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The Redemption of Baby Billy Freeman


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The Redemption of Baby Billy Freeman


Just when it seemed like The Righteous Gemstones couldn’t get any more hilariously absurd, Macaulay Culkin shows up and punches Walton Goggins in the face.

“He’s a national treasure, man,” says Goggins, who plays Baby Billy Freeman, the show’s singing, grifting, white-haired preacher. Until they filmed together, he had no clue Culkin had been cast as his character’s estranged child. “When I found out,” Goggins adds, “I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me right now?’”

The reunion of Baby Billy and Harmon, the son he walked out on almost 30 years prior, is patently and purposefully outrageous—you don’t cast the star of Home Alone for a run-of-the-mill role. But the scene is also a microcosm of the incredible balance between hilarity and heart that Gemstones pulls off. “I’ve played a father and I’ve played a son in a number of things,” Goggins says. “I’ve never read a scene between a father and a son that’s more honest, ever. That’s more ridiculous.”

Ever since the fourth episode of Gemstones’ second season opened with Billy dropping his son at a mall pet store and disappearing into a sea of people, the show has been exploring Billy’s past as an absentee father. With his third wife, Tiffany, very pregnant, Baby Billy has been racked with guilt and fear of repeating the same mistakes. Of course, his ego and stubbornness guarantee the latter: By the end of that fourth episode, he’s abandoning Tiffany, running out to buy Funyuns with no intention to return. It isn’t until he’s visited by his sister Aimee-Leigh’s ghost that he fully realizes he needs to at least try to reconcile with his son. In Sunday’s “The Prayer of a Righteous Man,” he heads to Harmon’s house unannounced, leaves an old Christmas card that he intended to give him years ago on his doorstep, rings the doorbell, and hides behind a tree. When Harmon answers the door, Baby Billy comes out of the shadows.

It’s fitting that the guy who peddles bogus “health elixirs” and freely talks about how his…



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