What's a fella to do when he has Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and (that's right, and) Ginnifer Goodwin for wives (other than invest in Hallmark stock, that is)? Big-screen star Bill Paxton talks with TV Guide about getting some real action as a Viagra-popping polygamist in HBO's new dramedy Big Love (Sundays at 10 pm/ET).
TV Guide: You're a big-screen actor with a solid career who's never done a TV series. Why make the exception for Big Love?
Bill Paxton: What I saw right away was that this was a brilliant way to take an alternative lifestyle as far out there as polygamy and use it as a prism to examine contemporary society and mores.
TV Guide: How apt is the media description of Big Love as Desperate Housewives in Utah?
Paxton: Like the idea that they are desperate and housewives? [Big Love] is the antithesis. This is naturalistic. We're playing these characters dead earnest. The situation creates the comedy. It's like Tony Soprano, a fortysomething guy trying to juggle marriage, fatherhood and a business. In this, I'm playing a guy who is trying to balance marriage, family and his business times three.
TV Guide: Did anything in your research explain the upside of plural marriage?
Paxton: One positive aspect I've read about is the idea of sister-wives. A lot of housewives are stuck talking to a 5-year-old all day. By the time the husband comes home from work, he's tired from his day and doesn't get that his wife is bored spitless and desperate for adult company. This doesn't happen in a plural marriage. You've got your sister-wives to talk to.
TV Guide: What does your wife think of Big Love?
Paxton: My wife really likes it. She said, "I know you love Jeanne's character [Barb, the first wife] the most." I kind of based that relationship on my own marriage. I've been married to my wife, Louise, for as long as I've been married to [Barb]. Jeanne and I also have the same cultural references. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma; I grew up in Fort Worth. She's a brunette with brown eyes; my wife has that coloring.
TV Guide: In the show, your character nearly buckles from the stress of making each wife feel equally loved. Are you also careful about how much attention you pay each of your female costars?
Paxton: I find I have to be. [Grins] You have to show impartiality to a certain degree it's like with your children. But don't go there. We're still in our honeymoon period. Not only am I blessed with three lovely, talented actresses, but also I think I have chemistry with all three of them, which is not something you can necessarily act.
TV Guide: You've done some wild stuff on screen, like battling tornadoes in Twister and space monsters in Aliens. Did you ever think you'd end up playing a Viagra-popping polygamist, with all those bedroom love scenes the part demands?
Paxton: You've got to understand something about me and my career: I'm a romantic in life philosophy, in how I look at the world, the beauty of nature, of relationships. But I never got to do those roles. In my twenties, I wanted to be in a Splendor in the Grass. Now I guess I'm ready for The Way We Were. But here I am, finally getting to do a great love story times three.
TV Guide: Before you were married, what was your philosophy when it came to finding female companionship?
Paxton: Faint heart never won fair lady. You've got to pursue. I'm an impulsive guy, a guy who has pulled girls over in traffic and said, "Hey, do you want to get a cup of coffee?" I mean, I've been that lonely in my life. Many times. I came to L.A. when I was 18 to work as a set dresser in films. I didn't know anyone. I had no social connections. I know what desperation is when you're trying to meet a girl.
TV Guide: You've been known to work your Texas businessman father's expressions into your roles. Give us a few examples.
Paxton: In Weird Science, I say to my brother, "How would you like a nice, greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?" These were expressions my father picked up from the '20s, '30s, '40s. And in True Lies, I described Jamie Lee Curtis' breasts as making me "want to stand up and bawl for buttermilk!" [Laughs] The first time I ever heard that expression, I asked my dad, "What does that mean?"