The popular and critically acclaimed FX drama series Justified, developed by Graham Yost and based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard, returns for its highly anticipated Season 2 on February 9th. Fresh off the epic gun battle that concluded Season 1, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) must now face off against the criminal organizations that are moving in to fill the void left by the removal of the Crowder family’s criminal grip on Harlan County. One such foe is Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), whose family has been the biggest pot farmers in Eastern Kentucky for generations, and which has undoubtedly led to their long-standing feud with Raylan’s family. Also returning this season is Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), one of the most fascinating and complex characters currently on television. Boyd is Raylan’s long-time friend and ultimate nemesis who is trying to prove to everyone, including himself, that he can reform his past extremist ways.
During a recent exclusive interview with Collider, actor Walton Goggins talked about the appeal of playing the intriguing and often morally ambiguous Boyd Crowder, how his character is starting to find some balance from his past behavior, and how much he enjoys learning about Boyd at the same time the character is learning about himself. He also talked about his roles in the upcoming feature films Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Jon Favreau and due out in theaters on July 29th, and Straw Dogs, also starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, and Alexander Skarsgard. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
WALTON GOGGINS: There was a lot of hesitation, yeah. My first reaction was, “No,” first and foremost because it was so close to The Shield, and secondly because, after what the critics had done for me and the things that were said about that show, I did not want to sully that with asking people to accept me in another role, and certainly a role that could have been as controversial as Boyd [Crowder]. You don’t say those things about Jews without generating some ire. And so, therefore, I just said, “No, I’m not going to be seen in that way. These people have been too good to me.” But, we talked about it and talked about it and talked about it, and I thought, “You know, if we can do it right and you guys will let me do this role the way that I want to do it, then we may have something special and the critics may actually dig it. Just seeing something so radically different than Shane, so soon, might be a blessing and not a curse.”
And, that was just for the pilot, right?
GOGGINS: Yeah, we went on faith and thought we were just going to do the pilot. And then, it worked out and people responded, and they asked me to stay on once I finished this movie (Predators) I was working on. I just was so curious about who this fucking guy was that it was too salacious to pass up. It was juicy and sexy. After playing that many years playing Shane, who is loyal as the day is long and is the guy that you want to have your back, but he always shows up into the room 20 seconds to late and is always operating from a deficit, like he’s standing in a hole, and he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, I wanted to play a guy who was on par, intellectually, with anyone else on television. I wanted to have him be self-taught and from a place where he didn’t get an opportunity to have an ivy league education, but have him understand that, and be so self-aware, and have this IQ, and to be raised in this milieu and this environment, and to take it upon himself to educate himself and see the world through books. Eventually, he went into the service. I wanted to see the South portrayed through that prism. That was really interesting to me. I’m so glad, I don’t regret it. I’m having the best time.
GOGGINS: Without a few modifications in the pilot, I don’t think that Boyd would have been a part of the show. You can’t play someone that is unredeemable and have people like them. I thought, “If nothing else, people will enjoy watching him because of his unpredictability. But, if we can really build this and really keep the audience guessing whether or not Boyd’s conversion is authentic or genuine, and we can wait until the finale and really show that he actually believes this, we could generate enough sympathy for him that people might fucking fall in love with him.” And then, this season, you’re piercing the veil and seeing behind this showman, and that’s really interesting. I hope the audience goes on this journey of self-discovery with him. I don’t think Boyd knows all of these things about himself. I think, for the first time, he’s really discovering who he is. He’s spending 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, looking for nothing, and that’s fucking interesting to watch, when it’s a guy that has lived the life that Boyd Crowder has lived.
With the journey that he went on last season, was there anything that most surprised you, as far as the story arc went?
GOGGINS: Yeah, there were so many things that surprised me. I wasn’t surprised about how quick he assembled men and how quick he immediately went into the extremes of religious fanaticism because I think that Boyd Crowder was the kind of guy, last season, that didn’t understand grey. He only understood white or black – the two opposing colors on the spectrum. For him, nothing existed in the middle. He had to believe totally in whatever it was that he was believing in, at the time, in order for the universe to make sense to him, or everything would be chaos. I think that’s how he quiets his mind. If he were to make coffee, he would be the best fucking coffee roaster in Harlan County. That’s just how he is.
Now, Boyd Crowder this season, after going through this very dark period, is starting to find some balance. His voice has even changed, around Episode 5, and he’s still cool. The way that he’s approaching situations is different, and he’s trying to act in a different way. He still has his mind, and that’s how he’s able to solve these problems, but his mind is being more humble and tuned. It’s going to get really interesting, going forward. I think his showman will come back. That grandiose behavior will return, at some point, but that will even be different.
GOGGINS: Well, the writers had definitely spent a lot of time on their own, thinking about where he would go. My biggest conversation with Graham [Yost], before this season began, when we found out we were going to come back, was that, after losing 18 men and seeing his father be executed in front of him, he has to do a fair amount of wandering and go deep. Whatever that means emotionally, he has to go inward and get very quiet, and not even contemplative yet, but we have to go through his stages of grief. And, I think Graham and the writers were thinking along those same lines anyway, and went so far as to put him, not in the bottom of a well, but in the bottom of a fucking mine, a mile underground, in order for him to be in a place on this planet that equaled how he felt emotionally. That was just like, “Wow, he’s in the mine. That makes perfect sense. He doesn’t have to talk to anybody. It’s black all day. And, when he comes out at night, it’s dark outside and he can drink.” It was really, really cool. So, I did participate, but I’m thankful that Graham and the writers and I were thinking along the same lines.
Now that you’ve been playing this character for a while, how do you see him? What kind of person is Boyd Crowder?
GOGGINS: I don’t know, honest to god. What’s so interesting about this guy is that I don’t know how he falls in love. I don’t know how he would kiss Ava (Joelle Carter). I don’t know how he would touch Ava. I don’t know how he would speak to a CEO of a coal mining company. I don’t know he would be in a courtroom, unless he was in shackles and chains. I don’t know how he punches a time clock. I don’t know who his friends are at work. I don’t know anything about this guy, in that way, and I don’t think Boyd Crowder knows anything about how he is, in these instances. I think he’s just figuring it out, and I’m just trying to figure it out with him. I think what may happen is that the audience, for the first time, will really believe everything that he says, but no one else around him on the show does. And then, the audience may get surprised. You never know. But, I think the audience will be with Boyd and believe him, early on.
GOGGINS: I love him just the way he is. I wouldn’t change a thing about him. I love his love of words and I love his love of literature. I like that he’s just his own bird. He’s authentic. I like authentic people, personally, and I like authentic characters.
Who are you playing in Straw Dogs?
GOGGINS: With Straw Dogs, I was talking to Rod Lurie and he said, “Well, what do you think about this character or this character?,” and I said, “I really like Daniel because he’s a really nice guy and I want to move more in that direction, but it seems like I’m saddled with making these despicable guys likeable.” Warren Oates did it, and a lot of my other heroes have done that. If that’s my destiny, then that ain’t half bad. That’s a cup half full.
How did you get involved with Cowboys & Aliens, and what is your character in that film?
GOGGINS: Jon [Favreau] actually invited me to come play with those guys. I play Daniel Craig’s biggest fan. I’ll just say that.