While at Comic-Con for a presentation in Hall H, actor Walton Goggins spoke to the press about his role as the tough and ruthless Billy Crash, in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino Western, Django Unchained, about a slave-turned-bounty hunter who’s out to save his wife. During the interview, he talked about preparing for such a despicable role, the challenge of finding characters that are creatively satisfying, how much he thinks the film will challenge modern American audiences and their view of history and slavery, and how much he loves playing Boyd Crowder on his hit FX drama series Justified. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: What can you say about your character in this film?
WALTON GOGGINS: I play one of the coolest cowboys. I play Billy Crash, who’s the chief overseer on the Candie Land plantation, owned by Calvin Candie, who is played by Leonardo [DiCaprio]. Calvin has a penchant for watching Mandingos, or black men, fight, and it’s a violent fight to the death. I’m his Mandigo fight trainer, extraordinaire. He’s a ruthless guy. He’s a tough motherfucker. But, he’s also really cool.
How did you prepare for this role?
GOGGINS: Getting comfortable with the gun. It’s a big part of who he is. Quentin calls this movie a Southern, but part of it is a real Western. I’m very lucky that Billy Crash is one of the main antagonists, in the Western scope of the movie. So, I had to get really, really good with my gun ‘cause this guy is one of the fastest draws in the west, and he’s smooth. Your personality is dictated by how you hold and holster your weapon, and what you do with it, in between, so I spent a lot of time on that. I also spent a lot of time thinking about his walk and the way that he stands. I wanted to infuse this man who does these barbaric things and have him stand very elegantly. When you put that gear on, you just walk a certain way. I thought it was really cool.
When you play a character as incredibly complex and layered as Boyd Crowder is on Justified, is it challenging to find roles that are as creatively satisfying?
GOGGINS: Yeah! They’re hard to find. A lot of people have that experience. I felt, after Shane Vendrell, I would never find someone that I enjoyed playing as much. I couldn’t wait to wake up and be in his headspace. And then, Boyd came long. I’ve also had a few film roles that have been that way, but none like this one. This is a big bite. It’s a really big bite. I’m a part of this movie that is dealing with some really complex issues, and it’s doing it with laughter and violence and absurdity. It changes the system for this country, outwardly and inwardly. I knew it was deep. I tend to look for that shit. Whether I’m projecting onto it or not, that’s where I like to live. But, this movie is so that. It’s everything that you would want to see in a Quentin Tarantino movie, and more.
As a performer, is it difficult to get into the skin of a character like this?
GOGGINS: Yeah, absolutely! I bonded and hung out with some of the black actors, who I didn’t know but we had a lot of friends in common, when we got down to New Orleans. And then comes your first day at work, and you’ve got to say and do these things. While liberal Walton didn’t have anything to apologize for, I began every take with an apology because these were my friends. Outside of a race of people and what that means to everybody, to these specific individuals that were my buddies, I said, “Man, I’m so sorry!” You just have to go there. And then, I would end it with an apology and we’d go out drinking, later on that night. It’s not easy. It’s awful to say those things. But, you’re in the service of something much greater than yourself and you’re telling a piece of history that is the biggest blight on our history, as a country. It needs to be retold, and I’m a part of that. I’m a color, and he painted with all these incredible colors. I think I’m a color he had a good time with. It changed my life.
How much do you think Django Unchained will challenge modern American audiences and how they view history and slavery?
GOGGINS: For me, when I read this script for the first time, I thought this was going to start a revolution, and not necessarily people in the streets, but an inward revolution. You can go to a history class with one teacher and want to stick a pencil in your throat, and then go to another teacher who is able to contextualize it or deliver the message in a way that you’re riveted. QT has a way of fucking reaching his audiences. I think it’s going to play a significant part in race conversations, at least for the immediate future afterwards, if not for longer than that. Make your dinner reservations now ‘cause you’re gonna wanna talk after this movie.
How did this movie fit in with your Justified schedule?
GOGGINS: I did Lincoln in the Fall, while we were working [on the show]. John Landgraf at FX and Graham [Yost] really wanted it to happen for me, so they were very accommodating. That happens, from time to time, on shows. They were going to accommodate this too, but it got pushed a little bit. We wrapped on March 1st, and this started afterwards. The thing about cable, that you’re not afforded in network, is that we do 13 episodes, so we work five months out of the year. I have seven months to do movies, and I love both. I love going to work every day. I love my show. I love Boyd Crowder. I don’t want to leave that. But, I love telling stories in this format, too.
Since the Western is one of the oldest genres in cinema, and it means so many things to so many people, what do Westerns mean to you?
GOGGINS: I’ve got one of those faces. That’s a blessing. That’s not a curse. Neither Justified nor Django is my first Western. I’ve done a few now, and I love it. I think they’ve all stood on the shoulders of the one that came before it. Being in this story with a guy with a hat for three years made it easier to slide into this movie, but Billy Crash is nothing like Boyd Crowder. Billy is a fucking shark! I look at Boyd as maybe a puffer fish. He’s a real thinking man. Billy is a very smart guy, but there’s no similarity between the two.
What did you notice about working with both Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg?
GOGGINS: I don’t know because I’d never worked with either of them, prior. I just know that when we’re talking about movies, 100 years from now, you’re going to be talking about those two guys, and I got the chance to work with both of them, over the course of six months. I can’t wait to see how Boyd Crowder is infused by the last six or eight months of my life. It’s going to be good.
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