One look at Deadly Class’ Billy and you’d think you’ve got this young man all figured out. You’d make assumptions about him from his hair, his attitude, and his wild & enthusiastic flair. You’d brush him aside and not pay attention to him because Marcus, Saya, or Maria were center stage. But the matter of the fact is that you don’t know Billy. You don’t know what he holds dear, what makes him tick, or that he’s just as important as the rest of the characters on Deadly Class.
To better understand Billy, we talked to Liam James, who plays the green mohawk wearing punk, and black sheep of Kings Dominion. Right off the bat, James wanted to hit at the sincere parts of Billy, because no matter what laugh inducing words he uses to protect himself, he’s still a young man afraid to get hurt, while looking for companionship at the same time.
“One of the things, the more sincere parts of Billy, the parts where he gets to have those moments with someone like Petra. He’s just this guy whose living in this crazy world and just wants to share it with someone he really cares about. But he’s a little bit afraid of getting hurt so there’s a lot of masking going on.”
Who wouldn’t feel the same way after the things that Billy went through by the hands of his father? We would! But the fact that Billy is seeking out romance, friendships, and wants everything to be ok, means that he survived his father and thrived in spite of him. That matters and it’s part of the reason why we love him and why James loves him.
“He just seems to want things to be ok but life gets in the way a lot of the times, so I definitely like that part of him.”
And honestly, at the end of the day and when the screen goes black on Deadly Class, James wants people to feel inspired and hopeful because of his character. He wants viewers to know that there is light somewhere down the line. All you have to do is keep going, keep trying, and know that you can survive anything people throw at you, including domestic violence.
Taking on such a heavy topic wasn’t easy for James. Domestic violence never is. But he worked on it, faced it, and broke our hearts while doing so in an amazing performance during “Saudade.”
“I think that’s the hardest part about it. He’s the victim of domestic violence and what does that mean? Are you prepared to tackle a subject like that in front of the camera and in front of yourself,” James explained, diving into the behind the scenes as a means of explaining how well cared and prepared he was during these difficult takes, especially the ones in Las Vegas.
“And I was very lucky that I had a lot of people around me that cared about me. That can help to kind of trigger the empathy for the character and I wish he had that for himself because it’s not about being sad, it’s about wanting to be happy and not being able to. It’s a very intense scene that I hope did well.”
It did. The Vegas scene and the Billy breakdown that followed, were some of the most intense scenes we’ve ever seen when it comes to domestic violence. After all, he was a just a young man trying to understand why the father he loved hated him so much, while hovering over his father’s recently deceased corpse.
Moments of angst, woah, and everything in between for James’s character were balanced out by the time that this actor spent with his cast mates. They aren’t just friends anymore. They’re a family.
“I’m just super lucky that by some divine miracle, I really love all of my castmates so much. They are some of the most interesting and beautiful people, inside and out,” James gushed. Yes, I said “gushed.” There was much love from Liam James when it came to the people he worked with, day in and day out on Deadly Class.
James followed up his statement above by saying that, “I think that was important to the people who created Deadly Class because Rick’s writing is so authentic and honest that I think you…you never who you’re going to get when you hire these people because life moves fast and if the shows gotta go then you’ve got to do it. And I’m just so happy that the stories that take place inside the show and the scenes, intellectual debates, those translate over into us.”
Because when James, Condor, de Faria, Tennie, or Wadsworth aren’t on set, they’re hanging out with each other. “We get together on the weekend and we hang out. We have fun but we also talk about these kind of things that inspire us to talk about important things. We’re all looking for answers, too. We’re all young people and I’ve just gotten so lucky hanging with really special people.”
Frankly, it’s kind of inspiring and amazing that someone as talented as James is looking for the same thing that all of us are looking for and that his character is after: love, hope, family, companionship, and everything that comes with creating lasting relationships that live past director yelling of “cut” or “end scene.”
“You never know what you need until it smacks you right in the face. And that’s kind of the hard part, running around and looking for all these great things and we all kind of come together and we’re going to go through our own ups and downs, I’m sure I will,” James said before gushing again about his Deadly Class found family, “But I think the bond is really strong and I miss them all and hope to see them all again.”
So, go back and think about the first time you were introduced to Billy on Deadly Class. Look at your first impressions of him and who you thought he was. Now, throw them out, stomp them to the ground, and look at the man that Liam James has helped bring to life. Yes, he’s a bit twisted and yes, a little therapy wouldn’t kill him. But Billy is a survivor who looks forward and up, despite the freight trains that have tried to derail him in his very young life.
That’s strength. That’s power. And that’s more than just surviving.