Television viewers watching “The Son” starring Pierce Brosnan on the AMC network on Saturday nights aren’t seeing things.
That is indeed former Bangs Independent School District Superintendent Bill Foster portraying “Law and Order Man” on the television series.
“We have two more episodes, and I’m expecting I’ll be in each one,” Foster said this week. “You never know when your scene will wind up on the cutting room floor, but I think I’ll be in there.”
The first season’s final two episodes will be broadcast on AMC at 8 p.m. Saturday, and followed one week later on Saturday, June 10. Each episode is rebroadcast immediately afterward. In the Brownwood area, AMC is carried on Harris Broadband Channel 75.
Based on the New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel by Phillipp Meyer, “The Son” is a family saga that spans 150 years and three generations of the McCullough family. The one-hour drama traces the story of Eli McCullough (Brosnan) as he moves from agriculture to oil production, and from good-natured innocence to calculated violence.
The show has been renewed for a second season which will run for 10 more episodes, Foster said, with Brosnan returning in the lead role according to industry publication reports. “The Son” ranks as the top original cable program on Saturday nights.
Foster said with his retirement from Bangs in January 2016, he decided to apply online for a role on the show, which is filmed in areas around Austin, Dripping Springs and San Antonio. By accident, he sent his information and photo to an HBO production, “The Leftovers,” and that mistake resulted in a brief appearance in it.
As a lifetime cowboy, Foster could ride a horse, so he sought a role as a ranch hand in “The Son.” Then he waited several months to hear back. Production had been delayed, he learned from a phone call, so he decided to reapply for another part. He was invited to Austin for a casting call, where dozens of people turned out.
“They were going in and out, in and out, and I didn’t know what specific look they wanted,” Foster said. “When they put us in costumes and did makeup, you could get some sort of idea.”
During filming, he said he is able to watch firsthand the “movie magic” where scenes are filmed on adjacent locations. That often happens “in the middle of nowhere,” he said, but when the show is completed, it appears to the viewer that they are miles apart. Likewise, sets that are many miles away from each other appear nearby in the finished product.
“What looks like they are close together are really miles apart, and what looks like are different parts of the state are close together,” Foster said.
Foster is also working on two films by the same director, “Faithful to Freedom” and “Gun Powder and Lead,” and he has also appeared in a commercial for Cabela’s outdoor outfitters. He is anticipating work in the $200 million futuristic film “Alita: Battle Angel” produced by James Cameron and directed by Texan Richard Rodriguez.
Foster said one thing that surprised him about these productions is the talent of the actors.
“It’s been neat meeting all these stars,” he said. “They are just regular people, but they are incredibly talented. The only difference between them and the A-listers is that they just haven’t gotten their big break yet.”
One example is James Parks, who plays Niles Gilbert on “The Son.” “He’s a great actor,” Foster said.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch — so to speak — Foster is finishing his second novel, “I Heard the Quail Whistle.” It follows his first book, “Showdown on the Guadalupe,” set in 1867 featuring a former Confederate colonel who lost everything in the war. It was published one month after his retirement from Bangs school administration.
“It’s set in Harmony Springs, a fictional Texas town, but at first I was going to put it in Bend, not too far south of Brownwood,” Foster said. “The colonel becomes a school teacher and takes a bride. But because he’s the only one with military experience, the townspeople recruit him to be the commander of a group of cowboys to chase after Indians who raid the town.”
Several of the locales in the novel should be familiar to Texas residents, he said, although they may not be mentioned by their actual names.
His upcoming novel “I Heard the Quail Whistle” is based in Nebraska in the 1880s, with a woman as its key figure.
“My wife, Linda, urged me to do that, because she said you don’t find many westerns where a woman is the most important character,” Foster said. “I thought, how could I do that?”
Readers will learn how Foster accomplishes that goal when the novel is completed later this year.
His books are available on his website, www.bill-foster.net, and on Amazon.
These books aren’t exactly his “first” novels, Foster said, because he’s written others. It’s just that the others haven’t been published.
Leaving no literary form unexplored, Foster has also completed a stage play, “Windows Home,” that he said “depicts the emotional roller-coaster of a family separated by the Vietnam War in the 1960s.” The stage features a split set, with the husband in a POW cell looking out to freedom, and the wife looking out the kitchen window from a prison of her own.
While the play is as yet unpublished, he said he has held a reading of it, and afterwards local actors suggested ways he might edit it.
Where does Foster come up with all these ideas?
“I was born in Dallas, but we have a family farm near Olney,” he said. “When you’re riding a tractor in circle after circle, you have a lot of time to think.”
That family farm is also where he learned to ride a horse.
Foster didn’t have acting experience before last year, but he was aware of the importance of theater arts — partly because of his education career and partly thanks to his son, who has worked in hair and makeup on Broadway shows. He said he was always supportive of fine arts while superintendent in Bangs, where the high school facility built during his tenure features a modern stage and auditorium.
“Fine arts bring out such a different aspect of a student’s personality,” Foster said. “That’s especially so in theater. Students learn a lot of things through their participation, and they don’t have to be on stage. They take of lot of those skills into college and adult life — things like teamwork, planning ahead, public speaking, painting, construction, and even sewing.”
Foster said the importance of teamwork is always emphasized on the professional sets where he’s worked.
“They always say, ‘It takes everybody here to pull this off,’ and it really does,” Foster said. “Even the face that’s fuzzy in the back of a crowded room is important.”
His interest in theater has also prompted him to serve as a member of the board of the Lyric Performing Arts Company, although he’s too busy with these other projects to seek a role on the Lyric stage.
Before serving as superintendent in Bangs, Foster was superintendent in Rising Star, and a principal in Goldthwaite. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at East Texas State (Texas A&M University-Commerce), and had a 33-year career in education.
He is a member of the American Quarter Horse Association and Ranch Horse Association of America. He is a cattle rancher and raises registered quarter horses.