Bill Paxton on Language That’s the Real McCoy

When Bill Paxton was researching his role as Randall McCoy for the current hit miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” he did a lot of reading, but he could only do so much.

“The thing is, these are people who didn’t leave a written records, so there was nothing I could read to hear this guy’s voice,” Paxton said, during an interview I did for a piece on the History Channel production in the Washington Post.

“He was illiterate,” Paxton says, “but could quote Robert Burns being Scots-Irish; he could quote the Bible, he could probably quote Shakespeare.”

In that , the characters of the Appalachians were probably close to those in the Black Hills of South Dakota in “Deadwood,” with their flowery, though profane, language.

“People were much more specific in their language then,” says Paxton, who played another religious leader in his long running HBO role in “Big Love.” “If you asked someone how something tasted, they would say ‘sweet,’ or ‘it tasted tart’ or ‘sour’ or mealy.’

“Now we say, ‘It tastes good.’ ‘Fine.’ Or ‘yeah, I like it.’ The language has been brought down to this. Even ignorant people [back then] sounded more articulate than most Americans do today,” he says, quoting another ubiquitous riposte of today: “ ‘Awesome.’

“Of course, I’ve been married to a Brit these many years so she’s on me when I start to speak in too generic terms she picks up on that.”

“Hatfields & McCoys,” which also stars Kevin Costner, Powers Booth and Mare Winningham, continues through Wednesday on History.

This entry was posted in Television. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.