‘1883’ Star Billy Bob Thornton Opens Up About Reuniting With Tim McGraw

by Jon D. B.

“I was there at the beginning of Tim’s acting career.” From Friday Night Lights to 1883, Thornton and McGraw have come a long way.

Fans of 2004’s original Friday Night Lights film will forever remember Billy Bob Thornton as the stalwart Coach Gary Gaines. And right there alongside him was Tim McGraw as Charles Billingsley. Fast-forward almost two decades, and the pair are reuniting for the first spinoff of one of cable television’s most successful shows in said decades: Yellowstone‘s 1883.

Thornton and McGraw were out together in style with the Western’s entire cast this past weekend for the red carpet premiere, too. And Billy Bob was more than thrilled to touch on his reunion with his old friend and co-star.

“I was there at the beginning of Tim’s acting career, so I’m really proud to see him doing this and sticking with it,” Thornton told Looper on the red carpet. “He’s so into it and enthusiastic about it, and I’m just really happy for him and [his wife and costar, Faith Hill].”

Thornton’s excitement for 1883 doesn’t end with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, either. He’s a big fan of Taylor Sheridan’s work and felt “honored” to be asked into the cast.

“Taylor’s such a wonderful writer that when he had told me he’d written a cameo for me I was happy to do it because you have to be careful doing too many cameos,” the icon continues. “You don’t want to do them all the time, but this one was special, and so I felt very honored, to be honest.”

‘1883’: The ‘Honor’ of Playing Jim Courtright

A big part of that honor may come in the form of Thornton’s 1883 character, too. The legendary southern actor will portray a historical figure for the Yellowstone prequel: Lawman Jim Courtright.

Billy Bob himself hails from Arkansas. But just south of his home state’s southwestern corner lies Texas, the land which birthed Courtright. That name may not be as synonymous as Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, or Billy the Kid, but Courtright is as fascinating a man that ever lived through the Wild West. His story is an incredible one that you can read up on in full here.

For 1883, Thornton will play Marshal Jim Courtright, a fictionalized version of the historical figure. According to the show’s synopsis, he’s “a no-nonsense officer who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”

But just like the real Courtright’s life, Thornton’s version will absolutely walk the thin line between good and bad.

“That’s kind of the way it was in the Old West,” the actor tells People ahead of 1883‘s Dec. 19 premiere. “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. 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.”