Bill Paxton was only 61-years-old when he passed away after experiencing complications from surgery, which is what his family said in a statement they released on Sunday. While Paxton starred in movies, such as Twister, Titanic and Training Day, it was his groundbreaking role in Big Love that actually introduced the life of polygamy to the masses in the HBO series, Big Love.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paxton was a loving father and husband, which is what his family conveyed in the statement released today. Bill Paxton worked both in front and behind the camera for the last four decades of his life. His love and enthusiasm for the screen arts came through on all his projects and it was “felt by all who knew him.” Paxton’s death was quite a shock to Hollywood and his fans today.

Paxton caught the nation’s attention with his role as Bill Henrickson, a polygamist with three wives on the HBO series Big Love, as described on the website IMDb. The show aired for five seasons giving viewers a window into the life of a polygamous family before reality shows bubbled up and gave way to Sister Wives. For this reality show the cameras followed around a real-life polygamous family, the brood of Kody Brown. While you might think that maybe the Brown family was the family Big Love was fashioned after, that is not the case. The family that inspired Paxton’s Big Love family is the Darger family.

It didn’t take long once Sister Wives hit the air for people to start comparing Big Love’s Bill Henrickson, Paxton’s character, to Kody Brown, as seen in the Sister Wives Blog. In a side by side comparison it was amazing to see just how much Paxton’s character and the real-life Kody Brown were alike, right down to them each getting a gun for Christmas. Paxton knocked the role of a practicing polygamous right out of the ballpark with his realistic-like portrayal of a patriarch. Even their living arrangements and houses were like mirror images of one another when comparing Paxton’s character and the real-life Brown.

It was Paxton and his three wives on Big Love that paved the way for interest in the life of a family living the polygamy lifestyle. The Henrickson family on Big Love did spark a lot of interest for the TV viewers, so when Sister Wives came to be, there was somewhat of a ready-made viewing audience for the real-life version, which Paxton had a lot to do with.

Paxton’s role in Big Love gave viewers a realistic look into the problems of practicing polygamy today, complete with having to keep their family life hidden from the law. Years later TV viewers would see this play out in real-life with Kody Brown and his three, then four wives.

Paxton played Henrickson, who was by all appearances a very straight-laced businessman whose life was seemingly normal except for the fact that he had three wives. Much like in Kody Brown’s real-life show, which wouldn’t come along until years after the premiere of Big Love, Bill Henrickson’s wives are all housed in three different dwellings. The homes sat side by side in a family neighborhood.. Paxton’s character’s three wives on the show were Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Marge (Ginnifer Goodwin), and Nicolette (Chloe Sevigny).

The Big Love wives got along much like sisters, but they did have their trials and tribulations of being three women sharing the love of the same man. Paxton played the role of the patriarch to his three wives and three households full of kids and he did an excellent job at making the role believable from the show’s beginning in 2006 to it’s last episode in 2011.

The evidence for that was seen in the reality show Sister Wives, from the TLC channel. This show started in 2010 and it is still on the air today, according to IMDb. Kody Brown is the real-life patriarch of this polygamous family and while he now has four wives, when the show first started had three. While Bill Paxton’s role may have paved the way for the viewers on what they could expect, Bill’s role was much more mature than the real-life role of Kody Brown. Some might even say he made the Big Love show even more believable than the real life version of Sister Wives that came along later.

When the HBO show Big Love first started, it was for all purposes, controversial. There was a very dark cloud over the groups that practiced polygamy at the time because of alleged abuse against young girls. An archived article from NBC News reports on the removal of 534 women and children from a polygamous ranch in Texas the same year Big Love hit the screen, putting the idea of a polygamous family in a negative light.

Paxton’s character did a good job of showing that all people in a polygamous lifestyle were not practicing the inappropriate aspects seen in the headlines that year.

[Featured Image by Chris Pizzello/AP Images]