"I loved watching Stranger Things with [my daughter] Lydia," Bill Paxton shared of his family life in his final PEOPLE interview before his unexpected death at age 61

By Patrick Gomez
February 26, 2017 11:43 AM
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A family representative confirmed on Sunday that Bill Paxton had died at age 61 due to complications from a surgery. Below is his final interview with PEOPLE from earlier this year.

Just days after completing filming on the first season of Training Day, Bill Paxton was understandably exhausted.

“It’s a marathon,” the lead of the new CBS drama told PEOPLE during what would be his final interview with the magazine before his unexpected death. “It was an incredible experience, but I’m ready for a break.”

On his final day on set for Training Day — which premiered Feb. 2 on CBS and picks up 15 years after the 2001 Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke film of the same name — Paxton had faced one of his biggest fears.

“Every time I get in front of that camera I have a bit of a panic attack — or when I have to speak in front of a group of people,” he said. “When we wrapped yesterday, I wanted to give a speech to the cast and crew and I felt myself getting very nervous.”

For a man who dreaded public speaking, he had a lengthy career in Hollywood. He was beloved for his roles in the films Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), Tombstone (1993), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996) and Titanic (1997) and in 2012, the former star of HBO’s Big Love won an Emmy for his work in the TV mini-series Hatfields and McCoys.

Shooting on location allowed him time to perfect his linguine arrabiata recipe, but it kept him from his true loves in life: his son James, 22, and daughter Lydia, 19, and his wife Louise.

TV time with his daughter was a favorite pastime for the actor.

“I loved watching Stranger Things with Lydia,” said Paxton, who had also binge-watched the entire series of Downton Abbey after a surgery last spring. “I got so engrossed in it,” he says of the period drama. “I was devastated when I got to the end.”

Paxton got to combine his personal and professional lives in the fall while filming an upcoming episode of his new show.

Credit: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

“I was thrilled to have my son guest-star on the eighth episode of Training Day,” Paxton said of James, who recently costarred in Eye Witness on USA.He plays the son in a father-son robbery team, and my character, whose dad was also a criminal, tells him, ‘We’re both our father’s sons, but that doesn’t have to define us.’ It was surreal saying that to him.”

During his finale PEOPLE interview, Paxton was eagerly anticipating getting to spend more time with his family since filming was done. The actor fondly recalled his last big vacation with Louise, whom he married in 1987.

“The summer before last, I went on a walking tour with my wife [Louise] through Wales,” he said. “We thought these would be nice and leisurely walks, but they were intense 10- or 14-mile hikes. After a couple of days, we were just a wreck. But it was also one of the best holidays we’d had in a long time. The blisters were worth it.”