Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The patron saint of FX?: An interview with "Justified's" Walton Goggins

Walton Goggins understands why people have such a strong connection to "The Shield," the gritty, twisted cop drama he co-starred on for seven seasons on the cable network FX.
Heck, he feels the same way. "I'm profoundly touched by its effect on people," said the actor. "Because its effect on us was so tremendous. It changed my life."
Goggins, interviewed by phone from his home in Los Angeles earlier this month, unforgettably played angry, unstable cop Shane Vendrell on the series. Though Michael Chiklis's Vic Mackey was, nominally, the show's central character, Shane was arguably its heart and soul -- a dark, tortured man who was both reprehensible yet weirdly sympathetic. Goggins' brave, raw performance earned him much love from critics. The fact that he garnered not a single Emmy nomination for the role is nothing short of a sin.
Shane was the kind of character who, seemingly, comes along once in a lifetime, and Goggins wondered if he'd be that lucky again. "After getting the opportunity to be Shane Vendrell, I did not think I'd have a character that would challenge me intellectually and emotionally like that again," he said.
Lucky for him -- and for us -- he was wrong. Goggins has a key supporting role in the pilot of FX's terrific new drama "Justified," starring Timothy Olyphant of "Deadwood." On the show (which premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m.), Olyphant plays Raylan Givens, a hard-nosed U.S. Marshal who is assigned to lay down the law in his hometown of Harlan, Ken. There, he encounters old friend Boyd Crowder (Goggins), now a white supremacist with a penchant for blowing things up.
It's a juicy role, getting almost as much screen-time in the pilot as Olyphant's character. Though he's far less prominent in the next two episodes sent to press, Goggins said Boyd comes back "in a big way" later in the season.
Boyd, he said, is a true original, just as Shane was. Both do terrible things, yet draw you in just the same. "The one thing they do have in common is a certain gregariousness," Goggins said.
That's a quality Goggins seems to share. He's remarkably charming to talk to, peppering his speech with the occasional "darlin'" and showing an infectious enthusiasm for whatever project he's talking about. For instance, while speaking about his role in the upcoming summer action movie "Predators" (a sequel to 1987's "Predator"), his voice starts bubbling over with excitement, as if his words can't keep pace with his joy.
"It's so funny!" he said of the movie. "It's so good! I can't wait for people to see it!"
Yes, you can hear those exclamation points in his voice when he speaks on a project he's passionate about.
Goggins was equally thrilled by the chance to play another indelible character for FX. The series is based on characters created by acclaimed writer Elmore Leonard, and Goggins said project was irresistible. "It was an opportunity play this character and say these words," he said. Plus, he couldn't pass up the chance to play cat and mouse with Olyphant on screen.
"It sort of makes it 'Deadwood' versus 'The Shield,'" Goggins said, laughing.
 Though both characters possess ample charisma, disarming drawls and a tendency toward bad behavior, Goggins said there is a distinct difference between Boyd and Shane. Boyd is far more cunning, and Goggins said it's a blast to play a character who has such intelligence. "He's a Svengali," he said. "He's a righteous redneck messiah!"
"Justified" makes Goggins something of a repertory player for FX, and he's pretty OK with the fact that his name is becoming so tied to that of the network. "An actor should be so lucky to get an opportunity to call a network home," Goggins said. "I think they're doing some of the most exciting stuff on television."


Bill Scurry said...

Flipping awesome piece. You could've devoted 3000 column inches to the guy and it wouldn't have been enough. I forgot he was working with Robert Rodriguez! That alone might make me see "Predators," dare I say it.

Did you know -- he was part of an Oscar-winning short film that his good friend Ray McKinnon (also "Deadwood") produced called "The Accountant"? GOGGINS IS EVERYWHERE.

TV Writer said...

I did know that! He also just produced another movie called "That Evening Sun," starring him and Hal Holbrook and Mia Aliceinwonderlandlongname.
My husband will also insist I point out his presence in the little Anthony Hopkins movie "World's Fastest Indian." We were both amazed to see him in that.

Anonymous said...

He's my favorite actor, by far.