Walton Goggins is one of my absolute favorite actors, and people, on the planet. After playing the always riveting and often explosive Detective Shane Vendrell on The Shield, he went on to accomplish the impossible by topping that performance with his current one as the enigmatic Boyd Crowder on the FX drama series Justified, opposite Timothy Olyphant. And when he’s not on that show, he’s mixing it up with various roles in feature films, in genres that are all over the map.
While at the TCA Winter Press Tour, Collider got to sit down with the intriguing, fascinating and super-dedicated actor for this exclusive interview about the journey that Boyd Crowder will take in Season 3, how his character has finally accepted that this is his life and his making the most of it, what his relationship with Ava (Joelle Carter) has meant to him, and how great it’s been to develop the unique and unpredictable back-and-forth that Boyd has with Raylan Givens (Olyphant). He also talked about the experience of working with someone as dedicated as Daniel Day Lewis on Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, how much fun he had on G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and how excited he is about working on Django Unchained with Quentin Tarantino, who he’s been a fan of for 20 years. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there might be spoilers:
WALTON GOGGINS: Yeah, they had to find a criminal element that would interface with Raylan on one side of the law and me on the other side of the law. It’s tough. It took two actors to make up for Margo. I think I learned, early on, back on The Shield, the recipe for longevity is not trying to outdo yourself from the year before. It’s just a matter of being authentic and doing the best you can, and you hope that people watch it and like it. For us, we know where our bread is buttered, and we live by the written word of the critic. That’s how shows build a critical mass on cable. So, we hope that the critics like it.
Where is Boyd Crowder at this season, in his journey?
GOGGINS: Boyd is a very thoughtful guy. He’s a thinker, and he’s a very patient guy. He’s trying to lay the foundation for a criminal empire that is sustainable, and not rush into one direction or another, but build it block by block. If you look at it, Boyd’s crew is not that deep and not that strong. Cousin Johnny is in a wheelchair. He’s a bad-ass, but he’s in a wheelchair. Arlo is really cool, but he’s a lion in winter for sure. And I’ve got my beautiful girlfriend, Ava. It’s a matter of taking the loyalty of this family and this group of people, and building on that. It’s interesting.
Do you think that Boyd’s rise to criminal kingpin was always inevitable, or is he just seeing an opening and taking advantage of it?
GOGGINS: I don’t know. In Season 2, Boyd was about really coming to terms with who he is, as a human being. Prior to that, he was a guy who lived in the extremes, wherever the pendulum swung. If he was a coffee drinker, he was going to drink seven cups of coffee a day. But, after Season 2, he’s become a man of balance. For him, this season, it’s different because he’s different. He sees things differently. There’s no way he could have done what he’s setting out to do this season, in Season 1 or in Season 2, because he just wanted to be left alone. Now, he not only sees an opening, but he’s really being honest about who he is and there’s no other option for him. This is his life, but he’s accepted that this is his life. And now that he’s accepted it, he’s going to do it smartly.
GOGGINS: No, I don’t. She grounds him. Ironically, one thing that will be Boyd’s savior is his capacity to love another human being. It’s the first time in his life where he’s looked outward, instead of inward, for answers. He has someone to lean on, and I don’t think he’s ever put that kind of trust in another person. Now, Ava and Boyd have more in common then just their last name. They also have bullet wounds in common. That’s a true love story. Ava is Boyd’s pillar and, as the season goes on, I think you’ll see that Boyd is also Ava’s pillar. They’re there for one another. It’s interesting that, with all the different storylines and characters in this show, these two people would find love. It’s the most normal, domestic relationship. We read, we sit and talk outside, we take walks, we kill people.
You’ve said that you think Raylan and Boyd ultimately like each other, but Timothy Olyphant said that he thinks Raylan and Boyd ultimately hate each other. Do you think that difference of opinion is part of why the dynamic between your characters is so great?
GOGGINS: I think so. Tim and I have never even talked about it, in that way, but yeah, I think that’s a big part of that, along with insane mutual respect for each other. Tim has a real capacity to understand and to remind me that we’re in the world of Elmore [Leonard]. Where I tend to go to drama, he tends to go to comedy. Where I think that we are friends, he thinks that we are enemies. It’s just very interesting.
Will things between them change a lot more this season, especially with the road Boyd is going down now?
GOGGINS: Yeah. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. For me, I’m keeping my friend close. For him, he’s keeping his enemy closer. They have such a complex relationship, that every time we get together, it’s different than any other time we’ve ever done it before. Hopefully, that won’t stop. I don’t think it will stop. If you have someone in a town like this that, at the end of the day, you can lean on, then you’re ahead of the game. I think that, underneath all of it, Raylan knows that he can lean on Boyd. There’s a line that Boyd wouldn’t cross. And, Boyd knows the same thing about Raylan. It’s like, “You may arrest me, but you’re going to arrest me in the right way. You may kill me, but you’re going to kill me in the right way.” That we know, and there’s a mutual respect and understanding of each other. That’s gold, for an actor. It is as complicated a relationship as I’ve ever had, on screen or off screen, getting to play this character with Tim’s Raylan. He’s such a good actor and so specific. It’s just wonderful. I’ve really become good friends with him. He’s a really wonderful guy.
GOGGINS: Oh, yeah. I don’t think there’s any going back for him. He’s always been in charge. He’s always been a leader. He’s never been a follower. Whether he’s had an audience of one, an audience of 20, or an audience of 100, he’s always a leader. I don’t think he’s ever played second fiddle to anyone in his life, but I think he’s more comfortable and clear-headed about his direction as a leader, now that he’s come to this place, spiritually, in his life.
What’s it like to work on Lincoln with someone like Daniel Day Lewis, who lives in the character that he’s playing?
GOGGINS: There are so many actors that approach the work that way, from Forest Whitaker to Ed Harris to [Robert] Duvall to Chris Cooper. They’re everywhere. On a lot of people’s lists, Daniel is probably the best actor of his generation, and two subsequent generations. He’s that specific. What it does for me is it reminds me of how important this is. It’s nice to have that daily, almost minute-by-minute, reminder. This isn’t just a story about Lincoln. We’re not just doing another story about Lincoln. This is Steven Spielberg doing a story about one of the most flawed men, who is also one of the greatest men, and certainly one of the greatest presidents we’ve ever had, and feeling the weight that he was under and what was going on in this country. It was the schism that forever changed this country. So, when you have an actor that approaches the work that way, you show up to work every day with your fucking A-game.
GOGGINS: I play a congressman whose real name is Wells Hutchins, and he was a Democrat out of Ohio. The movie is about a lot of different things. It’s about Lincoln, and it’s about his relationship with his cabinet, but it’s also a story about the passage of the 13th Amendment. In order to pass the 13th Amendment, Lincoln needed a certain amount of Democratic congressmen to vote for it, or it wouldn’t have been bipartisan, and he needed the 13th Amendment to pass. So, I play a pivotal role in that part of the story.
How did you end up getting involved with G.I. Joe 2?
GOGGINS: Well, Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] just approached me. He had been a fan since The Shield, and he said, “I’m doing this big budget movie and I’ve got this role I want you to come play.” If you can bounce back and forth between a studio movie or a big action movie, like Cowboys & Aliens or G.I. Joe, and you balance that out, if you’re so lucky, with a wonderful television show or working with Steven [Spielberg], what better career can you have? One of the reasons why I wanted to do Justified so badly, or wanted to continue once we got up and going, was that I didn’t have to live in pain, every single day. On The Shield, for seven years, I was emotionally fucking wrecked. It was rare that we were just laughing. For the last five years, especially, it was really painful. Justified is lighter in tone, and it’s nice to be around that and show up to work and wear that hat. It’s the same thing for movies. G.I. Joe was fun. Lincoln was serious. I’m going to go do Quentin Tarantino’s movie (Django Unchained), and that’s going to be seriously fun. Once you’re at the buffet table, you just sample everything. That makes for a well-balanced life.
GOGGINS: Yeah, it’s a very, very big part of it. Just because of my personality, for me, comedy comes from pessimism, more often than not, and from a real place. In some ways, I wish I could tell a joke. I’m not good at telling a joke, but I can say a line in a certain way that makes people uncomfortable because they don’t know whether to laugh or not, and I love that comedy. That’s my favorite comedy, when it’s grounded in truth. And, I think G.I. Joe is going to be a really good film.
How did you end up working with Quentin Tarantino?
GOGGINS: I’m a big fan. I’ve been a big fan, like everybody else, for 20 years. He really enjoyed my work in the films I’ve done, that he’s really liked. The first time he saw me was in a movie called The Apostle, and he was a fan of The Shield and likes Justified. We had never met before, and had the opportunity to meet and had an incredible meeting. He is one of, if not the most, passionate filmmakers I’ve ever been around, and a lover of this art form and material, and he’s a master at it. He’s a master at directing a scene. So, I was like a little giddy schoolgirl around him. I was so full of excitement.
Did he tell you much about what you’d be playing in Django Unchained?
GOGGINS: Yeah, we talked about it. There’s one role that I really wanted to go for because of my commitment to Justified. It’s something that is a quintessential Quentin Tarantino scene.