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Interview with Billy Bob Thornton of "Fargo" on FX 4/8/14
April 9, 2014/10:00 a.m. PDT
Kristy Silvernail / Senior Manager, Media Relations, FX
Billy Bob Thornton / ďLorne Malvo,Ē Fargo
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by
and welcome to the Fargo conference call. At this time all
participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will
conduct a question and answer session. As a reminder, this
conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the
conference over to our host, Kristy Silvernail. Please go
Kristy: Hello, and welcome to the Fargo conference call with
the series star, Billy Bob Thornton, who plays ďLorne Malvo.Ē
Weíd like to thank everyone for joining us today and remind
you that this call is for print purposes only. No audio may
be used. Due to the high volume of journalists on the line
we respectfully request that you limit yourself to only one
question at a time and then get back in the queue for any
follow-ups you may have. As a reminder, Fargo debuts
Tuesday, April 15th at 10:00 p.m. eastern and pacific only
on FX. With that said, letís open it up for questions.
Moderator: Thank you. We do have a question from Lisa
Steinberg. Please state your media affiliation.
Lisa: Hi, Iím with Starry Constellation Magazine. Itís an
honor to speak with you.
Billy Bob: Well, nice to speak with you.
Lisa: Was there anything about this character that you added
to the role that wasnít already really scripted for you?
Billy Bob: A weird haircut, which was actually a mistake. I
got a bad haircut and we had planned on dyeing my hair and a
dark beard and all that kind of thing, but I didnít plan on
having bangs. But then, instead of fixing it, it wouldnít
do, right, so I didnít fix it because I looked at myself in
the mirror and I thought, hang on a second here, this is
like 1967 L.A. rock. I could be the bass player of the
Buffalo Springfield. This is good. Or, Ken Burns, the dark
side of Ken Burns.
And bangs are normally associated with innocence and I
thought that juxtaposition was pretty great, so that was
added. So, really just the look and Noah Hawleyís script was
so tightly written, so good, that all I kind of had to do
was show up really.
Lisa: Okay. Thank you so much.
Billy Bob: Thank you, hon.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Bill
Zwecker with the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bill: Hi, there, Billy Bob. Nice to talk to you.
Billy Bob: Thank you, you, too, man.
Bill: You know, itís interesting, you described, I saw
somewhere you described the character here of ďLorne MalvoĒ
as conscienceless and Iíd be curious how you go about
finding that within yourself to play this conscienceless Ė
hard to say Ė character?
Billy Bob: Well, you know, usually when youíre playing a
character you think a lot about their back story and that
kind of thing and in this instance I didnít want to do that
because I doubt ďMalvoĒ thinks much about his past anyway,
so even the character, the guy himself, probably wouldnít
think much about it.
And, like I said before, it was so well written that I
didnít have to really do much in order to portray the
character. I think what really attracted me to it was not as
much that he didnít have a conscience as he has this bizarre
sense of humor where he likes to mess with people, where
most criminals if they go in to rob, say, a clothing store
or something they go get the money and they get out of
But ďMalvoĒ would look at their sweater and say, why are you
wearing that sweater? I mean, you work in a clothing store.
Look at all those nice sweaters over there. You look like a
bag person. And so, itís just a very odd thing.
Itís sort of in keeping with the tone of the Coen Brothers
to have a character like that. But Noah managed to walk a
tightrope with this thing and he does a great job. I mean,
he captured the tone of the Coen Brothers and kept the
spirit of their movie, and yet made it its own animal, which
is a pretty tough job.
And I just thought it was so clearly drawn and I just had to
kind of be there. I looked at ďMalvoĒ as a guy who is a
member of the animal kingdom, you know. We donít get mad at
polar bears, theyíre all white and fluffy and they do Coke
commercials with them at Christmastime and stuff like that,
and yet theyíre one of the meanest, most ruthless predators
And so, ďMalvoĒ probably doesnít think of himself that way.
He just thinks of the moment and how do I get the job done?
Bill: Exactly. Well, thank you very much.
Billy Bob: Well, thank you.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Bill Harris, Sun
Bill: Hey, Billy Bob, I wanted to ask you about the craft,
the acting craft of sort of conveying menace, which,
obviously, you do very well. I think the last time I saw you
in person would have been in January and you certainly have,
you look like you could be a long distance runner, like a
track and field athlete and yet I see you on screen and
sometimes I get the impression that you could beat up the
world if you wanted to.
And I donít know if itís something that you convey, is it in
your eyes, is it in your tone? How exactly do you convey
menace, both physical and I guess emotional menace?
Billy Bob: Well, thatís a good question, Bill. It is a tough
one. When you weigh 135 pounds and youíre telling people who
are six-four, 250 to get out of your way, how do you do
that? Well, a lot of that is exactly what you said, which is
in the eyes. If someone is talking to you and tells you that
you ought to do something and you can tell they mean it,
those are the scary people.
And I worked in a prison years and years ago on a movie and
I was told by these guys, there were all these guys with the
Aryan Brotherhood and some of them had tattoos and theyíre
big, muscled guys and everything and this one guy told me,
he said, ďDo you see that little skinny guy over there in
the corner, the one thatís not talking, just kind of sits by
himself? Thatís the big guy right there.Ē He said, ďThatís
the guy you donít want to mess with.Ē
And I talked to the guy ultimately and I could tell that he
meant what he said. So, those are the people you want to
watch out for. And itís like maybe I can break this guy in
half, but he would hunt me down, he would crawl until his
fingers were bloody on the asphalt to get me. So, those are
And I look at Malvo as a type of sort of snake charmer, you
know. Once he looks at you youíre under some sort of spell.
Bill: Well, thanks. Iíll take that as a personal safety tip.
Billy Bob: Me, too.
Bill: Take care.
Billy Bob: Thanks, Bill.
Moderator: The next question is from Kristi Turnquist, The
Kristi: Yes, hi.
Billy Bob: Hi, Kristi.
Kristi: Thanks for taking the time to do this today.
Billy Bob: Oh, no problem.
Kristi: One of the things that is so fascinating about Fargo
is that you make the character of ďMalvoĒ both sort of
really scary and weirdly likeable. And it seems like you
really enjoy playing that character and I was just wondering
if that balance of sort of humor and menace was hard to
Billy Bob: Well, actually, thatís kind of been my wheelhouse
is either sort of intense characters, but who have a certain
sympathetic streak and also a sense of humor. And Iíll have
10-year-olds come up to me and say, ďOh, Bad Santa, I just
love you.Ē Itís like, what? So, yeah, I donít know what it
is, but maybe itís that ďMalvoĒ senses weakness in people or
stupidity or whatever.
Heís got this sort of animal instinct and he just smells
people out and I think a lot of times, especially these days
and times when the world is going kind of crazy, I think
weíre all frustrated and want to just shake people a little
bit. And so maybe through ďMalvoĒ you get a chance to slap
somebody around a little bit, I donít know. Maybe thatís it.
But one way or the other, yeah, it is a fine balance. Youíve
got to be menacing, but I look at ďMalvoísĒ sense of humor
as his only recreation. I mean, itís like for ďMalvoĒ to
mess with people the way he does, which he doesnít have to,
he could just leave or just use them for whatever heís using
them for, but he still has to mess with them some. And I
think for him, thatís his recreation. Itís his only social
contact and so, screwing with people for ďMalvoĒ is kind of
like jet skiing for most people.
Kristi: Okay. And I know youíve talked about this before, but
I just kind of wanted to talk to you again about kind of
what opportunities working in television in a series like
this presents at this moment in time? Youíve talked a bit
about how the independent film world, as it was some years
ago, isnít quite as fertile a place to work and that a lot
of that has moved to television now. I just was wondering
again how a series like this kind of fits into that reality.
Billy Bob: Well, the fact of the matter is we have to face
this, that Baby Boomers, in particular, really have to look
to television now, not only the performers and the writers
and everything, but the audience. People over 40-something,
they grew up in the heyday of the great movies of the 50s,
60s and 70s and we had a little drought in the 80s here.
And then the early 90s through like the late 90s was a real
great time and we thought it was a Renaissance. And what we
didnít realize was that it was going to be so short. We
thought it would last a couple of decades. And television
now, like when I was coming up it was a bad word. And now,
it has a cache and actors are clamoring to go on television
because itís a place that we can do the things we were doing
Thereís a spot that television is filling that the movie
business is not, which is the medium budget studio movies,
the $25 million, $30 million adult dramas or adult comedies
and the higher budget independent films, the $10 million,
$12 million independent films. And you can still make a
great independent film, but youíre not guaranteed anybody
will ever see it because nobody takes that much interest in
putting it out, you know putting money into distributing it.
So, they want to put 10 movie stars in a $3 million movie so
they can cover their asses on the foreign sales and all that
kind of stuff and thereís more freedom in television because
in an independent film even or a studio film, you can do a
movie about heroin smugglers, but you canít smoke. Wait a
minute, you can sell heroin, but you canít smoke? I donít
But theyíre going for a certain demographic or whatever it
is and trying to sell it everywhere. And on TV you have even
more creative freedom now. And I think part of that is
censorship has loosened up over the years and now you have
sex and violence and language and stuff on TV. So, all those
things that made us not want to do television when I was
coming up in the 80s are gone.
And so thereís no reason not to and I have to face it,
thatís my audience now and all the guys my age, the ones,
all of us that came up together, a lot of us even born the
same year, Costner and Bill Paxton and Dennis Quaid and
Kevin Bacon; our audience watches television and I think The
Sopranos I guess kicked it off.
Thatís when we all started thinking, hey, wait a minute.
This is the place to be and shows like The Wire and things
like that. And you can do terrific work in television now
and have a lot of freedom and there are independent films
that pop through every now and then and there are some good
studio movies that come through every now and then. But itís
the exception rather than the rule now.
Kristi: Yeah, okay. Well, thank you so much.
Billy Bob: Thank you.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Rick Mele with
Billy Bob: Hey, how are you?
Rick: Good. Yourself?
Billy Bob: Iím great.
Rick: Iím wondering, weíre starting to see these more
contained single season limited run TV series like True
Detective. What is the feeling about that format to you as
an actor? It almost seems like itís sort of a, I know Noah
Hawley described the show as like a 10-hour movie in a way.
Billy Bob: Well, thatís true and thatís what it felt like
making it. It felt like doing a 10-hour independent film.
Thatís very appealing. Iíve been accused many times as a
writer/director of my pace is too leisurely and itís too
long and stuff like that.
Well, hereís a chance to do that kind of thing and youíve
got 10 hours to do it in. Actually, it feels great and
thereís great appeal in that for actors, writers and maybe
not so much directors because the directing world in
television is more, those guys just come in and do a couple
of episodes and theyíre gone.
But for the creator or writer itís a really great thing to
be able to develop characters and develop stories. We would
all like to make at least a three-hour movie, but here you
get a chance to do a 10-hour. But also, this doesnít mean
that Iím giving up doing movies. So, I can do this, do 10
episodes and itís over and then still do two movies that
So, itís very appealing in that sense and Iím sure that came
into play with McConaughey and Woody when they did True
Detective. Itís a way to do both. If you came up as a film
actor you donít have to give it up. You can do great work in
television and then on the occasion that you get a movie
that you really love you can still do it.
I had no desire to get involved in a TV series that was
going to last six or seven years. Iím not saying I wouldnít,
but that wasnít really what I was looking for. When I was
offered this, it seemed perfect to me. So, thereís a great
appeal in it and I think youíll see more and more of it.
Iím even thinking that way now. Itís like some of these
movies that I canít get made, like if I walked in a studio
and pitched this movie that I want to do, they laugh you out
of the room. Itís like, are you kidding me? You canít sell
bubble gum and toys with that.
And Iím thinking, well, you know what, maybe thereís a way
to do this movie as a three-hour, or not three-hour, but a
three part thing like, for instance, Costner did with the
Hatfields & McCoys.
Rick: Great. Well, thank you.
Billy Bob: Thank you so much.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Stuart Miller, New
York Daily News.
Stuart: Hi. So, youíve been talking about what the appeal is
of doing television, but were you wary at all of tackling
something, before you read Noahís scripts, of tackling
something that was so iconic, the idea of taking this movie
and doing something new with it?
Billy Bob: If Fargo had come out in 1986 and then this came
up in 1996 I would have been more worried. Iím not as
worried now because of the way it works with the social
network and there are a lot of blogs and this and that. You
canít win anyway.
So, because of that you just have to stop worrying about
anything. Itís like if I were to say something outrageous
today, then tomorrow itís going to be everywhere and your
career is in jeopardy and you owe the public an apology and
all this kind of thing.
And then if I make the apology, everybody gets online and
they start saying, oh, he only apologized for his career.
But if you donít apologize they say, what an asshole. He
didnít apologize. So, you canít win no matter what you do.
So, these days I donít make decisions based on what people
are going to think as much as I would have, like I said, 15,
20 years ago.
Stuart: Were you wary of whether it could be pulled off,
Billy Bob: No, I had read the pilot script. I was offered it
and read the pilot script immediately. It was so well
written that Noah had walked this fine line of channeling
the Coen Brothers, the spirit and the tone of their movie
and yet making it a new animal.
So, I thought, well, you know what, this guy has done it. He
really has pulled this off. So, I didnít worry simply
because I had read the pilot and it was so good. And I
didnít feel like it was a rip-off, you know.
Stuart: All right, thanks.
Billy Bob: Cool.
Moderator: Your next question is from Preston Barta, North
Preston: Hello, Mr. Thornton. How are you?
Billy Bob: Good, how are you doing?
Preston: Pretty great. So, youíve written and directed a
handful of projects before. Do you ever find that your own
ideas as a creator ever intrude on projects where youíre
working strictly as an actor, like Fargo?
Billy Bob: Clarify that for me, Iím not sure exactly what you
Preston: Do your ideas as a writer and director ever intrude
on projects where youíre working strictly as an actor?
Billy Bob: Not so much. When I go there as an actor I like to
just go in and do my job. Every now and then, you kind of,
maybe if youíre working with a director and this has only
happened to me a couple of times ever, you go in there and
youíve got a director and maybe it doesnít quite get to the
You might end up kind of thinking, you know, hey, are you
sure you want to do that? Are you sure you want to put the
camera there. You find yourself every now and then kind of
thinking it. But I try not to say anything. You just try to
do the best you can.
And one of the best ways to do that is when they tell you to
do something that you know is wrong, you just nod your head
and say okay, and then go do what you want to do anyway.
Thatís about the only way around it really.
Preston: Thatís great. Thank you, sir.
Billy Bob: Okay, bud. Thanks.
Moderator: Next weíll go to the line of Ruta Kupfer with
Billy Bob: Hi.
Ruta: Hi, this is me from Tel Aviv. So, if you donít care
about what others will write about in their blogs, so are
you ready for saying something outrageous now?
Billy Bob: Oh no, I certainly am not out there to, I donít
really have anything outrageous to say right now. What
happens is, in the end, sometimes writers get kind of
screwed by that because people start to play it more close
to the vest, do you know what I mean?
I meant more like I donít make my choices based on that. It
doesnít mean that Iím just going to go out there and say
outrageous things constantly. Like I said, I donít really
have any outrageous things to say much anymore anyway. But I
was speaking more of like the creative choices I make. I
think you just have to do what you feel in your heart is the
right thing to do and not try to tailor make things for
people as much because people are going to say what theyíre
going to say one way or the other and thereís not a lot you
can do about it.
I mean there are times when somebody will come up to you on
the street and tell you how wonderful they think you are and
then write an article about you thatís just scathing. So,
you never know whoís who and whatís what. And I just try to
be nice to people and do my job and that kind of thing.
But I certainly donít make my creative choices based on what
I think people are going to think. I want the audience to
like it, obviously. And I want critics to, hopefully, like
it. But I donít go out of my way to, as I said, tailor make
Ruta: And, Billy Bob, not Billy Bob, your character says to
ďLester,Ē ďYouíre problem is you spend your life thinking
there are rules and there arenít.Ē What do you think that
ďMalvoísĒ problem is?
Billy Bob: His problem? What I think his problem is is very
different than what he thinks his problem is. I donít think
he has a problem. Do you know what I mean? Heís an animal.
Ruta: Heís a psychopath you think, oh, okay.
Billy Bob: In other words, he exists in the animal kingdom
more than anything else. He goes by an animalistic instinct
and so people like that donít ever consider themselves
having a problem and they also think theyíre invincible.
Moderator: Weíll go to the line of Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay
Michelle: Hi there, great to talk to you.
Billy Bob: You, too.
Billy Bob: Hello.
Michelle: Hi. So, ďMalvoĒ is a pretty mysterious character.
So, Iím wondering if you know what his motivations are from
episode to episode as youíre going along or if you kind of
like to be left in the dark and kind of fill in the blanks
or if the writers tell you the reasons for why heís doing
some of these crazy things.
Billy Bob: Well, the reasons arenít as important because
ďMalvoĒ thinks in the moment. He has a plan and he knows
where he has to go. Itís like an alligator. An alligator has
to eat one day and so if somebody jumps in the swamp to take
a swim he will eat them. So, thereís no two ways about that.
And thatís really who ďMalvoĒ is. And so I donít need to
know necessarily. And in terms of knowing the episodes ahead
of time we have the opportunity to ask Noah; in other words,
he would tell us as much as we wanted to know. And I didnít
want to know about the first four episodes or so.
And after that I had some questions. I did want to know
because once we got deeper into the plot, I did need to know
where he was headed at a couple of directions, just in order
to know how to play a couple of scenes.
Michelle: Yeah. Okay, great. Thank you.
Billy Bob: Thank you.
Moderator: Weíll go to the line of David Martindale of Fort
Worth Star Telegram.
David: Hi, Billy Bob.
Billy Bob: Hey, David.
David: Yeah, I saw the first two hours already. Enjoyed it,
youíre really wonderful in it. Iím going to ask you a
question about one of your costars, Allison Tolman. Iím
doing a story about her. She has ties to this area. What do
you think of her as an actress and as a person? Sheís really
good in this show, isnít she?
Billy Bob: Oh, sheís terrific. Yeah, I think sheís a terrific
actress and just a joy to be around as a person. Sheís like
a force of nature. I mean that girl comes in the room and
you know sheís there. Sheís just a real, real sweet person.
And I canít say enough good things about her. Sheís just a
real pro, takes her job very seriously, but she also creates
a really good atmosphere around herself. Sheís just a great
personality to be around.
David: Thank you so much. Enjoyed your show.
Billy Bob: Thanks, man.
Moderator: Weíll go to the line of Mikkel Kosob with Sound
Mikkel: Hello, Mr. Thornton. Itís an honor speaking with you.
The guy you play in the series is a hardcore guy and
somewhat a closed book. Which human traits do you see in
Billy Bob: Well, probably the only one thatís apparent is he
does have a sense of humor. It may be a sick sense of humor,
but it is at least a sense of humor. He really likes to toy
with people and he gets some kind of kick out of that. And
thatís probably the human quality.
Because, I mean, you wouldnít see, as I said before, heís
sort of really more part of the animal kingdom than anything
else, but I donít think a raccoon probably has much of a
sense of humor. But I would say thatís probably the closest.
Mikkel: Great, thank you.
Billy Bob: Great. Thank you, sir.
Moderator: Our next question is from Greg David, TV Guide
Greg: Hey, Billy Bob. Thanks for taking the time today.
Billy Bob: No sweat, man.
Greg: Off the top you mentioned Noahís name a couple of times
and the quality of the scripts. So, can you talk a little
bit about those scripts and how you just showed up to say
the lines? Because itís pretty specialized dialogue that
everybody says. Not everybody says foot in a toaster oven
when referring to a weird thing theyíve seen.
Billy Bob: Right, exactly. Thatís something that he has in
common with the Coen Brothers, actually. Their scripts are
very tightly written and if you donít say those words the
way theyíre written, it doesnít come across as well. Iíve
been largely an improvisational kind of actor most of my
career, except for when Iíve worked with the Coen Brothers.
And now that Iím working with Noah, I rarely change anything
with Noah because itís a very specific point of view and
type of language and maybe sometimes something might sound a
little formal even, even that Malvo says, maybe itís not
something that would just naturally come out of my mouth.
But once you plug into that, then it becomes natural to you
and I respect him as a writer so much that I defer to him
and I think I would say the same thing about the rest of the
cast. I mean, thereís very little discussion on the set
about changing things. We donít come over to him and say,
hey, instead of this, I think Iíll say this. We donít have a
lot of that around that set.
And the same experience, like I said, with the Coen
Brothers. You just do it because there was a reason he wrote
it that way and it becomes clear to you when you see it and
when you perform it.
Greg: Great. And then, as a follow-up, you said that you had
a few questions about four episodes in, but did you ever ask
Noah about ďMalvoísĒ back story and why he ended up the way
that he did?
Billy Bob: You know, I purposely didnít because I think
ďMalvoĒ himself wouldnít ever think about his past or his
back story. When you think the way he does, he thinks in the
moment and whatever the job thatís at hand. And it wasnít
And besides, if I did, letís say we came up with a back
story for him, that coldness and that sort of ruthless thing
that he has, if Iíve learned that, well, the reason ďMalvoĒ
is like that is because he was abused and had a horrible
childhood, all this kind of thing, I might bring more
sentimentality to the character.
And it might mess it up. There are a lot of people who
already are saying that they kind of root for ďMalvoĒ in a
way, but Iím certainly not trying to do that. But I do think
ďMalvoĒ is a good person to vicariously get kind of a thrill
out of maybe. And sometimes we donít want the bad guy to get
caught because otherwise the story is over.
You kind of want to at least see it through to the end. And
so, really, yeah, back story didnít come into it. It
normally does as an actor. I mean, if I were playing
ďLesterísĒ brother in this or something I would have to do
some homework and Martin [Freeman] and I would have to work
on or at least test out the chemistry with each other and
that kind of thing.
But with ďMalvo,Ē heís from out of town. Heís a drifter.
Nobody knows him, knows what heís about. And I think it was
important for me to not dig into it too much. I think it
would have affected the performance in a negative way.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Jeananne Craig, Press
Jeananne: Billy Bob, hello. Thanks for talking to us today.
Billy Bob: Oh, no problem.
Jeananne: Tell us how it was to work with Martin Freeman and
if you think he pulled off the menace with a nice accent.
Billy Bob: Well, first of all, it was a pleasure working with
him. Heís so easy to work with and a terrific guy and a
terrific actor. And the scenes I did with him were so easy
to do and I think a lot of that is because weíre such
opposites that weíre not playing buddies or anything.
So, I just sit down and do what I do and he does what he
does and thatís the way it would happen in real life and all
of that. But in terms of the accent, he did a stellar job.
You would never know if you ran into him that he wasnít from
Duluth or Fargo or wherever. He did a great job. So, he must
have worked very hard at that. Either that, or heís just
naturally good with accents because it was pristine.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Charles Webb,
Charles: Hi. Iím pleased to finally get a chance to talk to
Billy Bob: Oh, you, too. Thanks, Charles.
Charles: Talking about working with Martin, thereís such an
interesting contrast between those two characters. On one
hand, you have ďLester Nygaard,Ē who is a man who canít
control his own destiny and then you have ďLorne,Ē who is
almost perfectly in control of his own destiny or at least
he feels like he is. Could you talk about that contrast a
little bit and playing that in a role?
Billy Bob: Well, ďMalvoĒ smells weakness in people, he smells
nervousness, weakness, fear, anything like that and has an
abundance of confidence in himself. I donít think he ever
considers losing, whereas ďLesterĒ is just a nervous ball of
mess. And I do like when you see two characters at the
opposite end of the spectrum together. They end up being
kind of strange bedfellows and it was a really interesting
We didnít really have to work on it. It just naturally
happened. And Martin himself seems to be a very confident
person, so I think he probably maybe had to downgrade his
confidence a little bit. And me, by nature, Iím a very
nervous, worrisome person, so I had to drop that a little.
So, I think both of us had to definitely shed some of our
real life stuff in order to play the characters.
Moderator: Our next question comes from the line of
Estrella with BuzzFocus.com.
Ernie: Hi, Billy Bob. I wanted to ask about the fact that you
are able to explore this character probably deeper and
longer than any of your other characters on film. Can you
talk about being able to get comfortable with a character
and the length at which you can work at creating your
version of ďMalvoĒ?
Billy Bob: Well, yeah, it is a real blessing that you have 10
hours to develop a character and I think thatís one of the
appeals to doing these, especially the ones weíre doing, the
10-hour things or the eight-hour things that McConaughey and
Coming from the film business you still want to feel like
youíre making a movie and yet TV is such a great place to be
right now. So, I think it was a real, it felt like a
blessing to me to be able to have that time and to watch
this story unfold at its own pace and everything.
In terms of working on the character, I mean Noah had drawn
it so clearly. I think with all the characters that we
really did just show up and do his bidding, which was a very
clear vision. Itís funny, I guess the one thing that I had
to get used to is having, for each two episodes thereís a
different director and each one has a different energy.
They were all terrific, but they have different energies. So
getting used to different directors was the most difficult
part, just in terms of the way they deal with actors and
everything. But I never went on, I never said, yeah, Iím
good letís move on to the next shot until I looked over at
Noah and got a wink from him because this is his vision.
I really put myself in his hands. I think we all did.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Brent Hankin, Nerd
Brent: Howís it going, man?
Billy Bob: Oh, not bad. Howís it going? I like the name of
your thing there, itís fun.
Brent: Thank you, thank you. We like it, too. Hey, aside from
being an actor, youíre also a very accomplished writer and
director and you mentioned earlier now with these ideas
coming out like True Detective and now Fargo where theyíre a
limited series. You mentioned you were kind of interested in
Looking toward the future would you be more interested in
acting in another project like that or do you have your eyes
on maybe writing and directing something that you can play
out over the course of several episodes?
Billy Bob: Probably, immediately more as an actor. But down
the road I definitely have my eye on at least writing
something. Probably not as a director so much because
directors who are directing a series they have different
ones come in all the time. So, youíre kind of coming onto a
moving train and Iíve tended to generate my own things as a
writer and director most of the time.
And if I could create an original thing like, say, Kevin did
with the Hatfields &McCoys or something, something that I
came up with that was more movie length, like say a three
part thing or if they start doing more two-hour movies for
TV, I think that would be more where I would go as a writer
or, especially a director.
I think my nervousness or if I was hesitant at all about it
it would just be simply because thereís some great TV
creator/writers out there and Iíd probably feel very
intimidated, hoping that I was able to come up with
something innovative or at least interesting to people
because Iím influenced by Southern novelists mainly and kind
of make books on film, which I think is probably obsolete in
the movie business these days. Theyíre not ones that the
distributors are clamoring for.
But I think if I could come up with something that might be
entertaining; Iíve also thought about different movies of
mine that I canít get made because the movie business is not
interested in certain types of movies for adults and for us
Baby Boomers, so maybe since the Baby Boomers are watching
TV, maybe some of those movies I canít get made in the film
business as a writer and director, maybe I could find some
way to parley that into television.
Moderator: Our next question comes from the line of Amy
Gustafson, St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Billy Bob: Hi, how are you?
Amy: Good, good. So, at one point in the show you have to
take on a Minnesota accent and pass yourself off as a local
minister, I think, with ďMalvoĒ embracing this Minnesota
niceness. Iím wondering, did you do any research on people
from the region or have you had any experience with
Minnesota voice to draw from?
Billy Bob: Oh yeah, I shot half of Simple Plan up in Delano
and also, Iíve got some friends in L.A. who are from there.
Iím around actors, you know, Sean William Scott is from up
there and Kelly Lynch is an old friend of mine and Kelly
Lynch used to do impressions, so, for family and for her
neighbors and stuff for me all the time.
And I always found it very funny. Itís odd because that part
of the country, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas, up in
there, and Montana, to the rest of the country theyíre
almost like foreigners. Itís the only place that exists like
that in the country. I think thatís why weíre so interested
in those people in movies.
The Coen Brothers have really opened up a vein there. Itís
kind of alien to some of us and itís just a really
interesting culture because you guys can talk about
something thatís really heavy and yet sound like youíre
talking about going to the grocery store. Itís just
astounding. Itís a great kind of character to explore.
And we shot in Calgary and sometimes the Canadian accent in
that area is very similar to it in some ways and so we were
around all those people from Calgary who had a version of
that already. So, weíre surrounded by it and itís a very
You know, Martin and all the people in the show who had to
be from there I thought did an excellent job at it. And, you
know, mine, I wasnít supposed to be able to do it perfectly
because I was just coming up with it off the cuff, in the
moment, to get out of something. But it was fun to do it.
I was kind of jealous of everybody else getting to work on
that, so it was nice to be able to, just for a minute at
least, just to do it there. It was a lot of fun.
Amy: Thank you.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Jami Philbrick with
Jami: Hey, Billy Bob, how are you doing?
Billy Bob: Hey, Jami. Howís it going, bud?
Jami: Itís going good. Youíve sort of talked about tone a
little bit earlier and I wanted to ask you having worked
with the Coen Brothers before in a film they have such
unique comedic sensibilities, did you feel that that sort of
gave you an advantage coming into this universe and working
on this series regarding the tone and helping to shape your
Billy Bob: Oh, yes, thereís no question about it. Having
known the Coen Brothers for so long and having worked with
them, I mean I can plug into that pretty easily because I
just love their stuff and love their vibe and so I think
having worked with them and having known them definitely
I didnít need a lot of explanation about what we were up to
there. It was pretty clear and then you just go try to pull
it off, you know. But the set was very similar in some ways,
other than the rush and the different directors; I mean,
with the Coen Brothers, obviously youíre dealing with just
the two of them, but it was very, very helpful having worked
Jami: And real quick, Iím a huge fan of Warren Zevon and his
music and I know he was a good friend of yours. With the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony tomorrow night
Iím just curious what you think as fans and friends of
Warrenís we need to do to get him on that ballot next year
and get him in the Hall of Fame. He certainly deserves it.
Billy Bob: Boy, he certainly does deserve it. I would say the
main thing that they need to look at and Iím not sure how
political it is, Iíve never been near the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame much. Iíve had some friends inducted and maybe
thereís some politics involved, I really donít know. But
Iíll certainly do my part. At least Iíll yap about it and
call whoever I can.
But the thing that they need to look at is the real true
artists of this world are ones who are unique and had a
voice that hadnít been heard before and by voice I mean the
whole body of work. If thereís only one of somebody, then
they need to be in the Hall of Fame. And there was only one
Moderator: And as a reminder, please limit yourself to one
question. We have a question from David: Crow from Den of
David: Hi, Billy Bob.
Billy Bob: Hey, howís it going?
David: Not bad. I just wanted to ask, you mentioned youíve
worked with the Coen Brothers before and their executive
producer is on the show, so were you able to talk with them
either before you took the part or after, even during
filming at all about this character and about how it fits
into the tone of their vision?
Billy Bob: Well, I didnít talk to them beforehand because I
had already been told and had learned that they had given it
their blessing and that they had read the pilot and had some
input on it, so that was enough for me. Since weíve started,
Iíve talked to Ethan a couple of times.
And Ethan, when asked about the pilot he said, ďYeah, itís
good.Ē And for Ethan saying yeah, itís good is like him
saying, ďThis is fucking amazing.Ē They donít exactly;
theyíre not real forthcoming with their emotions sometimes,
so to get an itís good from Ethan is, thatís a four-star
review, so I was pretty happy with that.
But in reading the script, if someone had told me they wrote
it I would have believed it, so that was plenty for me. But
then I have talked to Ethan since.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Jeri Jacquin with
Jeri: Hi, Billy Bob. How are you today?
Billy Bob: Fine, how are you?
Jeri: Hanging in there. So, on a more relaxing note how much
fun was it to play this character?
Billy Bob: Well, it was a lot of fun. Anytime you get a
chance to play some extreme character in any direction, itís
always a great blessing. So, yeah, I was honored they asked
me and honored to be a part of it. Itís a very, very
different kind of character, probably the only one I ever
played who has no conscience whatsoever. So, thatís kind of
an odd character to play.
After youíve done 60-something of these movies youíre always
looking for something different and this was right up my
Jeri: Well, you did it really well.
Billy Bob: Oh, well, thank you so much.
Moderator: Next we will go to the line of Jennifer Griffin,
Jennifer: Hi, Billy Bob. Thanks for your time today.
Billy Bob: Oh, no problem. Thanks, Jennifer.
Jennifer: So, Iíve seen the pilot and I absolutely loved it.
ďMalvoĒ is so extreme, heís so dark and humorous. And we
have ďLester,Ē heís kind of like a T.S. Eliot poem, you
know, this quiet despair the whole time. But my question is
for fans who havenít seen it, obviously, theyíll want to
know whatís going to happen. What can they expect from the
pilot and, generally, from the show going forward?
Billy Bob: Well, thatís all Iíve seen also is the pilot. And
I, obviously, know what happens, but the pilot really sets
it up good. And the great thing about doing 10 episodes of
something is that you get to feel like youíre making a movie
and at the same time feel like you have something to follow
for several weeks.
And each episode just leaves you thinking because all these
extreme characters, it just leaves you thinking each time,
itís like what in the world are these people going to do
next? Whatís he going to do about this and where the hell is
Itís very mysterious and thatís what I like about it. Itís
not like cliffhangers and thrillers and things like that, it
is a mystery and I think people love mysteries. We always
have. Thatís why they never go away. And so, you have the
combination of a crime show in sort of a white bread
community with a mystery and I just think that people are
going to want to know what happens to all these folks, both
good and bad.
Jennifer: Yeah, I think they will, too. I loved it. I thought
it was great and canít wait to see more.
Billy Bob: Oh, thatís so fantastic. Youíre from Texas, arenít
Jennifer: No, Iím actually from Ireland.
Billy Bob: No, Iím messing with you. I guarantee you, if I
know anything I know whoís from Texas. But I love the Irish
accent, so itís just so good to hear it.
Jennifer: Well, actually Iím listening to your accent. I love
it, itís brilliant. Thanks a lot for your time.
Billy Bob: Thank you.
Moderator: We have a question from Kristyn Clarke of Pop
Kristyn: Hi, Billy Bob. Thank you so much for speaking with
Billy Bob: Well, thank you.
Kristyn: Iím curious, with all of the roles that youíve taken
on over the years is there anything that you find that
youíre still surprised to learn about yourself?
Billy Bob: Oh, gosh, when you get my age thereís not much
youíre surprised about. With this character it was really,
because he doesnít have a conscience and because Iím not
thinking about a back story here, it didnít cause me to
learn a whole lot about myself.
It did make me know that I can do that. I was capable of
going in there and like erasing any sort of like human
feelings that I might have about a situation. That was an
interesting challenge, but it was written that way so I just
tried to stick to Noahís thing, you know, his vision.
But a lot of times as an actor youíre trying to think
constantly and in this case I was trying not to, so that was
a little bit the opposite and so I guess I learned that I
could do that. I also learned that when you get in your 50s,
that 42 below zero feels much worse than when youíre in your
Kristyn: I can imagine. Great. Thank you so much.
Billy Bob: Thank you, hon.
Moderator: We have a question from Jamie Ruby,
Jamie: Hi, thanks so much for doing the call today.
Billy Bob: Oh, no problem. Thank you.
Jamie: Yeah, I saw the first two hours and Iíve really
enjoyed it so far, too. Itís definitely a different type of
show and I like it. So, your character does a lot of crazy
things just to upset people and screw up their lives. Is
there one, in particular, thatís like your favorite or even
just a favorite scene so far that you can think of?
Billy Bob: Well, in the first two episodes I really enjoyed
the scene in the hospital with ďLester,Ē just when I first
meet him, and a total stranger asking for a drink of his
soda pop and just immediately knowing that this guy is weak.
This guy is unsure of himself, so I can use him and also
Iíve got to give this guy a lesson in life here.
ďMalvoĒ almost takes his victims as students, in a way, too.
And that was the first scene we shot and I really enjoyed
doing that with him, especially since we were just starting
and it didnít turn into an experiment. It just naturally
happened because weíre so different.
Normally youíre trying to get a chemistry with an actor, but
in this case, it was the opposite. Weíre total strangers and
Iím just going to mess with this guy, so it was almost like
you needed to come into it cold.
Jamie: Right. Well, Iím really enjoying it so far, so thank
Billy Bob: Oh, great. Thank you.
Moderator: Our next question comes from Suzanne Lanoue with
The TV MegaSite.
Suzanne: Hi, itís an honor to speak with you this morning.
Billy Bob: Oh, thanks, Suzanne.
Suzanne: I watched the first four episodes and I liked it. It
reminds me of, I donít know what it reminds me of, a little
bit of Twin Peaks, I guess, but not as weird and funnier.
Billy Bob: You know, thatís funny that you said that. Youíre
the first person that said that and when I first got on the
set and I saw the lighting and I saw the way they were doing
things I swear to God, thatís what I said to Noah. I said,
ďThis reminds me of Twin Peaks.Ē And not so many people are
saying that and thatís interesting you say that because I
felt the same thing.
Suzanne: Yeah, itís tighter, the writing is tighter and
better and itís not quite as just weird for weirdís sake.
But it is very enjoyable and I can tell youíre having a good
time with it.
Billy Bob: Oh yeah, no doubt.
Suzanne: Can you speak at all about working with Colin Hanks?
Billy Bob: Oh yeah, heís terrific. I was in a little
independent film that kind of came and went with Colin
called Parkland, about the Kennedy assassination, but Colin
and I had very little interaction with each other in that
movie. But I did get to know him personally a little bit and
heís a great guy. And the relationship with him in the show
is very strange and gets stranger as it goes. So, Iíve
really enjoyed my time with him, both personally and
professionally. Heís terrific. I think heís going to be a
really great young actor for us in the business.
Kristy: Okay, weíve got time for two more quick questions.
Moderator: That will come from the line of Rick Mele with
Rick: Hey, back with another question for you.
Billy Bob: Sure.
Rick: I know it was a pretty rough winter up there in Calgary
and pretty much everywhere, but how much does the weather in
the location end up becoming almost like another character
in the series?
Billy Bob: Oh, it definitely does. Thereís no question about
it. When itís that cold, you donít have to do a whole lot of
acting to make the audience feel it. I mean, itís just
there. And it also kind of keeps you up for it all day. If
youíre on a soundstage thatís kind of warm and you get a
little lethargic, that can affect you. You didnít have to
worry about that up there.
It was really just bone chillingly cold. And I have to say
about that, I would work a couple of weeks or 10 days and
then get to go home for five or six days and then come back.
And, Iím going to L.A., right. And you go back down there
and itís 75 degrees or whatever and mild. And it just so
happened that every time I was off Calgary got good weather
and it warmed up.
It was almost like the weather was ďMalvoĒ to me. It would
just mess with me. Every time I was off theyíd say, hey,
guess what, itís going to be plus six tomorrow, which for
them, plus six is like Hawaii. And for some reason every
time I was working it would just get miserable. So, I think
the Great Spirit was messing with me a little bit on it.
Moderator: Thank you. Our final question comes from the line
if Ernie Estrella with BuzzFocus.com.
Ernie: One quick follow-up. You being able to play this
character you can probably do things that youíre not able to
do in regular society. Was there any one particular scene or
act that you did that you got to kind of tick off your
bucket list of some naughty thing that you got to do?
Billy Bob: Well, certainly not the killing parts, but just
when I would mess with people about stuff. Like every now
and then you go someplace, you know, to the cleaners or
wherever it is and the people will be so incompetent or just
donít understand what youíre up to. Itís like, I told you,
you donít starch t-shirts. How could you have a dry cleaner
or Laundromat and you donít know that you donít starch
ďMalvoĒ does that kind of stuff. He really calls people on
their B.S. And so, I have to say I did enjoy any time I got
to mess with somebody.
Billy Bob: Great, thanks.
Kristy: All right. Well, thank you so much to everybody for
joining us today and, especially, Billy Bob. We really
appreciate your time. As a reminder Fargo premieres on
Tuesday, April 15th at 10:00 p.m. eastern and pacific only
on FX. A complete transcript of the call will be e-mailed to
you within approximately 72 hours and you may now
disconnect. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. That does conclude our conference for
today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T
Executive Teleconference. You may now disconnect.
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