‘1883’: Billy Bob Thornton Explains How His Character Walks the Line Between Good and Bad

by Jacklyn Krol
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Gabe Ginsberg, Getty Images

1883 star Billy Bob Thornton revealed that his character isn’t a good guy… or bad guy for that matter.

In a new interview with People, the actor turned rocker revealed details about the upcoming first season of the Yellowstone spin-off.

Thornton will be portraying the character of Marshal Jim Courtright. His role has been described as “a no-nonsense officer who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.” The actor said that his character is working for the law but teeters on the line between good and bad. 

“That’s kind of the way it was in the Old West. One of the things about the Old West is a lot of guys who were marshals or sheriffs or something had at one point been gunslingers or outlaws,” Thornton explained. “So there was a very thin line between a bad guy and a good guy, and a lot of times they would wanna hire a bad guy as the sheriff because they knew he knows how to do it.”

Surprisingly, Taylor Sheridan created this character specifically for Thornton. He couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with Sheridan, who he admires for his writing talent. As a bonus, he got the chance to work with his friends Sam Elliott, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw.

“Like I said, I believe shows like this are what people want to watch now,” Thornton added. “Because they want to invest themselves in something that takes some time to see.”

Filming ‘1883’ in Brutal Weather

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill spoke to Parade earlier this week about the upcoming series premiere of the show. The entire cast including fellow stars Sam Elliott, Billy Bob Thornton, LaMonica Garrett, Isabel May, and Tom Hanks had to work in brutal weather conditions. The show was shot in numerous locations, including the wilderness in the fall. It was bitter cold for them so much so that Hill described the cast having “snot running down our noses”. They ended up blowing on their hands for warmth. Then things took a turn for the hotter.

“You really begin to realize that people sacrificed everything on these wagon trains. Human nature is revealed,” McGraw admitted.

McGraw and Eliott told Entertainment Weekly all about the heat in Fort Worth Texas, the first filming location.

“It’s super dusty and super hot. There’s no way around it. At the same time, it’s like every kid’s fantasy to do something like this, to put your chaps on, your cowboy hat, and your gun holsters every day. Then you get on a horse and try to survive this journey,” McGraw said.

“The first month was brutal. It was 100 degrees and not easy,” Elliott added.

Going from such intense temperature changes was quite the feat. No one can say that the show isn’t realistic!

1883 will be available to stream on December 19 on Paramount+.

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