411mania Interviews: Walton Goggins (Justified)
Posted by Al Norton on 01.07.2014
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Walton Goggins, the Emmy nominated star of FX's Justified.
Walton Goggins has been one of TV's finest actors for over a decade, first with his work as Shane Vandrell on The Shield and for the last four year as Boyd Crowder on Justified, for which he was nominated for an Emmy, not to mention his recurring role as Venus Van Dam on Sons of Anarchy. He's also had recent noteworthy big screen roles in Lincoln, Django and Unchained.
Al Norton: Is there an appreciable difference – maybe in the volume, maybe in the quality, maybe in the prestige – in the projects that are coming your way since season one of Justified ended.
Walton Goggins: Yes. I came from movies; I did The Apostle when I was 24 and there was a run of movies I was involved in that were really well received but people didn't know me more than a name on a call sheet in terms of what types of roles they wanted me for, what type of jacket I was in terms of putting me on. That really started to change with The Shield, when it went from "hey, you're that guy on The Shield" to "you're Shane" to "Walton." Season one of Justified, just being in that many people's homes and people seeing something so different than The Shield, which was a seven year experience, that's when it really started to change in a real positive way.
I'm just so very grateful to have this opportunities back to back. I love it, I really love what I do for a living, and I love that these two men – Shane Van Drell and now Boyd Crowder – are so complex and really challenge me. This is a very tough season for Body Crowder and therefore a very tough season for me emotionally as the person playing him. He's in a real tough spot. To go back to your question before I segue off into something else too much, it really did change with Justified.
Al Norton: I know as a viewer watching a well-executed season finale of a show like Justified had last spring, we immediately want to start watching the next season right away and it's frustrating, in a good way, to have to wait six or eight months for new episodes. When you're the actor on a show, are you the same way about wanting to see that next script to know what's going to happen?
Walton Goggins: No, I'm actually not (laughing), but there comes a point during the hiatus where you absolutely feel that way. Television is a touch racket, and I understand that we get paid to act and it's not manual labor, but to do it right and give a shit about what it is that you're doing and not phone it in but rather to collaborate with people who are trying to move this ball forward in a way that is emotionally impactful, requires a lot of energy. For me at the end of a season I have to let it all go, and I think most actors feel that way; it's a real come down, it's a real let down, and you experience these swings early on in your career. Even if you're doing a movie, you go on set for two or three months and then come back and it's, "ok, who am I now?" and it takes some getting used to. As you get older and balance it with your family and your life you realize you never lost who you were, you were just working.
I look forward to just not having to read a script, not having to engage in a story that I am participating in; I love to read and it's not to just read a book without thinking about how you are going to interpret it, to read just for the joy of it.
Once you have some downtime, you get the itch, you need to participate and tell a story. I did a couple of movies this year, and that was so gratifying to exercise yourself in ways that you don't normally get to do the rest of the year. To work with a whole new group of people means you get to be very insecure for a day as you get used to a new environment, and that can be amazing. Dermaphoria is based on this great Craig Clevenger novel and then I did this movie for Bill Monahan, who wrote The Departed, called Mohave. And then I got to go back and do Venus, which was like seeing an old friend. And then doing Community; that was as insecure a situation for me as doing Venus because it's a whole different set of muscles.
Once you do that…As soon as we wrapped Community, that's when I started longing for Boyd, I started buttoning my shirts all the way up to the top button. I wanted to get back into his skin. And then before you know it I'm talking to you and we've got seven episodes in the can.
Al Norton: I would think that Community would be very challenging because unlike a movie, that's a cast and crew that all knows each other and has had time to gel so on the first day, you're the outside.
Walton Goggins: Where I grew up, most of my friends and I graduated high school in 1989 and the world was a different place so if you made a decision to work for a company, more often than not you were going to work for that company for ten or twenty years, and that was the conventional thinking when I got out of college, even. I chose this life, this gypsy life of constant insecurity, of beginnings, middles, and ends, and some times that cycle happens in a day and sometimes it's over three months. It's almost as if the rest of the world has caught up with what artists have been doing since artists have been artists, and it really requires you to stay in the moment.
For actors that come on our show or any show, you step into a family and a rhythm, and you are walking into the river in an inflatable raft and everyone else has a canoe and a paddle and you just have to throw yourself in and trust them. I've been very fortunate with the few shows that I've done – I don't do it too often – to put myself in situations that are really uncomfortable to me but with people that I really, really respect and admire and trust. That was certainly the case with Sons of Anarchy, where I got to see some old friends, and Community, where I've gotten to know Joel (McHale) for a little while socially and I'm just such a fan of that show, it's so smart. They have such a specific sense of humor and been doing it so well for a few years, that it was intimidating and it took about a day and then you recognize that you are being welcomed with open arms.
Al Norton: I was thrilled when I read you would be guesting on Community, with my excitement only tempered by learning that you would not be playing Venus.
Walton Goggins: (Laughing) I know. We could take Venus to any one of these shows!
Al Norton: This is all just hypothetical since everyone is extremely busy but if Kurt Sutter came to you with some sort of project that involved Venus that wasn't just another episode of Sons of Anarchy, would you be interested in exploring the character more outside of the show?
Walton Goggins: You know, no, I don't think so, not outside of the world she's been established in. I am so respectful of that community, the GBLT community, that I would not want to jeopardize what it is Kurt has created here. It also takes a lot…Man, it takes a lot to look that good; that's probably the best I've ever looked in my life, with or without breasts.
It's been such an amazingly cool experience for me. I'll tell you a story; I was walking into Whole Foods the other day and this transgender woman stopped me and hugged me and said "thank you." I asked her for what and she said, "For playing us not as a victim, for playing us as someone people would want to hang out with." She told me that her community has talked a lot about the character and also about the great work Jared (Leto) did in Dallas Buyer's Club. I started fucking bawling in the middle of While Foods while holding my son and talking to this beautiful soul.
Al Norton: I know if I talk to you about awards you're going to tell me you don't do it for the awards the same way that an athlete will tell you they don't do it for the MVP's, they do it to win championships, but you're one of the stars of one show and play a recurring role on another that both seem to be completely ignored by the major awards giving bodies. Taking you out of the equation, does it frustrate you that some of the amazing people you work with aren't recognized for their work? Do you spend even a half second thinking about the stuff?
Walton Goggins: No, I really don't anymore, I came to peace with that. I felt that way, and I wasn't the only person who felt that way, on The Shield. I didn't understand after the success we had after the first year, why we never got anything after that. CC (H Pounder) got nominated once but Jay Barnes didn't get nominated, Shawn (Ryan) didn't get nominated, the directors on our show didn't get nominated. This was the first time I had been involved in something that was at that high a quality level and when the first year you get a lot of notice that way, it sort of falsely builds up your expectations, and I suffered from that for a couple of years after, wondering if we were doing something wrong. It was effecting me in a very negative way and I realized that when people say they don't do it for that, they have to put their money where their mouth is, and you really don't do it for that.
Now I have an open heart and no expectations and know firsthand that the people that I work with feel the same way. Maybe it's a testament to the quality of the work going on in all of television right now. Getting that Emmy nomination got that monkey off my back, fed my ego enough, and was such an incredible experience that if it happens again that's unbelievable and if it doesn't, that's great, too. And I really mean that. We all have to spend so much energy thinking about what we do to the best of our ability every day that there's not a lot of room for thinking about that stuff.
Al Norton: We'll keep adding to your collection of Norty Awards so you've got that.
Walton Goggins: I'll take it man, I'll take it!
Al Norton: I just want to throw a couple of names at you, actors who did really incredible work on Justified last season, and get your take on them. I'll start with Mike O'Malley, who was just remarkable…
Walton Goggins…Remarkable, I agree with you, I absolutely agree with you. And that was a last minute thing. I don't want to give away any big secrets but it wasn't going to go that way, the story itself with his character, at least I think it wasn't, and then they realized what they had with his performance and went with it. I can't imagine anyone else coming in to that world and doing what Mike O'Malley did; I was fucking floored the first scene we did together.
Al Norton: A much different performance but not less quality was Jim Beaver.
Walton Goggins: Both these guys have been around, too. Mike O'Malley writes and directs, too. He's a triple threat. Jim's been around for a long time, too. He's just effortless in what he does. We wouldn't have had a season without Jim and how he played Shelby. It's a testament to who he was that the character went from who he was when he first appeared to how they wrote last season around him. When you surround yourself with actors like that, it's the greatest thing in the world for a showrunner because they can pass the ball to anybody and know they're going to score a touchdown. It's an embarrassment of riches that way on our show. From Jim to Mike O'Malley to Margo (Martindale) to Neal McDonough to Mykelti (Williamson) to Jeremy Davies…And this year with Michael Rappaport; Rapp is killing it and it's so surprising because it's so out of context from what I've seen from him so far.
Al Norton: My favorite bit of casting news for the upcoming season is that Jere Burns is now full time.
Walton Goggins: Yeah, had to have Jere, had to make that happen. We're all just thrilled that he's there. It's really interesting because there's an all new dynamic to the relationship between Boyd and Wynn Duffy. Jere and I had multiple conversations about the relationship and how it's portrayed in the pilot in terms of respect, who walks into a room first, who talks first, that kind of thing. It's one of the things that's been so difficult and so stimulating for me this season in that I am not working with anyone I have worked with on a regular basis; Cousin Johnny is gone, Ava is in prison, everything has changed for Boyd. And I get the challenge of figuring out where Boyd fits in, as I do every year with his evolution.
Al Norton: Let's talk about the new season for a minute; we're not used to seeing Boyd the way he was at the end of the finale, powerless and alone. And frequently when people are in the position they have a tendency to lash out…What can we expect from the first few episodes?
Walton Goggins: I don't want to give too much away but you articulated in the same way I would; he's now man who is impotent and powerless in the most important sector of his life and he will lash out the only way he knows how in the other areas of his life, and that's a very dangerous person to be. Boyd Crowder is a very dangerous person in that situation because he is a man who is able to control his demons through self-discipline and reason – he's a relatively reasonable man even though his moral compass is skewed – but in this season, because he doesn't have control of his facilities, he acts out in moments of rage that are very dangerous to him and those around him, not to mention unbecoming. The underlying motivation is righteous, I think, but we'll see what people think. It's a side of him we always knew was there but might not have ever seen on the same level of full display it is this season.
Don't miss the season premiere of Justified, tonight at 10pm on FX