Emmy Contenders: Bill Paxton makes Texas history come alive

Emmy Contenders: Bill Paxton makes Texas history come alive
The Times' Mary McNamara chats with actor Bill Paxton about bringing Sam Houston to life in "Texas Rising" on History. He's taking your questions too. Post them here or tweet us using the hashtag #askLATimes. (Michelle Maltais)

Maybe because he's from Texas, but probably because he's currently starring in History's limited series "Texas Rising," Bill Paxton would have made a great history professor. The kind of professor you wished you'd had -- engaging, passionate, charming and funny.

At least that's what we thought when he sat down recently with Times television critic Mary McNamara to talk about the series in which he plays Sam Houston, leader of the Texas Revolution and, as it turns out, Paxton's second cousin four times removed ("We shared common grandparents on my father's side six generations ago").

For the role, Paxton had to ride a horse (a bad thing) and do his research (a good thing). The actor studied Houston's life, tracing his path in reverse -- starting with Huntsville, Texas, where he died and ending up near Knoxville, Tenn., where Houston taught school for a year. So maybe that professor thing isn't too far off.

Paxton also talked about the many sayings he heard from his father as he was growing up (that he's often worked into his films), violence on TV and the Southern Gothic horror-thriller he's trying to get made.