On the FX drama Justified, actor Walton Goggins plays the intriguing, complex and still completely mysterious Boyd Crowder. Long time friend and ultimate nemesis to U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), the extremist turned born-again Christian leader turned mine worker always keeps viewers guessing.
In a recent interview, Walton Goggins talked about the growth of his character over Season 2, Boyd’s own moral compass and code of ethics, his evolving relationships on the show, exploring the possibility of love for his character, and how Boyd is still a definite mystery to him as well. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: In Season 1, your character was the antagonist, but in Season 2, viewers are almost pulling for him. What do you think about that transition of your character? Do you feel that Boyd Crowder has become a more sympathetic character?
WALTON GOGGINS: I think that Boyd is continually changing. From the pilot to Episode 2 was a big swing in a completely different direction. Then, from Season 1 to Season 2 was an even bigger swing. If you look at the trajectory of Boyd Crowder, think about this Svengali and showman in the pilot episode, and then this near-death experience and religious conversion, and the ambiguous nature of that conversion, only to be revealed, at the end of Season 1, that he did truly believe in God. In some ways, that was his answer.
So, when we come into Season 2, having that foundation rocked to its core, what you found is a man who is not even searching for meaning. He’s searching for the absence of meaning. He’s just trying to wander and be aimless for awhile. We, as human beings, find a character like that sympathetic. With the type of vulnerability that Boyd is feeling this season, you have the opportunity to see who this guy is. You’re looking behind the curtain. You’re getting to see behind the facade.
It’s really interesting to me because I didn’t really know who he was. It’s still a mystery to me. I’m still figuring it out, every single day. This season, at the beginning, I think what Graham [Yost] and the writers and myself tried to do is take a man who lived in the extremes, only to thread a needle, to come out the other side and maybe find a man in balance. What will a Boyd Crowder in balance look like? I don’t know.
This season, Boyd has shown that he’s equally capable of being at peace in a domestic situation, or turning the tables on those three mine-robbers who would have killed him and even giving them a chance to make a different choice. What is it about Boyd that makes him not merely comfortable with both peaceful and dangerous situations, but capable of enjoying both equally?
GOGGINS: I think it’s been a journey of self-discovery for Boyd, this season. He’s in the process of figuring that out. I don’t want to give it away now, but coming up in three or four episodes, you’re basically going to see what Boyd has taken away from this introspective journey within. He’s going to be able to articulate this, in a way that Boyd would articulate this. He’s going to just lay it all out there. It’s beautiful and, in some ways, the audience will really understand this guy and not just feel sympathy for him, but understand him from a birds-eye point of view. You’ll see his worldview laid out in a way that makes sense.
How do you think Boyd has developed his code of ethics and behavior?
GOGGINS: His moral compass does not always point north by a larger society’s standard, but there is a moral code there, and it is shifting. Whereas before, he probably would have shot all three of those men point-blank, he did give them an opportunity to make the decision for themselves. Had they decided not to go against Boyd, I think that Boyd would have honored his word and gone through with the robbery. It’s interesting how his moral code has changed from the beginning of Season 1. Hopefully, what you’re going to see will inform that moral code, more than anything, and allow him to find a place in the middle that has love. You’re seeing that burgeoning relationship happening now between him and Ava. At the end of the day, what may be Boyd’s salvation is love. A moral code infused with that kind of love, to Boyd, is even more complex than believing in Jesus or any other escapade that he’s found himself in or on.
GOGGINS: I worked really hard with the writers and with Joelle to set this relationship up, in a way that we feel like we’ve earned, so that when it happens, if it does happen, you will be ready for it. You will think that we’ve earned it because we’ve taken our time with it. For any kind of courting process, especially in a town like Harlan, which in my opinion, is suspended in time, it means something. Even though we have cell phones and things from the 21st century, Harlan really is of another place in time.
We worked really hard to establish the courting slowly and to do it over time, so that when we do get there, we feel like we’ve earned it. Some of the most interesting conversations we had, at the beginning of the season this year, revolved around Boyd as a romantic guy. How would Boyd go about really courting a woman? I said, “Let’s do things different.” He has to come at this from a completely different angle because, in his heart, Boyd is a poet. He’s an intellectual. You can use a lot of adjectives to describe him, but poet is one of them.
So, it was just a slow process about earning this and making it different than the rest of television. Hopefully, we’ve done our job and you’ll want to see them hook up, by the time they do. It’s interesting for a man like Boyd. For Boyd, how ironic and satisfying would it be that, if at the end of this man’s journey, what brought him peace was a true understanding of love. Maybe he is in the process of experiencing an emotion that he’s never experienced before. Just like in Season 1 with God, he wanted to go to the bottom of the well and that wasn’t deep enough, so he went to the bottom of a mineshaft, only to come out of it and come into the light, and that light be love. What does that look like for a guy as twisted and strange as Boyd Crowder? It’s wonderful. Every day is a surprise for me, and I’m very lucky.
Do you see the relationship between Boyd and Ava as mutual support, or does he need her approval?
GOGGINS: If you’re in Alcoholics Anonymous, or any other program, and you’re trying to get sober, those people become your family and you lean on them. Having gone through the tragedy that Ava went through with Boyd’s brother, of all people, and Boyd having gone through the tragedy that he went through, there’s an intimacy created there, through pain and suffering. They are a mutual support system, and that will inform this relationship, as it progresses. Who Boyd is, as a person, may be a schism that they can’t get over, or maybe they can. I think that who Boyd is, will play a part in how this relationship evolves.
How is Boyd going to navigate Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), during the rest of this season?
GOGGINS: I don’t know how much of that I can really go into, but Boyd really uses a scalpel when he approaches people, and Mags uses a sledgehammer. Hopefully, Boyd will be able to do it in a way that is truthful. If you watch him and the way that he manipulates situations, 80% of what he says is truthful. I think he’s an honorable guy, in his way. He’s a thief among thieves. Once the Bennetts and the Crowders really get together, you’re going to see that play out in a couple of different directions. One may be upfront, and the other may not.
Does Boyd like Mags?
GOGGINS: I think Boyd Crowder respects Mags Bennett. I don’t know whether or not he likes Mags Bennett, but I think he respects her.
Does Boyd like Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant)?
GOGGINS: I think Boyd Crowder very much likes Raylan. I’ve heard Tim [Olyphant] say in a couple of interviews that he doesn’t think that Raylan and Boyd are friends, but I would fervently disagree, at least from Boyd’s point-of-view, and that’s the only point-of-view I can really speak from. I think that he sincerely values the relationship that he has with Raylan. When we first got the first two scripts this year, Boyd wasn’t in Episode 1, except at the very end. There was a conversation that we have in Episode 2, early on, right after we leave the mine. At the beginning of that conversation, Raylan states why he’s there. It is so wonderful, as an actor, to find those moments that, while they’re not overt, they fill in the layers. If Boyd can get hurt by Raylan, than Boyd really cares for Raylan.
Where would you like to see Boyd’s relationship with Raylan go, in the future?
GOGGINS: I wish I could give you an answer. I don’t know. I have no idea, after what happens at the end of this season. I’m not sure. Eventually, these guys are going to have to butt heads in a way that skulls are going to be cracked. I hope that we prolong that day, as long as possible. I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen between these two. In some ways, I think they have much more in common than they have not in common. Going forward, I would want to explore that a little bit more because we know that Raylan understands that they’re on the opposite sides of the fence, but there might be a place where Raylan comes to an understanding and admission of how similar he is to the good side of Boyd. But, I don’t know. I have no idea. I can’t wait to see it. We just wrapped Season 2, two days ago. I’m satiated with the way it ended up that I haven’t really begun to think about next season, and if we get the opportunity to come back.
How far in advance do you find out things that are going to happen to your character? Do you even like to have that information in advance?
GOGGINS: On The Shield, we never knew anything, until literally the day before we started shooting, when we would get the script. It would be these crazy situations that they would put us in, and they really kept us in the dark. I know a little more in advance with this, probably about a week and a half. Graham [Yost] and the writers have invited participation from us because we’re in the heads of these characters. It’s really productive, in this particular situation, to seek out that collaboration. We’ve had a really good time and, in some ways, ownership over these characters and the situations they find themselves in. The writers come up with the story and they break the story. They give us some key character arcs that they want to get through, over the course of the season. We sit and talk about that. Once those situations are set up, then the conversation begins about how Boyd would really react in those situations. That’s our process, and I like it.
Do you think that Boyd has an inner conflict about being true to his word?
GOGGINS: I think what Graham [Yost] and the writers were able to do this year, and hopefully what I’ve been able to participate in, is the antithesis of the first season, where the viewers never bought that Boyd’s spiritual conversion was for real, until the end. This season, on some level at least, the viewers believes Boyd, but the rest of the people in Harlan don’t believe Boyd. That’s really interesting because I think that the actions that Boyd may take in the future may have a wider margin of forgiveness from the viewers, if they completely understand this guy. We’ll see what happens.
There are things that Raylan does that are not on par with Boyd, but certainly can be construed as immoral and borderline criminal. These two guys are moving closer together, and there are things that happen, as the season progresses. I don’t know that it was necessarily constructed that way, from the beginning, where they found themselves experiencing emotions in different ways, but that were very similar, but that’s really cool. When you’re looking at two different people, in two different worlds, going through the exact same thing, and neither one of them really knows it about each other, that was something that I was excited to read and that I hope viewers are excited to watch. At the end of the fifth episode this season, Boyd had an epiphany. There’s a certain realization, on his part that, that’s like, “Wait a minute, this may indeed be who I am.” It’s not the Boyd from Season 1. It’s not the guy who found God, and then lost God. It’s a guy that is dipping his toes in the water and figuring out who he is. I feel like that’s what Boyd’s been doing since the show began, to be quite honest with you.
Is Boyd as mysterious to you as he is to the viewers?
GOGGINS: He’s mysterious to me as well. I like that, for a person like Boyd, who is as smart as he is, he understands that his strength comes in ambiguity. What’s been his albatross is his ambiguity to himself. But, what may be ultimately his salvation and his ultimate strength is being truthful with himself and to a couple of people around him. It’s been very interesting just to play that and figure him out. Yes, he’s still a mystery to me, for sure. I’m trying to make sense of it, a word at a time.