It is kind-of amazing how big TV has really become in recent years. For so long, TV actors tried to break through to make motion pictures. Today, some of the biggest names in film are looking for great TV roles. And these days they don’t even need to air on a channel. Picket Fences producer David E. Kelley's latest is actually headed to Amazon, and this week the potential legal drama signed on Billy Bob Thornton in the lead role.
Originally, The Trial was in talks with Kevin Costner for the lead role, but the actor could not reach terms with the series to move forward. Costner had never lead a longterm TV series before, having only been in The History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys in 2012, and a single episode of Amazing Stories in the 1980s. It would’ve been a big deal to get Kostner, but it would still be a pretty big deal to get Thornton back on TV, provided Amazon moves forward with the project. This will be Thornton’s first regular series role since Hearts Afire in the early 1990s, and if you remembered that show without looking it up you deserve a cookie. He also starred in FX’s limited series Fargo in 2014.
The Trial will focus on Thornton’s character, Billy McBride, who goes from being a powerful attorney to an alcoholic in a wrinkled suit following the loss of a case that lead to a child’s death. Now McBride is going up against his former partner who kicked him out of their old firm. We assume shenanigans ensue. If it moves forward, Amazon is looking at creating 10 episodes of the drama. It will be produced by Kelley and his former Boston Legal partner Jonathan Shapiro.
Thornton is probably a good fit for the premise. He’s had extensive experience playing miserable people, including Bad Santa and The Bad News Bears so it’s clear he can pull off that side of the character. While it’s not clear how serious a drama the series will be the majority of Kelley’s work has included some element of comedy (see: William Shatner re: Boston Legal) so it’s a good bet that Thornton will have the opportunity to have a bit of fun in similar ways.
Kelley made his career on legal series, beginning with L.A. Law in 1986 and including other memorable series like Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Boston Legal. The Trial marks his return to legal-based dramas following the end of Harry’s Law in 2012.
Amazon has not officially picked up The Trial to series, yet, but Deadline says the show is eyeing a straight-to-series order. After Fargo it looks like TV agrees with Thornton, so we're looking forward to seeing him run a regular series. If Billy McBride is anything close to Boston Legal's Alan Shore, we'll be in for the long haul.