Billy Bob Thornton is back for a second season of Goliath, in which he plays alcoholic lawyer Billy McBride. Dominic Corry caught up with him on set in Los Angeles.

Season one was something of a redemptive story for Billy McBride. Where is the character going in season two?

I think a guy like this, who is not that different to myself, never feels fully redeemed. He has a different sense of justice than most people, even though he's an attorney and believes in the system to a degree. He's got a real problem with society, especially now, because now, more than ever, people are going crazy. And this is a guy who knows where actual truth is and yet you're working within a system where you have to go by the rules.

Besides the name, do you and your character have any similarities?

The sense of justice. The fact that he has so much stuff in his past that he can't get past. All the things he wished he'd done, or how he would've been different, and also a guy who doesn't like change. In a lot of ways, he's a traditionalist, and a guy who thinks that our society's become weaker and weaker. Supposedly we've progressed, and if you really look at it, in some ways we have, but in a lot of ways we've become weaker. People are softer.

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How do you choose your roles?

I don't play anything that's outside my wheelhouse. I'm known for playing a lot of different people and looking a lot of different ways. But at the same time all those characters have a thread. I know who they are and what they're all about. I've lived a very eclectic life, I've lived in poverty, I've lived in wealth, I've been in danger, I've been in safety, I know what they all feel like. So I play parts that are within that wheelhouse.

Is it fun to play a version of yourself?

It is fun. Sometimes it can be harder because you're putting stuff out there that feels private. So in a lot of ways, if you're playing someone who's very distant to you, it can be easier, because you have something to go for. I have nothing to go for, all I gotta do is pull my pants down and show you who I am — and that, sometimes, is harder. And I mean that figuratively.

Billy Bob Thornton says his wife lived in New Zealand once - and she loved it!
Billy Bob Thornton says his wife lived in New Zealand once - and she loved it!

How about the hitman you played in Fargo?

If I were a hitman, that's probably the way I would be. I loved doing that part. I liked it a lot. The writing on that was so good. I could've done it for another 10 seasons.

What does Los Angeles bring to Goliath?

I think we've used it a little more this time. Maybe some more iconic places this time. Sometimes it's hard to get those; the people aren't as willing to let you film there. We're struggling with one right now. I'm hoping they let us use it. And sometimes you think, "Why are you so set on using this place?" There's not a real reason to explain it other than when you see it, you'll know why. It's like in North By Northwest with Cary Grant. Why did they have to be hanging off Teddy Roosevelt's nose on Mt Rushmore? But you'll never forget that. Some places are just iconic.

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Thanks for your time.

You know what, I recognise the difference between New Zealand and Australia. I used to have a driver from New Zealand, he hated it when people said he was from Australia. I always remember that. I knew his accent so well that now I can tell the
difference. My wife worked in New Zealand — she loved it. She's really crazy about it. When I don't mind flying 17 hours, I'm coming down there.

• Season two of Goliath is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.