The Buzz: Why Billy Bob Thornton won a Golden Globe

You may not have heard of at least one of the shows that took home big prizes at this year’s Golden Globes. Billy Bob Thornton, for instance won for his role in the show Goliath, which has received little buzz this year in the face of big, flashy new dramas. As the awards ceremony made increasingly clear, this year was all about breakthrough television in the awards circuit. Check out our review of Goliath and more Golden Globes coverage below:

Goliath season 1 review: Up against the likes of Rami Malek and Liev Schreiber in the best TV actor category, Billy Bob Thornton managed to pull out a somewhat surprising victory. There hasn’t been much buzz around Goliath, the Amazon Studios original series he won for. Dropping in October, the 8-episode series follows Thornton as a disgraced lawyer looking to rebuild his reputation by taking a case against a fictional global technology company. What little reception the show received was lukewarm – the show received a 77% approval rating, and while that’s positive, many reviews note the simple, and sometimes droopy premise.

Those reviews aren’t wrong – the premise of the series could have been lifted straight from a standard John Grisham novel and adapted to the screen. Patty, a civil case lawyer (played by Nina Arianda) seeks out Billy McBride, an alcoholic ex-lawyer who is struggling to get his life on track. She has a case special just for him. A few years ago, a boat linked to tech mogul Borns Technology blew up in a mysterious incident, killing many people. The case was ruled as suicide by Borns’ law firm, Cooper & McBride, which just so happens to be the firm Billy co-founded and was then disgraced from, under secretive circumstances. At first reluctant, Billy then takes the case for his shot at redemption.

The disgraced detective who falls into alcoholism may be somewhat of a common trope in modern detective and mystery novels. On paper, there’s no particular reason to care about Billy – he also happens to be an awful father, and he can barely get himself to his first day in court on the trial. But Thornton’s performance is what transcends this show from forgettable to extremely watchable. Thornton plays Billy with a certain world-weariness only an actor with his life experience could conjure. Armed with crackling wit and resilience, Thornton’s Billy is a character we inexplicably are able to cheer for, even when all other evidence tells us we shouldn’t.

This is Thornton’s second Globe win, first winning for his role in Fargo just two years ago. This year, Thornton was the only Globe nominee to be nominated from a new show. Malek, Schreiber, Bob Odenkirk, and Matthew Rhys have all been on their respective shows for at least two years now, giving Thornton an advantage of having a breakout role. That, and the life experience he poured into the role, was enough to give him the edge. “I always wanted to play a lawyer because I think lawyers and actors have the same job — lawyers are trying to convince the jury and actors are trying to convince the audience,” the actor said.             

Golden Globes: Besides Thornton, there were many other winners at the Golden Globes. Donald Glover took home two trophies, one for best musical or comedy TV series for Atlanta, and one for best actor in a musical or comedy. In its freshman season, the show immediately made a splash both critically and with audiences. “I’ve been trying to make this show for a long time,” Glover said backstage at the Golden Globes. He talked about how he had been dreaming about the show since he was in college after writing a letter about it to his friend. “I truly do believe in magic,” he said. “I feel like that’s the dreamy part of my show. You have to believe in human magic.”

He also related Atlanta to when he figured out Santa Claus wasn’t real as a kid, but went to school trying to preserve the magic for other kids who did not know yet. “You have that responsibility to keep that going,” he said. “I think human joy is super important. It just comes from belief… We forget how innocent and beautiful we were [as kids].”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson took home the prize for best supporting actor in a motion picture for his role in Nocturnal Animals, a thriller starring him and Jake Gyllenhaal. He made sure to thank his parents during his acceptance speech, and expounded on their role in his life backstage. “I found acting when I was 6 years old, and they gave me that opportunity and I ran with it. I found my passion and joy, and if it wasn’t for that, then I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Tom Hiddleston took home the prize for best actor in a limited television series for AMC’s The Night Manager. “When I became an actor, I wanted to move between genres and characters and never repeat myself or play the same thing twice. I have played Loki four times, but the idea that I’m allowed to play both Jonathan Pine [his role in The Night Manager] and Loki and my character in Kong is truly everything I’ve ever wished for as an actor.”

Hiddleston played a ex-spy who now works as a hotel concierge during – you guessed it – the night shift. To prepare for the role, Hiddleston himself went undercover as a night manager at a hotel in London. “It’s all theater,” he said about hotels. “Everything is immaculately managed to make the guest feel welcome. If you do it well, the guest won’t see the work, which is just like acting.”

Hugh Laurie took home the prize for best supporting actor in a limited series, also for The Night Manager. Exaggeratedly squatting to stand next to the lowered mic, Laurie spoke of his decade-spanning obsession with the book the series was based on. “I’m not a producer, but I actually tried to option the novel, because I thought this has to be on the screen.” He said working on set of the story was “overwhelming.” “Every moment I was on set and every part in the process of making it was such a thrill to me.”