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February 17, 2017 10:22 AM

On Billions, Malin Akerman plays the savvy wife to a crooked hedge fund manager who wants for nothing. And while it seems the actress and her character wouldn’t have much in common, Akerman says they both come from “humble beginnings.”

“I also grew up with nothing – my family didn’t even have a car until I was 12 or 13,” Akerman tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Though Akerman’s character, Lara Axelrod, hails from a blue-collar family in Inwood, New York, the actress was born in Sweden and spent her youth in Canada.

“We struggled for money and all we had was family, and so I can relate a bit in her journey where she comes from humble means and then she has to navigate that whole world,” shares Akerman. “There’s a parallel there between being brought up with not much and then coming to Hollywood and navigating this whole world. So it’s just interesting.”

The 38-year-old actress says that, like Lara, “I would kill for my family.”

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In Billions, Akerman stars alongside Homeland alum Damian Lewis – who plays her onscreen husband, Bobby – and Paul Giamatti, whose character is a U.S. attorney hell bent on taking the Axelrods down.

Akerman – also known for films like Couple’s Retreat and Rock of Ages – says finding a “strong, powerful female character” like Lara to play has been fun.

“One of the reasons why I got attracted to this show was because Lara wasn’t just the wife,” Akerman tells PEOPLE. “She’s an equal to her husband, and equally as savvy and the mutual respect is there… That’s a really nice quality to be able to play. And of course to be able to live a little vicariously, and be cutthroat and be a bit of a bitch, a cold icy bitch – it’s really fun to play.”

Billions‘ second season returns to Showtime on Feb. 19.

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