Season 2 of the series Billy the Kid (on Paramount+ in Canada), from The Tudors and Vikings creator Michael Hirst, brings the story of the infamous American outlaw to new heights.
Starring Tom Blyth and filmed in Alberta, the second season of the show sets off with the Lincoln County War, with Episode 2 tackling Billy's relationship with Jesse Evans.
"In a way you could say that Season 1 was a preparation for Season 2 in the sense that the Lincoln County War is a centrepiece of Billy's life," Hirst told Yahoo Canada. "It's where Billy became truly famous across America, and subsequently across Europe."
"I love the first season, there were lots of great moments, great characters, ... but I knew that when we got to Season 2 it would become much more, not a conventional Western, but it would become much more like a Western. There would be a shooting of a sheriff, there would be shoot outs, there'd be stampedes and ambushes and everything, which I like writing."
Something that was a sort of guiding light for the show's creator is that while he describes himself as someone who "hero worshiped" Billy as a child in Yorkshire, England, for the show Hirst didn't want to "rush" into the mayhem, the shootings and the subsequent tragedies.
"I wanted people to know who he was, who he really was," he said.
"What he was like, where he came from, what his parents were like, who his Catholic mother is, the fact that they were immigrants. The fact that they were pushed out, like a lot of other immigrants, pushed out to New York and forced to go to the Midwest where they were promised jobs and houses, and instead they found themselves in one of the wild, most violent parts of America."
Finding the 'gold dust' in research
In terms of managing the characters coming into Billy's life in Season 2 of Billy the Kid, Hirst wanted to ensure that it was all grounded in Billy's lived experience, but likened the introduction of characters to "putting a jigsaw together" or playing a "chess game."
"I'm moving these pieces about, I'm not always sure when to spring them or when to do it," Hirst said. "But I know that I'm putting them into play."
"So I usually introduce new characters who I'm going to use in the future, rather than just introduce them and kill them off."
For Hirst, his writing is very much based on research, even in the case of Billy the Kid where finding accurate documentation isn't particularly extensive.
"I tried to keep my boat tied, anchored to facts as far as possible, and reality, but I'm not doing a documentary," Hirst stressed. "Of course, there are contradictory accounts of all historical events and all this historical characters, it's unavoidable."
"The things that often I find most useful are accounts by people who were actually there, or who knew the person who is being written about."
Specifically, Hirst referenced a book from George Coe who wrote about his personal account of Billy after he stopped being a cowboy.
"In what he reports Billy having said, I can hear Billy's voice," Hirst said.
"Those things are like gold dust. ... I will use that as a basis for a scene or a conversation."
In trying to make his project as authentic as possibly, Hirst also identified that he wants to be able to "defend" his work.
"I was attacked so much when I wrote The Tudors about King Henry VIII, which was absolutely weird, that was the time .... before people started writing about historical characters, which had nothing to do with reality at all."
"I do quite like reality, because sometimes it's reality which is more difficult to believe. ... Some of the things that Billy did, for example, and that you'll see in the second half of Season 2, ... you cannot believe someone would or could do some of the things he did."
Where to watch 'Billy the Kid' show
Billy the Kid is available to watch on Paramount+ in Canada (MGM+ in the U.S.).
The entirety of the first season is currently available to stream, episodes for the second season are released weekly on Mondays.