On the Calgary set of FX's "Fargo" last month, most of the cast was there either shooting or dropping by on an off-day to chat with a group reporters. Billy Bob Thornton couldn't make it, but sent his regrets and expressed the desire to talk to all of the assembled scribes pre-premiere. That's the sort of thing you hear a lot in-the-moment, but doesn't normally come to pass. Things slip through the cracks and nobody's really to blame. People get busy.
Billy Bob Thornton followed through.
After a series of crossed wires and adjusted schedules, the Oscar-winning "Slingblade" scribe checked in last Sunday morning, delayed only because he got caught-up watching early baseball, which immediately gives us something in common.
"You can imagine what I think about your team," Thornton drawls. He's famously a Cardinals fan. I'm not-especially-famously a Red Sox fan.
"You guys just creamed us twice," Thornton admits, referring to a pair of Boston World Series wins. "But I respect the Red Sox organization. Really good organization."
Thornton could talk baseball all day. The game he's been watching doesn't even feature the Cardinals. It's a low-scoring early-season game between the Tigers and Orioles and even though Thornton knows former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, that's his only rooting interest. He just enjoys the game.
Thornton also just likes FX's "Fargo." His enthusiasm was evident at the Television Critics Association press tour in January and three months later his love affair with the small screen continues. Thornton has been very frank about the current state of the film industry, especially when it comes to the understated, personal projects he's attracted to as a writer and director. The "Fargo" experience, his first prolonged TV work since "Hearts Afire" back-in-the-day, has opened his eyes to the potential of both cable work and the currently trendy "limited series" model.
He also has one of his juiciest parts in years playing Lorne Malvo, a mysterious and sadistic stranger whose arrival in Bemidji, Minnesota sets in motion a 10-episode whirlwind of murder and chaos that are thematically and tonally inspired by the Coen Brothers' "Fargo," if only sometimes linked to the movie. Malvo is equal parts terrifying and hilarious and Thornton is having a ball playing that balance.
Once we stopped talking baseball, Thornton told me about playing Malvo as a force-of-nature, the pleasures of working in TV and whether he's now inspired to target the medium for future projects.
Click through for the full Q&A in advance of Tuesday's (April 2) "Fargo" premiere...