Article and interview by Jess Pillay
On Saturday, March 11, I was honored to represent Billy Burke Fans at Youth Theatre Northwest’s 2023 Masquerade Gala in Seattle, Washington, where Billy Burke was the keynote speaker.
YTN is a nonprofit organization that has been offering top-quality drama education and theater arts programming to children, youth, and families in the Greater Seattle Area since 1984. Through YTN’s unique programs, young artists are able to develop their creative talents, cultivate their sense of self expression, and deepen their leadership skills in a safe and nurturing community. The funds raised each year at YTN’s annual gala fundraiser help support the organization’s educational programs and professionally produced stage performances. This year’s gala was hosted by Manny Cawaling and featured live and silent auctions, performances by the talented YTN students, staff, and alumni, and, of course, Billy Burke’s keynote address!
After delivering his speech to a fully charmed crowd, Mr. Burke graciously sat down with me for an exclusive one-on-one interview—a first for the fan page. Against the slightly chaotic sounds of a live auction happening in the adjacent room (in case you’re wondering what all the noise is in the accompanying video!), we discussed some of his acting roles, his music, and I got to ask him some fan-inspired questions.
Here are some highlights from our conversation.
BBFans: Say hello to the Billy Burke Fans Network.
Billy Burke: Hi, everybody!
BBFans: So, first of all, congratulations on Fire Country.
Billy: Thank you.
BBFans: I’ve been watching every week, and I love it; love your character. However, I have to tell you that I was a huge fan of Revolution. Miles was my guy.
Billy: Yeah, Miles was the guy who didn’t want to be there. [Chuckles.]
BBFans: Exactly! Vince is quite a different character from Miles or Mitch [from CBS’s Zoo]. Those guys were pretty snarky and would say whatever they wanted. So it’s been interesting to watch you play Vince, who tends to have his heart on his sleeve a lot more.
Billy: He feels way too much responsibility. His entire life, he’s been saddled with so much. When we first meet him and in the episodes that we’re still doing now, he’s just inundated with drama after drama—be it family drama or the emergencies that are going on. It’s a lot. He never gets a break.
BBFans: What’s it like to play a character who’s more emotionally expressive? For example, I feel like he says ‘I love you’ to people a lot more than Miles or Mitch did. How has that been for you as an actor?
Billy: It’s been great. But there are times where I feel like he’s spilling so much of his guts that he’s not protecting anything of himself. For a guy who’s supposed to be a tough guy all the time, he’s just very vulnerable. But it’s kind of freeing [to play a character like that].
BBFans: Do you prefer the more snarky, guarded characters like Miles? Or is this more preferable?
Billy: I prefer a combination of both. Whenever we can get some levity into [Fire Country] and put the tongue in the cheek of some of this stuff, we take the opportunity to do that. But a nice mix of all that is the sweet spot.
BBFans: So I have to ask you about songwriting because I’m a songwriter myself. Your new song, “Burn.” Congratulations on putting that out. I’ve pretty much been listening to it non-stop.
Billy: Thanks. I can’t believe they actually put it on the show. They showed me the episode a few weeks before we started shooting, and they said they wanted Vince to do a little song in the bar. They presented me with what was going to happen with the storyline, and I said, “Oh, I got that song. Already wrote it!”
BBFans: Okay, that was going to be my next question—whether you had already written it or not?
Billy: Yeah, when we were shooting the pilot, I was thinking about how when I was a kid, all TV shows had a theme song. And I was like, what happened to those days? And so I just started riffing on something, inspired by the show across the board, and that’s the song that came out. I wrote that song in 20 minutes. To my surprise, everybody immediately took to it when I submitted it. I thought they were basically gonna say: “That’s a cute song, but we’re going to buy a Springsteen song.” But I was very grateful it all worked out. I don’t get overly happy with much stuff that I do, but I was proud of that song.
BBFans: You should be! It’s a great song.
Billy: Thank you.
BBFans: So the fans want to know: now that you’re doing more music stuff, is there any possibility of a live show anytime soon?
Billy: I would love to think that there is a possibility of that. I just don’t know when we would find the time to do it. But I would certainly love to.
BBFans: Well, you should come back here and play in your home state.
Billy: I would love to! That’s what I grew up doing. From age 17 to 25, this is what I was doing—playing in all the local bars here.
BBFans: Do you have any favorite venues that you remember from back in the day?
Billy: Yeah, the Off Ramp was great. Central Tavern was always good. There was a place called Rock Candy [stylized: Rkcndy] that doesn’t exist anymore either. I think all these places have long closed down. The Crocodile is still there. We played there quite a bit. And obviously… I mean, this was the late eighties, early nineties. The live music scene around here was full with stuff that I wasn’t doing. We were playing art rock at the time when the whole Seattle scene started to swell up. And I realized I was going to get a little lost in that. So that’s when I moved to L.A. and started doing TV shows.
BBFans: So you’ve had a very prolific career as an actor and with your music. Is there an acting role or something with your music or even another artistic pursuit that you haven’t tried yet that you would like to?
Billy: No. Usually, if there’s something that I really want to try, I will take a stab at it. I try to stretch my musical preferences as much as I can, but I have limited abilities. I don’t consider myself much of a singer and am definitely not a guitarist or a pianist—although I do play both, but just enough to get by on. I consider my strengths to be in the songwriting itself. Beyond that, in terms of other artistic pursuits? I feel like if I did think that I had any ability in any other arena, I would have already probably done it.
BBFans: Ok, last question: is there anything you’d like to say to the fan base since this is kind of a direct line to the fan base?
Billy: Yeah, definitely! I know that my presence on social media is rare. But I gotta say that the fan page has been unbelievably kind and supportive. So yes, thank you—all of you. Thanks for giving a sh*t.
BBFans: Well, you’re awesome, so it’s our honor to do that!
Billy: Thank you. That’s very sweet. Thanks for coming here!
There you have it, friends. The first ever Billy Burke Fans interview with the man himself. He was so warm and kind and charming, and it was an absolute honor to interview him. I want to send a heartfelt thank you to Roberta for arranging this opportunity, and, of course, to Billy Burke for sitting down and chatting with us!
Be sure to check out the extended video version of our exclusive Q&A as well!
We would also like to thank Youth Theatre Northwest‘s Development Director, Bailey Sipila, who graciously offered us a free ticket to the event. YTN’s work of serving Seattle’s aspiring youth artists would not be possible without donations and sponsorships. If you would like to have an impact on the lives of thousands of creatively inclined children, please consider supporting the organization through a financial donation via this form. Feel free to specify on the form that you are a member of the Billy Burke community.
[Please note that the written version of this interview has been edited for readability. During the interview, some fan questions were paraphrased, edited, and/or combined with others. Thank you to everyone who submitted a question—especially the following individuals whose questions directly or indirectly appeared in this conversation: Elena, Joy, Ariel, and Roberta.]
Jess Pillay is a writer, podcaster, and independent musician from Seattle, Washington. Her love for Billy Burke began when he lit up the screen as Miles Matheson on NBC’s Revolution. You can find Jess’s music on all major streaming platforms.