Born in Britain and a recent graduate of Julliard, Tom Blyth won a spectacular epic career on April 24 with a biographical film about eight episodes about EPIX’s “Billy the Kid”.
The famous, lifelong robber and archer of 19th century Wild West America, Billy, born Henry McCarty, was known by several names, including William H. Bonney. He would have killed eight men before he was shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett at Fort Sumter in 1881. Billy was only 21 years old.
For Blyth, playing Billy the Kid in his many guises was truly a learning experience. This Billy often converses in Spanish, gallops across vast landscapes and flashily twirls his drawn pistol before its deadly dispatch.
“I wasn’t proficient in any of those things before June of last year,” Blyth, 27, said in a Zoom interview from his Brooklyn home.
“It’s been a bit nuts in terms of expanding my horizons. In terms of learning new skills. I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish to be totally honest with you. And Billy did — he was fluent and it was a big part of his personality.
“So I had to do that and I went to set about taking lessons and learning as much as I could in about a month. As we were filming, rewrites were happening constantly, to refine and make it more specific.
“And I was noticing that I was getting a lot more Spanish every night,” which meant after a day’s filming Blyth would head to bed learning his new pages in Spanish into the morning.
He discovered it was because he’d done such a good job the writers presumed he was fluent in Spanish.
“They thought they could keep writing more because it was going so well. I learned,” he said with a laugh, “a lesson there about saying yes too easily.”
Before finding himself on location, Blyth had been on a horse “maybe twice. Now I love riding horses and I was able to do all my own stunts, which was a total blessing. They somehow let me do some crazy stuff on horseback that I never in my wildest dreams thought they would let me do.
“Obviously, things could have ended horribly but no one was injured. We did some insanely cool and epic stunts on horseback.
“Likewise for shooting. I hadn’t really shot those guns before I was handed weapons. We had training to handle them safely first and foremost.
“Then I learned the extra showmanship of pistol spinning, twirling and quickdraws.”