan. I’d heard of it, and I thought, ‘Oh, I should watch that, it sounds kind of crazy,’ but I never have. So, when it came to me, I thought, ‘Oh, I have heard of this thing.’ The script was forthcoming. My manager, who knows I like stuff like this, said, ‘They’re interested in you, but I think you should just watch it first.’ And I watched it. I watched about five minutes of it, and I was like, ‘I’ll do anything.’ I knew who [Álex de la Iglesia] was, and I’d seen some stuff of his. So, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do anything, sure. What is the part?’ She gave me the thing, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s like a Bond film. Sure, I’ll do this, absolutely.’ Yeah, no question about it. He’s a Bond villain. This is my shot at playing a Bond villain. I’m never going to play a Bond villain other than this.

“Then, when I read the whole thing, it got to the ending with the UFO, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is crazy! It’s got the Necronomicon and the UFO.’ For me, it was the fulfillment. I have a friend. I kept sending him pictures from the UFO set, and he was like, ‘This is like the weirdest, most profound childhood dream of yours coming true. You’re on a UFO reading the Necronomicon out loud. You’ve somehow manifested the most fucked-up interests you’ve had your whole life. I said, ‘Yes, yes, I have.’ It was like nothing’s made me happier in my life than to be on a UFO reading the Necronomicon covered in blood. I was like, ‘This is fantastic.'”

30 Coins Giamatti

Barbrow gets introduced early in season two as a powerful man that even Hell fears, and that only grows the more the season continues. That was definitely part of the appeal for Giamatti.

That’s the idea that the only thing scarier than Satan is an out-of-control billionaire,” he explains. “The whole thing appealed to me immediately. I talked to Álex very briefly before I took the [role], and he said, ‘He’s, he’s like a sorcerer. He’s like a wizard a little bit.’ And it set off all of these things in my head. He’s like Aleister Crowley crossed with Jeff Bezos. He’s like Anton LaVey. So, all of that stuff started firing off in my head: L. Ron Hubbard and Anton LaVey, and Church of Satan, and all this crazy stuff. I have a podcast, by the way, called CHINWAG, in which I talk about stuff like this with a friend of mine. We haven’t been able to promote it because the strikes knocked it out of the box. I’ve always been interested in stuff like this.

“It’s an interesting thing because I really liked the fact you didn’t know anything about him. What will it be like to play somebody who, even if he has a past, no longer has one because he’s just become this thing? That idea that somebody, well, these guys, at some point, a switch gets flipped, and they’re just like, ‘I am the most powerful person in the world. Wait a second, I’m the smartest man in the world. Hold on.’ Then, it’s all just, like, all of it falls away. So, that’s where I think the guy was. He’s at that place where the switch got flipped. And you’re just like, ‘That’s it, man. I have all the answers. I’m not a person anymore. I’m like a God. I’m just, like, I’m infallible.’ It’s interesting to play somebody in that state. It’s just all falling away, and you can do nothing wrong; you cannot make a wrong move anymore.

Other than an extreme determination and an insatiable appetite for power, Christian Barbrow is a bit of an enigma regarding backstory. Instead of building one, Giamatti leaned into it.

“This guy, none,” The actor said of building out Barbrow’s history. “And that’s what I mean; I like the fact that it just doesn’t matter what his backstory was with this guy anymore. That’s all gone. Whoever he was is gone. That’s really awesome. I don’t know if it’s in the show, but there was a thing they did that was supposed to be in it. They had a thing where, if somebody finds photographs of me, you can’t really see my face. I’ve got a hat on. It might not be in the show, but I thought it was a really fantastic thing, this idea of not being able to see him all the time. Like, ‘Who the fuck is this guy really?’ The fact that he doesn’t explain it is awesome. I really like that about it.”

Paul Giamatti as Christian Barbrow

“30 Coins” isn’t afraid to nestle in contemporary reflections of our current sociopolitical landscape within a wild world of horror that involves spider-like demons and high-stakes battles for world domination on a biblical scale. Giamatti reflects on this and horror’s ability to hold a mirror to prevalent anxieties and fears.

It’s one of the things I love about it is that it’s always transgressing and doing fantastically fucked up things and talking about incredibly interesting things in interesting ways. For some reason, everybody lets that happen with horror, and it’s great. Because I do think, in some ways, it can get at those things in a way that isn’t necessarily on the nose. So, it’s more comfortable, maybe, for people, I don’t know. But it’s also been a devalued genre. It’s looked down on in some ways. So, nobody’s paying attention in the same way. And it’s talking at really deep levels about stuff. It’s getting at unconscious, fucked-up things, and so it’s a good way to talk about this stuff because it really hits you at a visceral level, not necessarily an intellectual level. But I do think a lot of it is because it wasn’t taken seriously.”

Even at a time when horror is at its most accepted and mainstream than ever, “30 Coins” still remains unlike anything else thanks to its wild, anything-goes approach.

Giamatti reflects, “That’s true. That’s a really good point, too, because to some extent, this renaissance of horror is lovely, but I’m also like, this stuff is too accepted now. You’re actually not going to be able to deploy it in the same way. I’m a little like, ‘Nah, I don’t love a lot of this. I like the more trashy shit,’ because the exploitative stuff gets at the more fucked-up stuff better, and it hits you at a deeper level. I actually really liked Barbarian because I thought Barbarian served up that stuff really well, but it was still getting at that stuff more. It’s hitting your weird animal brain better than a lot more of the stuff. The stuff that people are doing is great, but it feels more decorous, and it’s being, I don’t know, elevated. And I’m like, ‘I don’t give a shit about it being elevated, and I don’t give a shit about it being quoting all this other stuff or homage to something.’ I don’t care. And Álex’s stuff is bananas. He’s throwing everything in there. In some ways, I don’t even know if the plot makes any fucking sense. That’s good because the chaos of it is making your mind go somewhere else. It’s blowing your mind in a way that it should, the way that older stuff does.”

While Christian Barbrow’s fate remains yet to be determined heading into the season finale, would Giamatti be up to return to Álex de la Iglesia’s wild world of “30 Coins” for season three?

“I can only tell you that I know that they plan to do a third one; I would love to do it and would happily do it. There’s talk of it happening, so hopefully. I’m on board if they want me. Yeah, I’m on board. If they want me, I’ll do anything that guy wants to do. If he wants to do another movie or something, I’ll do anything with that guy. He’s fantastic.”

Don’t miss Giamatti’s villainous turn in “30 Coins” season two. Catch up ahead of the finale.

30 coins season 2 poster

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