New York City is full of passionate sports fans. When the city’s most popular teams are rolling, there’s a certain level of excitement that fills the air. Fans go to bat for their favorite teams and players at the drop of the hat. While the in-depth analysis can be refreshing and is welcomed by most, there’s no doubt New Yorkers are likely to go to war and debate opposing fan bases. It keeps people on their toes, but when local teams experience turbulent times, it sometimes leave outsiders with the last laugh. Just ask diehard Blazers fan and star of Billions and The Americans fame, Kelly AuCoin.
“When I first moved to New York, Portland had Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey leading the way. They were in the midst of a really good road trip and needed some momentum,” the actor told KnicksJournal.com. “I was getting excited and all the bus boys in the Big Apple were giving me shit. But when Portland won, I’m not sure if we put money on it, but I was able to rub their faces in it a little the next day!”
Well traveled due to his career and early family life, AuCoin’s basketball upcoming ensured that the sport has always remained embedded in his identity.
“My first basketball memory is growing up in Forest Grove, Oregon. My dad (Les AuCoin) set up a hoop and I remember him teaching me how to play. He was an all-state basketball player, so it was in our blood. He was elected to congress and when I was nine years old, we moved to D.C. This small town Oregon boy moved to the big city and it was a total culture shock. This was 1975,” he said. “When the Blazers won the NBA championship in 1977, I was like, ‘oh my god, this is fantastic!’ I remember playing basketball at this playground and all the kids were talking shit because they didn’t even know Portland had a team. [The Blazers] were playing the 76ers and we had a lot of Philly fans because it was close to D.C. The Blazers were down 2-0, but then came back to win the next four and no one gave me any trouble anymore.”
The more AuCoin became accustomed to the area, the more he found himself embracing its sports teams. “Growing up in Washington, I started to watch the Bullets a lot. They won the championship in 1978 and went to The Finals in 1979. As a young kid, I started to think, this is what happens. You root for a team and they win championships! I’ve lived sort of a charmed sports life for a while. Even though my teams didn’t always win championships, they were constantly competitive. When I was growing up in Washington, the Redskins were very good through the ’80’s,” he exclaimed.
Living in New York has allowed AuCoin to continue such an adapting trend. Though his Portland fandom has never left him, he’s actually been keen on the Knicks since following Patrick Ewing as a teen.
“I was playing high school basketball and Patrick Ewing was a freshman at Georgetown. I watched him all four years and was a rabid fan. I remember when was drafted by the Knicks, they tried to misuse him and turn him into a power forward. They had Bill Cartwright and were trying to start him at center instead. Can you believe that? When I moved to New York, I only had access to the Knicks, but I thought, ‘Ewing is my guy!’ I loved John Starks. I love crazy fuckers like that,” the actor shared. “My wife loved watching him because he was so entertaining, beating his chest and all. We sort of adopted the Knicks as our team. I loved the 1999 team with Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell — they were eighth seed and went all the way to The Finals. We took a game from San Antonio!” He then followed Marcus Camby’s career in Portland. “He had one really great season there. Camby would lob it in to a young LaMarcus Aldridge for all these alley-oops. It was really exciting.”
AuCoin’s role as “Dollar Bill” on Billions is especially appreciated by those who live in New York City and work on Wall Street. In addition, the actor says he happens to have fans in NBA locker rooms.
“A lot of NBA players are into Billions. The guys look at me funny and recognize me from the show. [CJ McCollum] has expressed that he digs Billions and we’ve been able to talk about it. He’s so smart and interesting. I love that he’s active and he isn’t afraid to mix it up. I love that he speaks his mind,” he said.
Billions will return to Showtime on Sunday, March 25th for season three. Currently in the midst of filming, AuCoin is having the time of his life. “There’s really great chemistry on Billions. It’s so strong. We have great actors and everyone is so supportive. People genuinely like each other. Dan Soder is perhaps the funniest man alive. If all else fails, we all shut up and just listen to him riff. We all took a road trip to Philadelphia when he filmed his first standup special on Comedy Central. Dan and I went down to New Jersey to watch Daniel Isaac’s play last summer. It’s like a family. I’ve never experienced this on any other medium besides theatre. I’m so impressed with this team. We get great directors and the scripts are fantastic. It starts with the vision of Brian Koppelman and David Levien — the writing is always different. We never rehash things. I’m so blessed that I’ve been able to go on Billions and The Americans, two shows that I think are so high quality,” he conveyed.
While working and living in New York, AuCoin keeps tabs on his favorite team by reading SB Nation’s Blazers Edge blog. He even helps share the blog’s continued community efforts. “There’s a lot of intelligent conversation. People ponder what stars they’d want on the team and no one wanted [Carmelo] Anthony,” he said of the rumors that the former Knicks star could have joined the Blazers before heading to Oklahoma City.
“I’ve never been a Carmelo Anthony fan. Good guy, but seems like a ball-hog for me. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were making it known that they would welcome Anthony on the team. For a good week, I was beginning to see what having him in Portland would be like. I was pumping myself up for it, but when it didn’t happen, I was relieved. Anthony would have left and it wouldn’t have worked anyway. He needs the ball in his hands, and so do Damian and CJ,” he analyzed. He is, however, excited to watch Kristaps Porzingis come into his own as a star.
As fans await the return of Billions, they can stay tuned for AuCoin’s upcoming projects like films Drunk Parents and Mike, Mike Tan. He also has a role in the highly acclaimed The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, which opens January 12th.
“My dad was a journalist before he was a politician. I’m a very big proponent of free and independent well-founded journalism,” he said.