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Interview: 'Justified' Co-Star Walton Goggins!

Interview: 'Justified' Co-Star Walton Goggins!

TV series have become very popular all over the world, as they help to distract from everyday problems, or simply spend time in front of television screens. They first appeared in the USA in the fifties of the twentieth century. The genre of TV series since that time underwent revolutionary changes. Today, it satisfies all tastes and preference from the smallest to the most demanding audience! Many people have a tradition after having a supper or while doing it, sit in front of the televisions sets and watch favorite TV series. And what is your favorite TV series? Have you ever heard about 'Justified' or itís one of your favorite?!

There's a rich TV drama tradition of characters who are supposed to die in pilot episodes, who prove so popular that they're resurrected between the time the pilot is shot and when it airs. On "Hill Street Blues," beat cops Hill & Renko were supposed to die a stunning death in a shooting, but the characters proved so likable that they were just badly wounded. In the "ER" pilot, Carol Hathaway's suicide attempt was supposed to succeed, but the producers realized Julianna Margulies added a valuable ingredient and let the ER docs save her.

And on FX's "Justified," Raylan Givens was supposed to kill his old friend Boyd Crowder, just as he did in "Fire in the Hole," the Elmore Leonard short story on which it was based. But producer Graham Yost saw that "The Shield" alum Walton Goggins was so magnetic as Boyd that it would be a waste to kill him - and Leonard, often irked when adaptations deviate too much from his work, approved.

As Boyd, a demolitions expert, onetime white supremacist and religious leader, and a born liar - even he's not sure sometimes whether he believes the ridiculous things he says - Goggins is every bit the charismatic equal of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan, and he's again memorable as the series returns for its new season.

The interview was made by Alan Sepinwall. He has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s. While interview they are going to talk about his character, Boyd Crowder, the evolution of his hero and also quite a bit about what happened to his character at the end of "The Shield"

Am I going crazy, or has Boydís accent evolved over time?

It has evolved over time because heís evolved over time. In the pilot, I wanted this guy to love words. I wanted him to love words and I wanted him to wrap his mouth around words. And there was one scene early on that I just started playing with and kind of tweaking. And Graham let me have carte blanche, gave me autonomy with this guy. And in the pilot I was able to introduce this guy in the way he sees the words by saying, in the middle of his speech, "Well you, know we were talking about this target and it was an innocuous target, you know what that means? That means harmless." And Boyd was a showman. He was a bigger than life kind of showman in that pilot episode. And then when they came back and they said, "Would you stay?" I said, "If we can do something else, because a guy has a near-death experience, then heís going to find God, you go to God and youíre going to experience a high level of humility." And so with that we were able to bring him back and make him very quiet and very humble. Those next 4 episodes for him (when Goggins was busy filming "Predators"), I was just able to pop in for a scene here and there, but he was very quiet. And then once he found his next stage, he was really able to start to get big again and more precise because the message was more precise and the Bible was more precise. He wasnít quoting himself; he was quoting the Bible. And this season... heís just kind of in a spiritual turmoil. And he doesnít really understand any of it. Heís just trying to be known. Heís looking for nothing and thatís dangerous. So his voice would reflect that.

One of the things that Raylan asks him in the pilot is basically how much of this white supremacist bullshit do you believe? And thereís always seems to be an element of performance to what Boyd is doing, at least from the outside. For you though, how much sincerity do you think is there in these different guises that he adopts?

I think that he was spot-on in the pilot when he said that, and there was a discussion (with the producers) about Boyd and the things he was saying. I said, "I wonít do this. Iím not going to say those things unless (he's not sincere)," and Tim came up with that line. And he said, "Well, let me point it out in this way." So then when he made the spiritual conversion, the trick was to keep the audience guessing, to be ambiguous about what he believes and what angle heís playing only to at the very end, in the finale to say, "Wow that guy believes that, man! This is really painful for him. You know heís capable of really feeling something."

But when youíre playing a guy, especially in those middle-late phases of the first season where youíre trying to keep the audience guessing, how sincerely do you play that?

You have to play it like playing someone thatís drunk. Youíre drunk. You have to play it as earnestly and as heartfelt as you possibly can. Itís tantamount to violence on "The Sopranos." All you had to do is have Tony kill one person at the beginning of the season, and then you just put him in a room with someone else that he disagrees with. Itís the tension thatís kind of built up just by him being in that room whether or not heís going to pull the trigger. So the same thing with Boyd. If you have him do one thing where he lies about something or says something that he doesnít necessarily believe in, and then you have him fervently believe in something, then you never really know if he believes in it or not.

It's funny: you watch the pilot and it's hard to imagine that this character is ever going to stick around as a regular part of this world. Itís like one of these guys is going to kill the other guy, and thatís how itís going to go - and thatís not at all how itís gone.

You know what I look for in television? You know what I like? Iím a big fan of "Boardwalk Empire," and "Mad Men," like everybody else. I was a fan of "The Shield" for this very reason, especially later on. But what I look for is characters that I have no idea what theyíre going to do next. And if you can construct a scenario so that a character can kind of be that way, like the Michael Pitt character on "Boardwalk Empire" - I really donít know what heís going to do. I have a feeling that I know and then he does something different. And the same thing with Boyd Crowder. Iím very fortunate to kind of be in that situation where Iím getting to play this guy that you just donít fucking know. And thatís so interesting to watch.

So how far in advance do you want to know things then if thatís the case?

You know, I tend to not to like to know. I didnít know anything on "The Shield." We didnít really know more than really an episode out. But with this show, I know what I need to know. The thing thatís so refreshing about this show and why it hasnít digressed into some kind of rote pat format for me, itís that I donít know how Boyd Crowder is in love. I donít know how Boyd Crowder is with a CEO of a coalmining company. I donít know how Boyd Crowder is punching a fucking time clock. So every single day when I show up to work, I have no fucking idea how itís going to go down. And it just kind of reveals itself. And a nugget kind of just kind of gets placed there and thatís an actorís dream.

I want to ask about that. I remember Shawn (Ryan) saying after we saw "The Shield" finale that he didnít want to tell you what Shane did until he absolutely had to, because he didnít want you to be playing anything (in earlier episodes) informed by that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And he didnít. And I donít think that Boyd kind of has that problem on this show, even though I know a little bit more - probably 2 or 3 episodes more than I did with Shane - because heís so wily and so rascally that itís like riding a fucking bull. You donít know where heís going to move.

Can I ask what your reaction was when you got that final finale script?

I was doing Spike Leeís movie ("Miracle at St. Anna").

You were in Italy for that. Thatís right.

And I got the script sent and they delivered it to my room, and I like was shaking, trembling knowing that everyone else had already read it. And I was alone and I wasnít with everyone. And they read it that day. And no one had reached out to me. And it was like, "Why wouldnít you fucking e-mail me, man?" And I was like reaching out to everyone. "Hey, whatís going on?" And radio silence. And then I read it and honest to God Alan my reaction was reading it and I got through it and I read what happened and I did this (Goggins stands up, furious): "Fuck this! Fuck all you people! Fuck all of you! Iím not fucking doing that! Thereís no fucking way Iím doing that. Thereís no fucking way!" (he sits back down, perfectly calm again) That was it, man. That was my reaction.


And I went and I had a glass of wine and I had 2 glasses of wine, and then I came back up. Because you know for me it was, "You want me to say the n-word. You give Shane all the shit, right? You make him do and say anything," and what I felt like I wanted to do is to have all of those things and still have the audience conflicted about how they felt about him. Still have them see it from his point of view. And I thought, "Well, if he makes the decision to kill his family, heíll never recover from that. I mean, how can you ever fucking forgive that?" And Iíve overcome so many obstacles to have people like to spend time with Shane. And then the second time I read it, I thought, "Oh my God no. This is the greatest gift in the world. Not only have you given me an obstacle to overcome, but youíve essentially let Shane be the moral kind of victim of all of this. Heís the martyr. Heís the ultimate martyr for all of this life and he is the one who is going to sacrifice himself and his family ó his piece of it for penance for all the crimes theyíve committed. And I didnít know until we were watching the fucking show with 400 people, and I didnít even tell my gal and I didnít tell my mother. I told no one. And Iím sitting there with her and weíre watching it and heís in the bathroom and heís writing the note and theyíre outside the room. No one even thinks how the fuck is this going to happen. And then it happens and you could hear a pin drop. There was silence. And the next thing I heard was weeping. And I thought, "It worked. Oh my God it worked. Oh, theyíre going to love him. Oh theyíre going to love him. " So a big load off.

I had a similar experience. (FX) screened the last 2 episodes for critics, it was basically the exact same thing. Iím taking my notes and writing, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. They wouldnít go there. Oh my God." And yeah, everyone walked out of there just shaking.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Me too man. Me too.

And itís always been Vicís story and suddenly youíre like, "Wait a minute. It's Shane's story, too."

Yeah, yeah. It changed my life, Alan. I mean, it changed all of our lives. To be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to say words that are that good and to be a part of a story that was that well-crafted. And it was very hard for me to decide to go back into television again. My partner Ray McKinnon and I, you know, we make movies and we had sold a show to AMC called "Rectify." It was a show about a guy who spent 21 years on Death Row - this monk-like existence, knowing nothing about the outside world by his own choice - and heís released. And itís this guy whoís this spaceman whoís been away, and there are the politics of this town and the death penalty, and I thought that thatís where I was going to go. Thatís how I wanted to get back into television and they wound up not doing it at the last minute. And then the opportunity came up to continue with Boyd and I was just so... "excited" is not the right word. I was so curious, I suppose, about where this would go for him.

What is it like working with Tim? Because my sense of (Michael) Chiklis was always that he was relatively easy-going and Tim Iíve always seen as very opinionated on everything. Heíll let you know if thereís an issue.

Yeah. Well, Tim invited me here, with FX and with Graham so it was a decision by all of them to reach out to me. And he has given me, and because Iíve demanded it, complete autonomy with Boyd. And our conversations creatively are a lot of fun actually. We just sit, and I know him now. I really know him. He was a friend before, but I really know him now and Boyd really knows his Raylan. And itís just like butter. Itís like a river thatís flowing without any rocks in it. You know, itís just easy and itís just on a level grade... We do really well together.

When you say you have complete autonomy over Boyd, what exactly does that mean?

Meaning that, the writers are laying out their story and Boyd has to fit in their story and Iím certainly not a part of those decisions unless itís something that I think doesnít ring true for Boyd. Or what I think they lean on me for is to say, "Okay, well this is kind of his experience. This is what heís going through. This is him kind of meeting (a woman)," and then I can step in and say, "Well, then this is how Boyd might go about doing that. If heís going to fall in love with someone, how can we see behind the curtain? How can the audience can see him for the first time be vulnerable? What is Boyd like vulnerable? And if Boyd is going to fall in love with somebody, heís going to be the guy whoís going to recite poetry. Heís going to leave poetry around the kitchen. Heís going to fashion a rose out of a napkin. Heís going to do something with simplicity but something with flair and elegance because heís a poet. At his heart, in his core, heís a fucking artist, man. Heís an intellectual poet who happens to be a really bad guy who does bad things, you know?"

But beyond your reservations about the racist things Boyd says in the pilot, which were alleviated by the idea that Boyd was lying about everything, have there been times when youíve seen the script and youíve said, "Hell no"?

There have been. But itís never been necessary for me to say, "Hell no." Itís been about, "You know what, guys? I disagree with this. I really disagree with this. And if you want to go in this direction, then I think we have to kind of go around this corner." And they trust me. I mean Iíve been making movies for 10 years before.

Youíve got an Oscar on your shelf.

Well, that, but other features we just finished - we got nominated for 2 Independent Spirit Awards. And Iím proud of all of them. And Iíve spent the better part of 2 years in an editing room, all told, and so I donít come at this lightly. And they know this about me and Iím really proud of this, I donít give a note out of egoó ever. I only give a note based on story and based on believability for me. And they know that and they respect that and thatís why they involve me in the process. I think Iíve earned my right at the table and theyíve graciously kind of given me that offer.

And how different an experience is that arrangement versus working for Shawn, who's like, "This is what weíre doing and that's it"?

Well, itís itís apples and oranges. Because I would not have wanted to say anything to those writers on "The Shield." What am I going to say to you? The story was larger than any of the characters. But with this show, with Raylan and with Boyd, itís different and it begs a different attention. "The Shield" was serialized by its very nature. From the first word on the page, it was destined to be an 88 hour movie, you know? So because this show didnít start out that way, and was going to be more procedural, and because the history that these 2 characters have was one of the catalysts to give this show an opportunity to be serialized, I think theyíve depended on both Tim and I to participate.

I want to go back to "The Shield" finale and what happens with Shane and the family for a minute. First of all, I often ask actors when theyíve played a scene thatís particularly tough on the audience what it was like filming that day. And theyíve often like, "Oh, it was just another day on the set." But when you were doing the family meeting and all of that, what was that atmosphere like?

It never was just another day for me on the set. I mean, it was my last day. They purposely did that. So it was the very last day. And it was, honest to God, Iím getting emotional right now thinking about it because I havenít thought about it in a long time. It broke my heart. It broke my heart because I was saying goodbye. First and foremost I was saying goodbye to the crew. And they were really like family. And I know people say that and make that comparison all the time, but for this show in particular - as I could imagine for The Sopranos or anything that requires you to leave your heart on the fucking mat every single day - these people witness it. And they help you bring it forth. So it was really sad to say goodbye to them. And then my cast members, even though Michael and I talk all the time and Kenny and I talk all the time. I see these guys a lot, it was hard to say goodbye to looking at them every day and working with them every day because I so enjoyed watching them.

And then most importantly it was sad to say goodbye to Shane. It was sad to say goodbye to this guy who I put on his leather jacket every day, you know, for 7 years and the thought that I was never going to get to be him again, it was just so painful. But in hindsight the fact that he died made that healing much quicker for me, because I didnít have to think about where he was in the world and what he might be doing. It was over. It was done. And I could walk away from it, you know? And it seems silly I guess for an actor to say that. I mean, there are a lot of fucking really, really important things going on in the world, but it is my art and itís our art, itís your art, itís what we do. And youíre providing entertainment for people. I grew up with a family of storytellers and watching my family prepare to get up to tell a story, which would last for 30 minutes, I would just get ready and say, "Okay, the next storytellerís getting up. Whatís this going to be?" We provide an escape for people. Itís like reading a novel or anything else. Itís that medium and Iím just so fucking proud to be included in this group of people, man. And all thatís sincere. Thatís not bullshit.

The other thing is about that scene, from time to time one of my readers will ask, "Does Mara know?" When Shane calls the family meeting, is it just to give them the drinks or is it to discuss it with her and let her choose to participate?

I think itís probably to discuss it with her, you know? No oneís ever asked me that question and Iíve thought about that. I donít think that she went into this unwillingly. I think that she was a willing participant. Yeah.