Thornton says he’s very happy how the show ended and that he’s keen to see more whether he’s in it or not. If you’ve been watching it’s hard to trust Malvo’s “death” so there’s no comfort in it. We spoke with Thornton about his iconic and frankly terrifying creation.
Everybody wants to survive and might do sinister things to survive. How did you relate to that concept for Malvo?
It’s certainly hard to survive in Hollywood, so that’s one place where I’d probably put that as a practice. Also I grew up poor and in a rough way, so I think I’ve had to be a chameleon at some points in my life, both in my career and as a person. I always had a knack for if I’m hanging around English people, I think I probably get a little fancier. If I’m hanging out with the folks back home, it’s easier to fall in with that vibe. So I’ve always been very aware of who I need to be in a certain situation and it’ll get you out of a knifing sometimes. I’ll tell you that much.
We know nothing about him or his background, what made him the way he is.
I think it’s probably the only character I’ve ever played, frankly, that has no—not only a conscious, but he has no back story. So I chose to not think about that because Malvo is an animal and animals are eating machines. I thought if I come up with a back story and it’s like his father locked him in a shed when he was little or something that might cause too much emotion for the character. It might give me too many reasons to do things and I didn’t want to do that, so it’s the first time I’ve ever not had a back story in my head or otherwise. Malvo is all about he has a job to do and whatever he has to do to do it, that’s what he does and he has supreme confidence. He doesn’t think about failure and he’s not afraid of anything and I was afraid that a back story might mess with that a little bit.
Malvo is very meticulous and economical in everything that he does so why does he bother to terrorise the children who live at Lester’s old place when he now has to look somewhere else for him?
Malvo does have fun messing with people and more than messing with the kids, he was really messing with the father. I think Malvo was probably pretty pissed that he didn’t find Lester yet, so who’s the nearest person I can poke with a stick? It’s like Lester is not here, so you bought Lester’s house. You’re not the guy I wanted, but let me just leave you with this little tidbit. Malvo definitely likes to mess with people that are too cheery and that guy was just a little too friendly. He thought he’d leave him a little something more serious to think about.
When an actor plays a very dark role or there are dark forces at work, is there any point at which you really have to protect yourself from it?
I think it depends on the actor and I think it depends on how fragile that actor’s constitution is. I’ve never had a real problem with it I don’t think. I’m pretty able to just go home and have an omelet. I’m not really the type to let it permeate my life. Maybe when I was doing Bad Santa to a degree, I think maybe I probably drank a little more beer during that time than I normally have in my life because I’m kind of a lightweight. For the most part I don’t let it creep into my regular life. It was really interesting playing a character like this that had no conscience, though. I’ve never done that. When I played odd characters they usually had their softer side, but Malvo is pretty straight ahead. He doesn’t, as I say he just kicks a** and takes names. He’s not worried about the consequences.
What is the meaning of Malvo’s journey?
I think of Malvo like I think of God and the devil. Malvo is there to facilitate people’s true selves. It’s like he brings out in people who they really are. He’s very impatient with people who are stupid. Malvo likes to get to the root of what everything is about and sometimes he has to mess with people in order to do that. But I think Malvo symbolizes that sort of spirit in the world that  brings to the surface who people really are, and I think that’s probably the best way I could put it.
I think a lot of this is about faith. You always think about if I’d only gotten on my motorcycle two minutes later, then I wouldn’t have hit that deer or whatever it is. Malvo is kind of the spirit that makes all those things happen, sort of lines up people’s faith for them.