Lawrence Trilling Talks Goliath Season 4: Origins, Challenges, Inspirations, and Takeaways

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By now, you're either in the thick of Goliath's final season, or you've already watched and cannot wait to read more about it.

That works out great since we still have more on the way.

During Goliath's virtual press day, we had the chance to chat with producer, director, and Season 3 showrunner, Lawrence Trilling so that we could pick his brain about where the ideas emanated from and a lot of other good stuff. Enjoy!

Lawrence Trilling at 2019 Tribeca TV Festival

What if that had been the last thing that anybody saw of Billy McBride? How would that have made you feel?

I would've been sad. However, that was absolutely in our calculation that it might be the case. We did not know when we finished shooting season three whether there'd be a season four.


We wanted to design something that would be a satisfying conclusion if we didn't get the chance to come back, but to leave a crack in the door so we could open it for another season. It worked out the way we wanted, but we didn't know that when we made our plans to finish season three.

Goliath Season 4 Poster

Was there a thought in the back of everyone's minds that at some point Billy and Patty would take a stab at Big Pharma? Was that the hope, or did that come about more recently?

It came about sometime during the making of season three because the opioid story was really coming to the floor in a more public way. Probably about the middle of season three, we realized if we got another season, that was definitely the story we would want to tell.

We got lucky in that, I think, each season has a more consequential story in terms of what its social impact is, and I think we got to end with the most timely and most impactful story of all.

That was good fortune that we were able to be timely and tell the most important story that we're going to tell in our life of the series, in our last season.

Lawrence Trilling Closeup

On an existential level, not necessarily a behind-the-scenes level, why do you think it's so important for Billy and Patty to come out on top as they've tackled these Goliaths?

It's a great question, and we've definitely tried to have them take their lumps as well, so these are not easy victories.

Season two ended with them losing a case, but I think that we're living in a time that is so challenging for people in so many ways, between all the various forces that are out there. Between the pandemic and our political life, I just thought we needed some optimism to hang our hat on.

I thought to be realistic yet optimistic was the right message to go out on and the right way to connect with an audience at this time.

I think people are looking for some uplift, and I think we wanted to do that in a way that felt realistic and not saccharine. At the end of the day, we want some optimism and hope for our characters and for the audience to hold on to.

Goliath's Rear Window

What inspired the many homages to great writers, directors, films, et., throughout Goliath Season 4?

We're all movie lovers. Billy Bob is a real cinephile and a student of movie history. When he's not on set, if he's in his trailer or at home, he's watching Turner Classic Movies all day long, obsessively.

I'm a movie nut, and Jennifer Ames and Steve Turner, who are the head writers, also love movies, history, and we realized that we get to do what we do because we're standing on the shoulders of all these other amazing storytellers. There was a natural desire to do that.

In season four, it began with Billy saying to the writers and me, "I have a vision of myself in a trench coat, smoking a cigarette under the Golden Gate Bridge. Let's work with that." That's literally all he said, and we knew we wanted to do the opioid crisis, and that was the two things we started with.

We realized that we had this wonderful opportunity to really lean into Noir because it's been a fantasy of Billy's, and we realized it was a perfect tone to tell the opioid story.

Lawrence Trilling for Goliath at Tribeca TV Festival

It really was. There's a scene where J.K. Simmons dons a top hat and does a little soft shoe there, and it almost seems bizarre. Unless, of course, you've seen the stories about those crazy Purdue people, that they actually did that stuff to get that drug out onto the street. They had those productions.

Absolutely. The level of marketing that was done by Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies, the absurdity and the obscenity of their marketing campaigns, was a direct inspiration.

We thought, "Let's do an old-time Hollywood musical with the most slick and perverse sales pitch of all time." That was really what we tried to tap into. It really isn't that far from what they did.

It isn't.

It's almost like exaggeration.

I think that's why the whole season worked so well with all the fantastical elements. When you're looking at the realities of that whole story about the opioid crisis, it literally blows your mind.

It's really surreal.

J.K. Simmons Goliath Season 4


It's absolutely surreal to think that people were given drugs that were intended for terminal cancer patients and given to people with sprained ankles and toothaches. It's absolutely mind-blowing, and we wanted to make the unreality of that come across.

We also had this great opportunity because we had Billy having these near-death experiences, that we had a narrative device to pull us in and out of something that was hyper real.

At the end of the day, the reality of what the pharmaceutical companies did is that exaggerated and perverse. It's barely even satire.

It is. I thought it was just really well done because of the whole issue itself, the topic, and how you all chose to film it. It just worked out really well.

Thank you. I'm really happy to hear that.

Jena Malone as Samantha Margolis

What about the cast? You've got some really great additions, as you always have, throughout the whole series. What did J.K. Simmons, Bruce Dern, Jenna Malone, what did they bring to the table that really excited you guys?

This is the year that we got to work with so many bucket list actors, for me, that I've always wanted to work with. Billy's an incredible talent magnet.

It starts with Bruce Dern, who Billy's known forever and is like a father figure to Billy. They have a personal friendship, have worked together many times, but have been wanting to have a work reunion. It's been a few years.

When we got Bruce, then we got J.K., and those two together were a dream team of villains that you could really identify with and be afraid of, frankly. Those are two of my favorite actors, so to get to work with them was absolutely a thrill.

Then you had Jenna Malone and Brandon Scott, that were just these amazing talents that brought a more youthful energy into the story.

One of our show's great advantages is that we have a new case every season, half of our cast gets to be new every season, and we get this injection of talent and energy that I think has kept this show fresh and alive all these seasons.

Nina Arianda Goliath Season 4

I agree. What were some of your favorite moments throughout the four seasons?

Great question. Throughout the four seasons? You mentioned it, but I loved the J.K. Simmons musical number. The Pain Killer was really memorable.

I thought that in season three, Beau Bridges's drug trip and as well as Dennis Quaid's drug trips were both really, really amusing and visually unique.

Then, taking Billy through that final sequence in season three that led up to him being shot, I thought was extremely powerful. Those things come to mind.

Wheeler Lights Up

What was the most challenging you experienced with Goliath going from page to screen?

Really, the most challenging thing was balancing the different tones of the story. On the one hand, we have a legal show in which you have to really believe in the case, and you have to make the audience invest and care about the stakes of the case.

We always wanted to make it a deeper character investigation and also to have a lot of fun and play with tone.

I think the ability to pull this straight-ahead narrative about a case and a legal thriller, and then also be able to do these fanciful things, whether they were the Noir movie references, near-death experiences, or the hallucinatory experiences that we've done.

Some of the ways that we've played with tone, to do that and still ground the show and make everybody care about the reality of the characters, I think it was a challenging translation, but I hope we pulled it off.

Billy Bob Thornton on Goliath

I think you did. My last question for you is, how do you hope the viewers feel whenever they walk away from Goliath season four?

I hope they feel thrilled by the story and also inspired to seek out a way to fight against corruption and build a better world for us together.

That is meant to inspire people to be more informed and better citizens, but in a way that isn't finger-wagging or making people eat their vegetables.

We want to entertain people but also, hopefully, awaken something in people to say, "Hey, we're allowed to fight against the power structures and demand a more equitable and just world." I think that's my hope.

Billy McBride is Mr. Cool

I hope so, too. I said that was going to be my last question, except I wanted to tell you that everything you've done in your career, I have just been impressed with all of it, and I hope you do something equally as important and inspirational for your next project.

That is such a kind thing to say. Thank you very much, that means a lot.

I'm happy to help. Thank you so much, Larry.

You lifted me up. Thank you, and good luck with the piece, and I thank you for helping promote the season. I really appreciate it.


Our last interview will come from the legendary Bruce Dern, where he'll share his thoughts on Goliath, his friendship with Billy Bob Thornton, and reflect on his family and career.

And if you have done so already, be sure to watch Goliath Season 4 on Amazon to see Billy McBride's story come to an end.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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