Ultimately, it’s Vanessa Williams circa 1991 whose lyrics best sum up Prime Video’s savage sci-fi western “Outer Range”: “Isn’t this world a crazy place?”
After a season of surreal musical moments, Noah Reid hit a high note with Williams’ classic “Save the Best for Last” in this week’s finale, when Billy Tillerson euphorically serenaded aspiring cult leader Autumn (Imogen Poots) in the lobby of a bank and has sworn to protect her from her rival, a gruff breeder Royal (Josh Brolin).
“They threw a lot of songs for that moment in the bank,” Reid said. Variety. “But this Vanessa Williams song is so perfect for a song that would probably play the bank and also explains exactly to [Billy] where he is and who he is right now with her, belonging to her. ‘Isn’t this world a crazy place?’ That sums it all up perfectly. »
For a series that deals with the unexplained, Billy was perhaps the biggest enigma of them all – a disturbingly unapologetic musical oddity who never hid his bewildering behavior. The role marks a departure from Reid’s award-winning work as the loveable, buttoned-up Patrick on CBC/Pop’s Emmys sensation “Schitt’s Creek.”
As Billy, Reid couldn’t help but travel the world inexplicably singing his emotions to the rafters, starting with his mirror performance dressed in Whitney Houston’s underwear in Episode 2 and culminating in his career tied to the bank until the fall.
In front of some bewildered bank tellers, Billy pledged his life to fall in the fateful climactic scene, and he would pay it off in a fire of bullets at the end of the episode.
After luring a crazed Royal into a shootout on a Wyoming highway, Billy, with Autumn in the passenger seat, was shot in the neck. Pulling off the road, Tillerson’s youngest son was last seen bloodied and breathless in the overturned wreckage of his truck.
But this is after all a show about a time portal on a farm in Wyoming, the one that just unleashed a rush of centuries-old buffaloes into modern times. With nothing seemingly on the table, could Billy survive to take his place alongside Autumn?
“I wish I knew the answer,” Reid said. “As with everything else, I’ll just have to see where it all goes and lay on the current that is ‘Outer Range’ and hope it does exactly what it needs to do.”
If that’s where Billy’s story ends, Reid said he served a great purpose for Autumn, who was revealed, in the season’s latest twist, to be Royal’s own granddaughter. , Amy from the future. Having already confirmed that Autumn is on the verge of growing her community, as evidenced by Royal’s journey across the time portal in Episode 2 (a haunting scene in which Billy was conspicuously absent), Reid said that it meant something that Billy would always be her. first follower.
“Anyone who has a deep belief about themselves and where they’re headed needs to ask someone else to mirror that and confirm it,” Reid said. “That’s what Billy can offer Autumn. Every messiah needs a follower, and I hope the gift I can offer Imogen in her Autumn work is that there is now a solid foundation and something to fight for.
Looking back, Billy fits perfectly into the mind-bending world creator Brian Watkins builds in “Outer Range.” The western thriller, which is equal parts “Yellowstone” and “Twin Peaks,” delights in creating almost dreamlike moments that were only occasionally explained — and even the explanations prompted more questions. The time portal, the murder investigation, the disappearance of the Teton Mountains. The mysteries have only deepened on the range.
While trying to figure out his character, Reid said Watkins sent him a text he never forgot: “Billy is a conspiracy of meaning.”
“I had to pretend I understood what it meant, but it’s that kind of unfathomable, unknowable quality that makes it so fun to play,” Reid said, admitting he’s still not quite sure what to make of it. the capture of Watkins. personage.
“I had an idea of Billy before I figured it out. I like to think he’s the soul of the Tillerson family.
It is this soul that sets him apart from his brothers and makes him more susceptible to Autumn’s persuasion. Once she showed him the hole in time on Royal land, Reid said Billy’s head-in-the-clouds philosophy finally made sense.
“I think in the Tillerson family build, his orbit is a bit further out than the others,” Reid said. “Finding a call and having those visions would be exciting for everyone – and Billy is into it.”
On “Schitt’s Creek,” Reid won hearts as Patrick, co-creator and star David’s sweet, down-to-earth foil who’s high-maintenance from Dan Levy. Their budding relationship and eventual marriage in the series finale humanized the Rose family at the center of the show and quickly cemented David and Patrick as one of the internet’s favorite couples. In the process, Reid also scored a hit song with her stripped down version of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” – the couple’s theme song.
Although he wasn’t necessarily looking to play the antithesis of Patrick, Reid was happy to subvert the charming image he had built on “Schitt’s Creek” by dabbling in the weird “Outer Range.”
“I don’t know if it was important that it was different, I just wanted it to be really great,” he said. “I was kind of interested in something a little darker maybe, just so there was that chance to show a different side. But really, it all comes down to the storytelling and the script. In reading this, i just wanted to be a part of it in any way possible.
Sharing a pair of physical scenes with the fearsome Brolin was an added bonus. In the show’s seventh episode, Billy takes Royal at gunpoint to a dilapidated skating rink to beg forgiveness for trying to kill Autumn. The wait to film his eventual confrontations with Royal in the final two episodes proved to be thrilling.
“To know that I could face a legend like that, you can’t do that every day,” he said.
It was his other peak scene partner, Poots, who Reid says helped him understand Billy better than anyone. As the fall grew increasingly lopsided, her desperation to get close and simultaneously undermine Royal served up wacky and bizarre moments in the second half of the season, including her mark on Billy’s chest with a knife.
“Imogen and I laughed a lot at what we were doing,” Reid said. “She’s just mad with rage at the start of that banking scene and the bravery and the commitment and the sheer nature of Imogen Poots’ performance in that movie, I really knew where I stood with her and I could see why Billy wanted to follow her.
But before Autumn began to take the lead in Billy’s life, it was music that led him and Reid to “Outer Range” – perhaps the only connection between the ethereal cowboy and “Schitt’s Creek” Patrick, good at acoustics.
Reid, who will release his third album ‘Adjustments’ on June 24 and just made his Broadway debut in Tracy Letts’ play ‘The Minutes’ (through July 24), auditioned for Billy with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ , which appears in episode 7 as a spoken monologue.
Although he’s not always looking for music-related roles, Reid was intrigued to find a character who comes into song randomly on the lineup – having inherited a musical gene that runs in the Tillerson family, led by Will Patton as an equally baffling patriarch. , Wayne.
“As we continued to tour and I worked more with Will, Billy and Wayne shared a connection that the other Tillerson brothers might not have,” Reid said. “Wayne sings a little bit, it’s kind of this electric current that kinda passes between them. It’s like a mineral in the earth. That’s where the music lives in the Tillersons. It’s a vein somewhere Either you mine it or it bubbles up.
Billy’s 1980s and early 1990s soundtrack was curated by Watkins and executive producer and writer Zev Borow, also bringing in Hall & Oates and Peter Gabriel.
“It’s an amazing time for music,” Reid said. “It’s an expressive moment, and it feels a bit electric. Drums and synths are among them, and the range of his musical tastes was quite spectacular.
It is in the music that Billy will live with Reid if it is his swan song. He put digital mileage on a playlist of all the songs he sang in Season 1 and a few that didn’t make it. However, he stopped short of revealing the deep cuts in hopes of one day being able to revive Billy Tillerson – for one night only.
“Zev and I were talking about doing a Billy Tillerson gig for the team, and unfortunately due to COVID we couldn’t make it happen,” Reid said. “But you know, one of these days I can carry his cowboy get up from Trevor’s funeral and bring Bobby the bear on stage and sing with a little synthesizer all his songs and the songs that I would have liked to put in season 1.”
The first season of “Outer Range” is streaming now on Prime Video.