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Billy Bob Thornton calls 'Goliath' gig perfect for work-life balance

By
Karen Butler
Season 2 of Billy Bob Thornton's legal drama Goliath is streaming on Amazon. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Season 2 of Billy Bob Thornton's legal drama "Goliath" is streaming on Amazon. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

June 15 (UPI) -- Billy Bob Thornton, an actor who has portrayed his share of quirky villains, says 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 an interview with UPI.

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"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 rockabilly band, The Boxmasters, in which he sings and plays drums.

"A rock-'n'-roll bus is no place for the family," he said.

Created by David E. Kelley, Goliath follows Thornton's hard-drinking Billy McBride as he represents a new client against a corrupt powerful institution each eight-episode season. Season 2 begins streaming Friday.

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Thornton said the show's spin on the classic David vs. Goliath fable resonates 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."

Thornton is drawn to the McBride character's desire to be a good guy.

"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," Thornton said. "If I were a lawyer, that's the guy I'd be."

McBride struggles with being a single father, haunted by the memory of a client who killed a family after McBride 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," he said.

Having eight hours a season to unwind a single story appeals to Thornton, who likened the show to the Sam Spade detective potboilers of the 1930s.

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"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 makes him appreciate his Season 1 co-stars Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde and Julie Brister, who played Patty, Brittany and Marva -- bright, resourceful oddballs who helped McBride 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 being mainly women."

Although McBride 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 five-star restaurant," he said.

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Too pretentious? "Little bit," he said.

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.

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