The Shield's Walton Goggins: The TV Squad Interview
I'll be the first to admit it. I was a latecomer to The Shield. I'd never watched a minute of it until right before the fourth season started and a buddy of mine let me borrow the first three seasons on DVD. He told me it was the best cop show ever. Wait a second. Better than NYPD Blue or The Wire? Yes. So I watched the three seasons... in one weekend. The phrase "glued to my seat" does not begin to do justice to how mesmerized I was by this show. I mean, damn!
So naturally, when I was approached about speaking with Walton Goggins, I practically blew up with anticipation. However, I'm not the only Shield fan here at TV Squad. Our fearless leader Keith is a die-hard too. So we decided to do something different for this interview -- the first ever TV Squad Tag Team. Walton didn't know what he was stepping into... that is, if he could crack through all the codes to get into our elaborate virtual phone-in conference room. I can't say that I blame him. I got confused too.
Keith: Hey man, thanks for joining us.
Walton: (laughing) I'm in the inner sanctum of some imaginary corporate office right now.
Jonathan: I know, it's crazy! You have to push buttons and number sequences and then some computerized voice announces your name.
Walton: No shit, we have to do these... you have to wonder, it's crazy. Like, where are these calls being hosted, by what website or whatever and you bring all these people together. We do this with my production company because it's easier sometimes and we're all on different coasts. I guess my point is that I do these often and I've never had a voice announce my name. You guys are a little more sophisticated than we are at Ginny Mule Pictures. (laughing) So how ya doin'?
Keith: Well, I'm Keith McDuffee, the editor of TV Squad and Jonathan is one of our writers.
Jonathan: Hi Walton, thanks for speaking with us.
Walton: Not a problem guys. I actually looked at your site. It's quite extensive. You got a lot of content to generate brother.
Keith: Well some of that includes The Shield. Jonathan and myself will both be writing episode reviews once the show starts back up again. It was actually just me last season, but he begged me enough to let him in on it.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Walton, where exactly are you guys in the filming of the new season?
Walton: Actually we're finished. We got all the episodes in the can, believe it or not, back in September. We did season five and then only took off six weeks. Then we immediately went into season six.
Jonathan: Well wasn't it supposed to be one big season initially?
Walton: Kind of, yeah. You know, they weren't sure what was going to happen. We didn't know if six was going to be our last or not. Then the way season five ended with a bang... so to speak. All this stuff needed to be explored. But Michael [Chiklis] was doing Fantastic Four 2 and he had a deadline and the rest of us were like, "Yeah buddy, that's your movie. You gotta do it." So we went right back into production. So it was really, for the first time, like doing a regular season of television. And it's just different world.
Jonathan: Right, because you're going from the normal 13 or so episodes and now you're doing 21.
Walton: Exactly. With The Shield and the subject matter we deal with and to do that to keep up the content and the quality, it's hard. It's taxing. Emotionally, it's really kind of hard to go through.
Jonathan: Well what about that final season then? Is there a timetable for when you go back into production?
Walton: Yeah we do. We're gonna go back some time in late May while the new season is still airing.
Jonathan: Oh wow, that soon? That's awesome. Alright, well I suppose we should dive into some of these questions because I know Keith and myself have a boatload of them. You mentioned that season five ended with bang. That's an understatement. You're going along, filming season five, and one day you pick up the season finale script and read that Shane is going to kill Lem. I mean, how'd you react to that?
Walton: You know... it was, I mean just couldn't believe it. It took me a long time to wrap my head around it. You have to understand that Kenny Johnson was a dear friend of mine three years before this show even started. We shared a house together when we did Major League: Back to the Minors. I'm like, the homerun hitter and he played the third baseman. So when I saw him walk in the trailer [for The Shield], I thought, "Oh my god. If this goes, I'm gonna have this incredible life experience with you." So to see that script come across my desk was... I was speechless. Very emotional. We knew about it before it was coming. It's such a touchy thing, losing someone. Because you really are losing someone in this case. You're not gonna be laughing with them every single day anymore. So I had a really good heart-to-heart with Kenny, and with Michael, and with Shawn [Ryan], and we came around to the thinking that this is Shakespearean and this move will elevate this show. It was the right thing to do. He is the one character who would make the most impact and if he was going to go off of the show, then I would want it to be by my hands. I would want to be trusted with that and bear the responsibility and scorn that has come from it. So we all approached it very seriously.
Keith: You know if Kenny has anymore involvement with flashbacks like the mini-episode? I mean obviously you do know since you're wrapped, but anything else?
Walton: (laughing) I don't want to tell you guys! Not even gonna touch that with a ten-foot pole. Shawn and the writers, they surprise everybody. They're not ones to do what other people do. They try not to repeat. Just wait and see buddy. It's really good.
Jonathan: Well regardless of whether or not we will see Lem again, what was it like doing that prequel episode and getting to work with Kenny on The Shield for one of the last times?
Walton: They had that idea much earlier on than I think people realize and we filmed it in the middle of the season. And the energy was back. It was right there. There's this synergistic kind of quality of The Strike Team when we're together and we've been very good friends for a very long time now. So to have that dynamic again was something that I can't put words to. It was bittersweet, but it was sweet. And we tasted it and we had the best time that we possibly could in the two days that we had to shoot that.
Jonathan: That's so cool. Alright, here's the big mind bending question that I really want to ask to kind of wrap up my thoughts on Lem. The impression we've been left with is that Vic is absolutely 100% against whoever killed Lem. We know he's going to find out that Shane did it at some point this season. But it's a huge double standard if you think about it because how is what Shane did to Lem any different than what Vic did to Terry in the pilot episode?
Walton: Can I just say something? You just asked and made that statement and to me it just speaks to your level of intelligence...
Jonathan: (laughing hysterically) Well, thank you.
Walton: No really, you have that understanding of the psyche behind the show.
Jonathan: It's one of the most psychological shows on TV if you ask me. Every episode tests your moral being and makes you question everything.
Walton: That's exactly right and anyone who would feel another way about what happened would just be a hypocrite. Granted, we didn't know Terry very well and we got five years to know Lem. But the sin is the same and maybe Vic is just reaping what he's sown. Plus, Shane after the original sin of this show, was the moral center. He was the conscience after Terry's death because no one knew. He had the problem with it at the time. That violent act that he willingly participated in defined his moral compass. Or screwed it up because it brought up the question, "If I can do that then what can't I do?" That's why he acted out for as long as he did. So when this situation arose, he couldn't do it as cold-heartedly as Mike was in that pilot.
Jonathan: All Shane could do was apologize and cry as he did it.
Walton: Exactly. I think some would say that that's even more cowardly, to not do it face to face. I don't know the answer to that question. But I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing. Shane had the grenade in his car but I think it was all very confusing and not necessarily pre-meditated. I think he was a little disconnected from what he did. But after the explosion, the realization hit Shane very fast. Who wouldn't wish to take something like that back?
Keith: It almost made me angry that the writers decided to not let the grenade just kill Lem. But he was alive for a bit to torture Shane even more. But do you think, I mean as seasons have gone on, his family life with Mara. That's affected his decision making too?
Walton: Well you know that's interesting, let's talk about that for a second. You've got this guy, adrift, untethered. He was a part of a very violent act and violent acts beget violent acts. For some people, once you go down that road, it's very hard to turn around. Vic, the whole team really, is a master at compartmentalization, but sometimes the water spills over. That's what was happening to Shane. He met a woman and people have hated her, but for what? For wanting to get her husband out of a situation that was really not good for him? Really detrimental to his character? He was straddling a fence, but she tethered him and gave him this structure that he had never had in his life. But the way Vic has protected his family, Shane now has to protect his. There's a difference though because Vic never turns to his wife and Shane did. Granted he still fucks around (laughing), and gets his stuff on the side. But he's honest with her about a lot of things.
Jonathan: Well I guess now is as good a time as any to ask the obligatory "What's in store for the new season?" question.
Walton: It's a big deal. I think what you're gonna get to see, and I hope the critics feels this way when they see it because it's what I've certainly been crowing about. More often than not, in television shows, you experience grief in a three episode arc. Maybe, at the most. This is not a procedural show. It's all about the characters. Given what happened, grief, and pain, and Lemonhead's death, is the central theme to these ten episodes. It's going to be at the core of conflict for the rest of this show. The life of it. You're going to see Shane unravel in a deep, sick, self-loathing, sadistic kind of way. Looking for ways to pay for what he did without telling what he did. It's painful to watch and I'm just so grateful for the opportunity to have been given this role and to play that level of grief and sadness. But a lot has changed. The Strike Team as we know and love doesn't really exist anymore. There are some new people. That in itself is sad because it's been so long since the four of us, the four horseman, were rolling up in Mexico. I mean, the baddest mother fuckers on television! You knew if the four of us were walking down the street, somebody's ass was gonna get kicked! You can't help but watch that and want to be on that team because it looks like they're having so much fun and we were. But to go from that extreme to where we are now. It's just no longer existing like that.
Keith: The beginning of the end.
Walton: Yeah. Everything is unraveling. But Vic will find out and Shane is going to have to forgive himself to move on. It'll be interesting to see how the audience picks up on that.
Keith: What else do you have coming up besides the show? Any other projects?
Walton: Well I'm talking to other showrunners since we know seven is going to be the last season. I'm actually in the midst of developing a show and I'm really excited about it. It's not sometime I set out to do but an idea just came to me over a glass of wine one night and I don't think we've seen anything like it before. But I'm continuing to make movies with my partners too. Our first short film actually won an Academy Award.
Jonathan: I saw that, The Accountant right?
Walton: Yeah and that led to our second film, which was a hillbilly art film with Billy Bob Thornton. And we actually just finished up our latest film called Randy and the Mob. It's a southern suburban comedy about a guy who gets in trouble with the mob and has to turn to his identical twin gay brother for help.
Jonathan: That's a crazy premise. I love it. But I think I've actually exhausted all the questions I wanted to ask. It's just so great to talk to someone who's so invested in their work and that's definitely you.
Keith: Seriously. Thanks for this Walton
Walton: Thank you fellas. Um, you said invested and that's funny because we really feel that what we're doing is more than just a television show. We really like to look at it as being a part of the best little independent film on television every week.