Deadly Class: Liam James shares about Billy’s conflicted mind and the craziness of Vegas

DEADLY CLASS -- Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY -- Acquired via NBC Media Village
DEADLY CLASS -- Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY -- Acquired via NBC Media Village /

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? Well, that’s not like the case for the core five in Deadly Class. Liam James breaks down Billy’s conflicted mind and the craziness of Saudade.

Caution: There are spoilers for Deadly Class Season 1, Episode 5 in this interview.

Just when you thought Deadly Class couldn’t get any crazier, it exceeds expectations. “Saudade” delivered a literal acid trip episode, bringing about the vibrant colors, the mind-boggling scenes, and game-changing action. Liam James helps us break down some of those scenes and what things are going to be like for Billy moving forward.

Let’s be honest, this was as much about Billy as it was about Marcus. “Saudade” was a turning point for his character. For years, he’s hated his father for what happened, for being sold to Kings Dominion. Now he was going to do the only thing that could protect his mom and little brother, but killing someone is far easier said than done.

And this is where we start with Liam James, as we break everything down and get ready for a whirlwind ride that the second half of the season promises to be.

Hidden Remote: I love Billy. He’s awesome. I’ve loved him from the very first episode but these last couple of episodes have been so pivotal for Billy. His whole character has grown, and the backstory is out. What’s it been like delving more into this story for him?

Liam James: For me, it was amazing. It was what I was always looking forward to. I haven’t really done the jokey character that he is and to see the other side of him was important for me because I wanted him to have depth and real character.

I got an idea of the character from the comics and talking to Rick [Remender, the creator] and we get the scripts a week before filming. What I saw on the page was an example of great strength, character, and flaw, which is exciting for me to get to play. He’s also part of this amazing story that’s getting told. I was gleeful every day.

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HR: He’s also very real, one of the easiest to connect to because there’s still that human side to him

James: Yeah, he’s had that opportunity early on in the show. There is a real connection for Rick to that character. He enjoyed writing that character, so when he sat down and wrote Deadly Class, he wrote what he liked right off the bat. That unlocked the character of Billy.

I got lucky that from the start, Billy is an interesting character. I just tried to bring as much of my interpretation and myself to the role to make it my own. Very lucky.

DEADLY CLASS — Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY — Acquired via NBC Media Village
DEADLY CLASS — Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY — Acquired via NBC Media Village /

HR: We’ve managed to see this reservation to kill his dad. He wanted to but at the same time, he remembered the good things in the past. What was it like to play that dynamic and will it push the character forward after his dad’s death?

James: It’s a tough question. Rick has never dealt with easy subjects in his material and he once said to me that he doesn’t write good guys and bad guys. He just writes people because he doesn’t believe everyone is just a good guy and a bad guy. That’s a very jarring thing to hear and I respect him immensely for it.

To play that moment and a lot of this episode is written straight out of the comics. That scene, though, isn’t. The scene before where [Marcus and Billy] are talking to one another about it is one where I tried to [bring it all].

There’s a thing with projects where you want each scene to be better than the last. You’re trying to keep up with the quality, but the bar was set so high [in the original material]. So, in the new scenes, I just tried to keep him grounded. This episode was already an out-of-body experience, but Billy is conflicted and there’s so much going on inside his mind, he tries to ground himself.

Then, in the scene, he’s trying to ground himself but he’s literally in the air floating. That was an interesting juxtaposition that’s so powerful to me, so that scene was special to get to do.

And I had no idea! They made it look like I felt. As an actor, there are all these highs and lows you’re trying to reach, all these emotions, but [the crew] matched it through what you see with such amazing metaphor. I was so excited for it come out.

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HR: It was so crazy. While watching, I just thought it must have been mental to film and there was so much CGI’d in.

James: Yeah, there was the lighting. We had this amazing director of photographer [Owen McPolin], who brought this beautiful somber but menacing red light coming through the windows. It makes sense because it’s Vegas and also because it’s this acid trip. A lot of it was already there for us.

Our brains are going to push this deep inside and give us a midlife crisis 30 years later when it comes back up. It’s different to a lot of stuff out there and it’s certainly exciting. It’s not exciting if it’s not dangerous.

HR: And shows have to take risks and I think this is a risk that pays off. With everything that went down with Billy’s dad being murdered, Chico’s death, Billy being stabbed, what’s next? I know you can’t give spoilers, but can you tease us, especially with the comic material?

James: I think It’s just got a beautiful blend of both. You see halfway through you’ve seen how it’s evolved the comics. The comics set up the story but what we’ve been doing is setting up the story and now it’s the fun part, where the actors get to come out. All the creative pieces that you’re trying to make, I think it’s going to be about letting the floodgates open.

It’s going to be a crazy second half of the season.

HR: This is the turning point for every character.

James: Yeah, for sure. It’s that moment that all other moments in life lead back to. It’s that definitive moment for all the characters who go to Vegas.

It’ll sound cheesy but “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” isn’t a rule they follow. They’ll bring their experiences of Vegas with them and really unleash it on every other young person at the school. All the students will wonder why they feel different when they didn’t even go. It’s an experience that changes those who weren’t even there.

HR: I was talking to Michel earlier about Chico’s death. He was saying how there’s going to be a power shift now that he as the leader has been taken down. Where does Billy fit into this?

James: He just skates down the hallway to the closest room and tries to get out of the way.

Really, I haven’t thought about this and it’s an interesting question. For the rats, when everyone is going for power, they’re just watching it unfold. Fortunately/unfortunately, they’re the lucky few kids of the rats who have become friends with legacies. We’re inevitably sucked into the mess whether we want to be or not. We’re at the bottom of the totem pole and don’t have a chance to fill the vacuum but we’re used as cannon fodder.

HR: So, I want to ask one quick question: is there any hope for Billy and Petra?

James: I hope there’s hope!

HR: He was so cute with her.

James: We’ll see what happens. Petra is a special girl. He and anyone else who has their eye on her will have to get their act together if they want to stand a chance with her.

Next. Deadly Class: Taylor Hickson talks rats, pranks, and more. dark

What did you think about Billy’s actions? What’s next for the joker of the class? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Deadly Class airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on SYFY.