Billy Bob Thornton has said television is no longer a “bad word” for movie stars.

The actor found fame on the big screen with films including Sling Blade and A Simple Plan, but is the latest in a growing line of movie stars to sign up for small screen roles, in Channel 4’s Fargo.

“When I was coming up, television was a bad word, now it has a cachet and actors are clamouring to get on television, because it’s a place where we can do what we were doing in movies,” said Billy Bob, 58.

“I have to face it, that’s my audience now – all the guys my age, all of us that came up together, a lot of even us born in the same year – Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton and Dennis Quaid and Kevin Bacon, our audience watches television.”

The star, who won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Sling Blade, is also excited about the opportunities television can offer him as a writer.

“The baby-boomers are watching TV,” he smiled. “Maybe some of those movies I can’t get made in the film business could work for television.”

Fargo is an adaptation of the Coen brothers’ 1996 film of the same name and Billy Bob plays Lorne Malvo, a mysterious outsider who arrives in the town of Bemidji and turns the life of browbeaten Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) upside down when he offers to kill the man who bullied him at school.

Billy Bob said neither of the actors is like their characters.

“Malvo has an abundance of confidence in himself, I don’t think he ever considers losing. But Lester is just a nervous ball of mess,” he said.
“Martin [Freeman] himself seems to be a very confident person, so I think he maybe had to downgrade his confidence a little bit. Me, by nature, I’m a very nervous person. So I had to drop that a little.”

Fargo begins on Channel 4 on Sunday, April 20.

– Press Association