‘Billy the Kid’ Actor Tom Blyth Says It’s ‘Undeniable’ That Westerns Are Having a Resurgence

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

British-born actor Tom Blyth said he jumped at the opportunity to play mythical gunfighter Billy the Kid. Blyth, who now works out of New York City, grew up watching American Westerns. Now, he’ll get to portray arguably the most famous character in Western lore for a new EPIX series named after the titular character.

“I grew up with Westerns — reading and watching them,” Blyth told Fox News. “I grew up very seriously wanting to embody that world; and I remember how, at a very young age, I would stay up late at night reading articles about Billy the Kid, Jesse James and people like that. So, for me, this role feels fated to a certain extent. It feels like it was always on the horizon as an actor.”

Blyth said the American motif of immigrants seeking a better life in the ‘Land of the Free’ especially drew him to the character.

“I moved here six years ago as a 21-year-old, coincidentally the same age that Billy died,” Blyth said. “I made America my home, and came and trained here as an actor at Julliard. I’ve always felt this pull to America in the same way that his family did because it’s an immigration story. These were Irish immigrants who moved here. So actually, I found more in common, than differences, between us. The more I dug, the more I realized that, yes, he may have been born in New York, but … [his family] came here seeking a better life. I did the same.”

Actor Tom Blyth thinks interest in Westerns like “Billy the Kid” boils down to a yearning for freedom after lockdowns

Michael Hirst, creator of other popular period pieces like “Vikings” and “The Tudors,” wrote the upcoming show. “Billy the Kid” will tell the story of William H. Bonney; from his humble Irish upbringing to his gunslinging days as a cowboy on the American frontier.

The monumental legend of “Billy the Kid” often overshadows his actual story, so Hirst wants to bring a realistic drama to the screen for history buffs. The real Billy became involved in the Lincoln County War after the corrupt Sheriff William Brady gunned down his mentor. Billy organized Brady’s assassination in revenge, which then escalated into a war between the two immigrant factions. Pat Garrett, an Old West sheriff, shot and killed the 21-year-old “kid” in 1881 after he escaped from the Lincoln County jail in New Mexico.

The green-lit series comes on the heels of a resurgence of popularity in American Westerns, most notably with “Yellowstone” and all of its spinoffs. Blyth said he isn’t surprised by the boom in interest given the real-world lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.

“We’ve just come out of this two-year period where we were locked down and there was a real restriction on our personal freedoms and ability to go outside,” he said. “People are longing for the Western genre again, where it’s wild.

“But I think it’s really that longing for the open range, the feeling of someone riding out into the dusk with that pack on their saddle and a gun on their hip,” he continued. “There’s a romanticism in it, which I think we’re longing for after two years of being locked up.”