Hateful Eight
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Interview Walton Goggins talking about Vice Principals and Lee Russell

Interview Walton Goggins talking about Vice Principals and Lee Russell

To date, Walton Goggins is one of the most interesting, charismatic, and innovative actors. He has played very different roles: from a slave overseer to a transgender prostitute. His characters are usually gritty and always a little off-kilter. In HBOs "Vice Principals" Goggins played Vice Principal Lee Russell, who battle to be their schools much-lauded principal. The actor spends an insane amount of time combing through each script to feel his character and become the character.

Your character, Lee Russell, was quite complicated. How much did you know about him reading the script?

Walton Goggins: Well, out of the gate Ill say it was one of the best scripts Ive ever read in television and comedy. It was incredible. But they had written the first nine episodes. I was actually doing The Hateful Eight and they sent me all nine episodes, and I just read them in the trailer in the snow. I couldnt believe that they were able to take their own brand of comedy to a whole new level. And I just said, Sign me up. Im in. Ive always wanted to play with these guys.

While reading the script, did you feel, Ive met this man?
Walton Goggins: I did, oddly enough. You know, you kind of get that. Whenever you read, like, a Quentin Tarantino movie, you get it in the writing. Everything is there; you just have to show up and then execute it. I felt that way with Justified and I feel that way with this. It was all on the page, and it was up to an actors interpretation of it, but for me, it was crystal clear. I saw myself as Lee Russell, in the way that he moved through the world. It was that specific.

Why do you think your hero wants to win and be a principal?

Walton Goggins: He is a very complicated guy. I think he is extremely impotent and he is lacking any real authority in his life. He feels that an answer to his problem lies in being number one on the call sheet, to use a film metaphor. Thats where he feels that he will finally, I think, have some peaceif he is the most important person in the room. And sadly, that is absolutely not the case.

Theres a moment in the show when the home life of your character opens up. What do you think about it?

Walton Goggins: His mother-in-law is mean to him because hes not worthy of her respect. I think youll see as the story goes, because I really do believe that the first season of this show is about who these people are, and the second season is about why they are who they are. A lot of that will come into play and a lot of those questions will be answered. They certainly were for me.

When youre playing a character like Lee Russell, how well do you feel him? Can you see past the boundaries of a show and tell what will happen with your character in years?

Walton Goggins: Well, no, because I dont think human beings, for the most part, have any idea who theyll be in a week. Its all contingent on what happens in your life. But I do know that I have enjoyed a string of opportunities to answer those questions for these people and to be along for the ride. I quite like being given an opportunity and playing pretend in a way where you dont have all the answers. The one thing that I do, is read these scripts like two or three hundred times. That gives me a real handle on where this particular person is at any given moment. Whats so great about really good writing is, you dont know where its going to go next. And thats what these guys have done.

Which advice did you remember the most?
Walton Goggins: I think at the end of the day, the best advice Ive ever been given is, Youre an actor, and actors act. Youre a storyteller. Storytellers tell stories. I am my level best when I am able to go between my personal life with my wife and my child, and a story that I love.