Watch J.K. Simmons sing and dance his way into Goliath as big-pharma opioid pusher 'Mr. Pain Killer'
After previous seasons tackled the cartel, a menacing wrongful death lawsuit, and water rights, Billy Bob Thornton's Billy McBride is taking on perhaps the Goliath of all Goliaths in the final installment of Amazon Prime Video's Goliath: big pharma and the opioid epidemic.
Playing George Zax, the head of a family-owned and -operated pharmaceutical company, is Oscar winner J.K. Simmons who, in episode 2 of season 4 (premiering Sept. 24), makes a splashy entrance with a Broadway-style song and dance as the self-professed "Mr. Pain Killer." You can watch it in EW's exclusive preview above.
"He has Broadway in his background, and we knew he was a song-and-dance guy," explains showrunner Lawrence Trilling, "so we thought, 'This is one way we could get a chance to do some song and dance. That wasn't the only reason, but we thought we'd have a chance if we threw that at him. We knew that was something he could do, but in spite of my utter confidence, he's still exceeded my expectations and blew me away."
The scene begins after a high school cheerleader is injured during a fall. Enter his "Mr. Pain Killer" — first playing the piano, then jumping into showman mode with promises of relieving her agony and helping her get back in the game.
"So if you can barely bear existence, perhaps I can be of some assistance," he sings in the eerily cheery ditty, before shaking some pills out of a bottle into the bedridden cheerleader's hands.
"The opioid epidemic is a very complex issue, and a problem that has affected far too many of us in this country, at least indirectly," Simmons says via email. "These are terribly addictive, dangerous drugs (which I personally turned down at an ER three days ago, after cracking some ribs falling off my bike, like an idiot).
"They can also be, as my character touts, a blessed relief for people in certain kinds of chronic, unrelenting, horrible pain," he continues. "I really like that our story doesn't look at only one side of the issue. I mean, make no mistake, I play an absolutely evil bastard, but there are subtleties to both the reality and to the story we tell. At the end of the day, though, I'd be remiss not to simply say, for the vast majority of people, please don't take these drugs."
While the track is a memorable moment for the series, it's "bittersweet" for the Goliath team because its Emmy- and Grammy-winning songwriter, Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger, died in April 2020 from COVID-19 "almost immediately after he wrote the song," says Trilling. "We really were motivated to just do the most incredible version of it in his honor."
They didn't have to look far for inspiration. "The idea was to do something that would be really catchy and sly, but also really perverse and dark," Trilling explains. "It mirrors the marketing campaigns the opioid companies launched, which were to sell this very serious, dangerous drug as something light and easy and bright and poppy. It wasn't even that satirical compared to the other marketing campaigns that a lot of these opioid companies, pharmaceutical companies ran. It was meant to be really catchy, but then you're like, 'Wait, what am I singing? This is the darkest thing ever.'"
You can check out the addictive earworm above, and watch season 4 of Goliath when it drops Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
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