June 15 (UPI) — Billy Bob Thornton, an actor who has portrayed his share of quirky villains, told UPI he is happy to spend a few years playing the troubled, but fundamentally decent attorney at the heart of Amazon’s Goliath.
“If you asked me five years ago, I’d have said, ‘No way in hell.’ Now it sounds amazing to me,” the 62-year-old Arkansas native said in a phone interview.
“I’ve never had a situation this perfect in terms of my career because I have a family and we will shoot in town and I’m on it for half a year. That allows me to do a movie, make a record, tour and be with my family a lot.”
Should an irresistible film role require him to work outside Los Angeles, the married father of four said he takes his loved ones with him on location, but not when he tours with his band.
“A rock ‘n’ roll bus is no place for the family,” he said.
Created by David E. Kelley, the legal drama follows Thornton’s hard-drinking Billy McBride as he represents a new client against a corrupt, but powerful institution each, eight-episode season. Season 2 begins streaming Friday.
Thornton thinks the show’s spin on the classic David vs. Goliath fable is resonating with viewers.
“You want to see the underdog take down the big guy,” he said. “It’s so relevant right now because it’s all around us.
“The world has kind of gone wacky here,” he laughed.
So, who is this character who made Thornton want to settle down, so to speak?
“He’s a good-hearted guy with good intentions and I think he wants to fight for people and fight until he finds his own life,” Thornton explained. “If I were a lawyer, that’s the guy I’d be.”
“There’s got to be something in him that makes an audience root for him. He wants to be a good guy,” he continued. “He has his demons, but he embraces them. They actually kind of drive him. He doesn’t pretend to be someone else and he does the best with what he’s got.”
Fatherhood doesn’t come easy to the loving, but unreliable Billy McBride, who is haunted by the memory of the client who killed a family after Billy got him acquitted of another crime on a technicality.
“He’s trying to raise a daughter and not really knowing how to be a father, but he knows he needs to be because he doesn’t want to put that kind of pressure on his daughter to be the parent… especially now that her mom is gone,” Thornton said.
“There’s so much about this character that is exactly how I would be if I were in this situation,” Thornton said, adding he feels the character is hopeful and determined to see justice served.
Having eight hours a season to unwind a single story is also appealing to Thornton, who likened the show to the Sam Spade detective potboilers of the 1930s.
“It’s like a franchise movie thing or a book series,” he said. “Or, if you’re like me and you read the Hardy Boys when you were a kid. Actually, I even read Nancy Drew as a boy.”
Thornton said growing up surrounded by women in real life meant that he appreciated his Season 1 co-stars Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde and Julie Brister who played Patty, Brittany and Marva — bright, resourceful oddballs who helped him prepare for a big trial.
“When you were babied by as many women as I was as a kid, you’re always going to want to have them around as your support group. My mom and my aunts and all my cousins were the people who supported me in the family. I didn’t get that from the male side,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with my team (on the show) being mainly women.”
Although Billy has a big win at the end of Season 1 and thwarts the high-profile law firm he helped establish in another life, he doesn’t celebrate by replacing his old beater of a car or moving out of the long-term motel he has been living in since his divorce.
“Sometimes a person can’t fight in comfort. He’s just a creature of habit. He doesn’t drink at Chez Jay because he can’t afford the Four Seasons. He’d rather drink at Chez Jay because that’s who he is. I’d rather drink at Chez Jay, rather than a 5-star restaurant,” he said.
Too pretentious? UPI wanted to know.
“Little bit,” he replied.
Thornton’s other credits include the films Sling Blade, Bad Santa, Monster’s Ball, Armageddon, Primary Colors, Pushing Tin and Love Actually, as well as the TV adaptation of Fargo.