Exclusive interview with Walton Goggins
December 20, 2011 | Walton Goggins is a very charismatic actor and, on top of that, a true gentleman, which we had the pleasure of witnessing first-hand during our phone interview with him. He was very accommodating, answering our questions with the consideration and thoughtfulness of someone who delves into the background of the characters he plays and who is deeply invested in them. This is something that manifests itself in impressive performances, for example as Det. Shane Vendrell in the crime drama "The Shield". In this interview, however, we talked primarily about his Emmy-nominated portrayal of the complex character Boyd Crowder in the Kentucky drama "Justified". Moreover, Walton gave us an insight into his work and his goals as a filmmaker.
1. What was it about Boyd Crowder that made you want to play this character?
It wasn't what was on the page initially but it was the conversations about what this character could be that made me want to play him. I'm a fan of Elmore Leonard and a fan of the movies that have been made about his material. It's a world that really interests me, a tonality that I like to play in and a complexity that is a rarity in television. And this world in particular happens to be rural and bucolic and this character to me was extremely smart. It's not often that you get to play a rural person that is that intelligent, self-taught, and that was very important to me to make him the smartest man in the room. And so approaching it from that angle it was just a really rare opportunity.
2. When you played him in the beginning of season 2 did you know if he really was serious about not wanting to be criminal again?
I think absolutely. At the end of season one 18 of his men were executed by his father and I think he was like in a boat in a sort of drift on the ocean without an anchor. He just wanted to get as deep as possible emotionally and physically, and so short of ending his life he decided to go work in a bottom of a mine. And I think it was just to get a kind of perpective on his life and to really turn over a new leave. Boyd is not a person who lives in the middle, he lives in extremes and I think his journey in season 2 is about finding bounds in his life for the first time.
3. What do you think is it about Raylan and Boyd that makes their friendship kind of unique?
History! When you've gone through a childhood together or in this case worked in a coal-mine or in the peace corps or maybe two friends who served in the army together or whatever that is that's the tie that binds you can't replace that connection. And especially when you're at odds philosophically going forward it makes that relationship very complex because you have all of these differences but you have a commonality from a historical perspective and that makes every conversation colorful. That's what Tim [Olyphant] and I at least try to play on and try to remember every time we're in the same scene together. It's really special. He's such a good actor, Tim is an actor who's right in the moment and we really have a nice time with these two inseparable people.
4. Do you sit down with the writers and talk your scenes and storylines through?
I do. Both myself and Tim independently and then together sometimes. "Justified" is about really one thing and one thing only. It's about the characters on the show and infusing these characters with words that are alternate poetry. I would say that it's kind of Elmore Leonard and it's a very difficult line to walk. It takes a village to raise a scene sometimes and both Tim and I have been invited to participate in that process and we take advantage of that.
5. About the women on the show, what do you hope for Ava and her relationship with Boyd if she survives?
Oh, ok... you know it's so interesting, there was a line that we almost put in the last scene of the season or the second last episode rather, the penultimate episode, where Boyd looks at Ava and says [adopts Boyd's Kentucky accent] "You know if we got married you wouldn't have to change your last name." So you know when you think about Boyd and Ava being related through the marriage and the subsequent death of Boyd's brother and Ava's husband and the fact that they're together is just so rich with drama and texture. These are two people who are kind of discovering who they are and for Boyd it was a matter of finding a balance in the middle and finding love would be his ultimate salvation. And for Ava it was really about understanding who she is and that she likes a bad boy and she's comfortable with that. It's a journey for her to be comfortable with that and to be in a realtionship with someone who loves her and accepts her for who she is. I just want for them to continue to explore what their unique love is all about.
6. What was the process of developing your character Shane Vendrell on "The Shield" like over the years? Did you know what he was going to do?
It was a little different on "The Shield". Shawn Ryan had a masterplan but it would change kind of in the middle as the river changes direction so would Shawn based on what he saw, you know, week to week, episode to episode. Shane started off as an original perpetrator of the original sin of the show, the killing of a police officer with Vic Mackey. Really that kind of set him on his journey that led to the ultimate thing that kinda happened to him. But he started off being able to compartmentalize that early on. Shane was really funny early on – dark and pessimistic, but really funny. And then he wanted to get out from underneath Vic Mackey and wanted to become his own man all the while really missing the relationship that they had like a father and son. It ended the way it ended because these two men had started a course that there were no roads that led out, no escape routes.
7. How difficult is it to come across as a likeable character the audience cares for when you play a person who did all these horrible things?
If you just look for the truth in everything then there is likeability in everyone. Everyone is likeable at some point in the day, maybe it's right after they had their first cup of coffee or maybe it's after they had a glass of wine and a really nice dinner. I just tried to find the truth in Shane and to empathize with his pain and to find a morality – his morality – in the decisions that he was making.
Shane was a tragic figure, he was a follower whereas Boyd is a leader. You know Shane didn't think before he acted and Boyd thinks at length before he acts. And I think if you just try to find the humanity that the audience will see your attempts at such and go on that journey with you. It kind of been both my blessing and my curse to be able to play characters that on paper you should dislike across the board and to able to make them empathetic and likeable. I'm very grateful for that.
8. Your filmography lists you as an FBI agent in the "Veronica Mars" season 4 pilot that never aired. Do you know anything that would have happened?
[Laughs.] I have no idea. The creator of that show was a friend of mine, Rob Thomas, and I did a pilot for Rob in my early 20s and he just asked as a favor that I come down and participate in the story that never went. So I don't know, I have no idea. I know I had a clean haircut.
9. Can you tell us a little bit about your work as a filmmaker? How do you choose and approach a story that you want to bring to life on screen?
My partner, Ray McKinnon, has juried most of our material and we made four films and all four had been rooted in the South. They have all been different, too, there have been comedies and there have been dramas. We just have written and made movies about things that interest us. The last movie that we made was the first one we ever produced for another filmmaker and it was about an octogenarian (Hal Holbrook in "That Evening Sun"). I grew up with old people and I love old people, I like being around old people. The tenuous kind of nature in that phase of life is something that is really important to me and it's important to my filmmaking partner as well. It was an opportunity to tell a story about a man who is a wine in winter and at the end of his long journey. A man who doesn't want to say good bye and fights through all the way and all the struggle that can happen in our life if you have that attitude.
We just look for things that mean something to us. I'm doing a couple of TV shows now that I'm working on that are really kind of rooted in my travels independently and I'm interested in the world. I'm looking for a show that can be on american television that can be both an exploration of the world and another culture and at times be bilingual. It just comes from the things one of us is passionate about.
10. Since myFanbase is an online magazine about TV series, do you have a favorite show?
I love "Boardwalk Empire", I think that is so well executed. I'm a big fan of "Mad Men" like everyone else and "Sons of Anarchy" on FX is a very good television show and "Parks & Recreation".
Thank you very much, Walton!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this over the phone, I really appreciate it. And I hope you'll enjoy the next season!
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