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Walton Goggins Talks About the 'Justified' Season Finale, 'The Shield' Series Finale and Being a Lovable 'Predator'

by Kim Potts, posted Jun 8th 2010 5:15PM
Walt Goggins, Justified'Justified' has unfolded in a nice, slow manner throughout its first season, but tonight's season finale (10PM ET) of FX's latest hit offers a big payoff for fans, with action and character revelations that make for a satisfying capper and new developments that will have you wishing season 2 was starting next week.

At the center of it all: 'The Shield' alum Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, the complicated Kentuckian who started off the series as a swastika-ed white supremacist, but, thanks to a near-death experience (and some Emmy-worthy acting by Goggins), has turned into one of the most compelling characters in primetime, and, yes, one you can't help but like, or at the very least, be completely fascinated by.

Goggins, who's already been bumped to series regular for the show's second season, called TV Squad from Los Angeles to talk about how he almost turned down the role of Boyd, how he helped saved the character's life -- literally -- in the pilot, how he felt about the way the storyline wrapped for his other complex TV alter ego, Shane Vendrell, and how he's going to make movie fans fall for his death-row inmate character in 'Predators,' the Robert Rodriguez-produced big-screen 'Predator' sequel.

When you were approached for the role on 'Justified,' you initially said no ... why?

I did, yeah. I wanted to be very careful about how I was seen on FX again. My time as Shane Vendrell on FX and being a part of 'The Shield' meant a great deal to me, and I didn't want to taint that in a way with a character that I didn't think was at least on par with Shane Vendrell. I care too much about that audience and this network, and I didn't want to do a bad job. And I wanted to be very careful about how I was perceived on this network in a new show.

This show, 'Justified,' in the pilot, on the written page, was unbelievable. I just didn't want to be part of perpetuating a stereotype of a Southern character that I disagreed with. And it was through exploring the possibilities of this character, and in my mind, what this character could be, and getting an opportunity to participate collaboratively with ['Justified' creator] Graham [Yost] and FX and Tim [Olyphant] that gave me the confidence that I could do something with Boyd that might be exciting and something different.

JustifiedGraham has confirmed that Boyd was originally going to be killed off in the pilot. Did that change as soon as you came on board?

No, no, Boyd was going to die. I just agreed to do one episode ... I just wanted to participate in a way, in this show, that would help launch this beautiful experience for all these people. And we'd gotten Boyd to a place where, for me, we celebrated kind of the intellect of this character. And it was enough for me to just do one episode. And that was it. And in fact, [Boyd] did die! [Laughing] The bullet hit me in the heart, I went back in the chair and was no longer breathing on film. And then they started showing the pilot to audiences, in a testing situation, and the audiences really responded to the relationship between Raylan and Boyd, and then the character of Boyd.

[Producers] came back then, and said, "Would you like to live and do some more?" And so, we had a conversation about what that would look like, and for me, a man who had had a near-death experience couldn't continue on in the way he'd been living before, so there would have to be some sort of radical departure from who he was ... it was like, "What happens when a person almost dies?" For a lot of people, they find God. And we talked about that, and what that might look like, and how interesting that might be for this story, in this setting, for a person like Boyd Crowder, with swastikas on his arms, to all of a sudden be a born-again Christian. And it was just fascinating ... a fascinating character study.

So I agreed to do five more episodes, but simultaneously had been cast in the movie 'Predators,' so my participation in the first five episodes was limited based on availability. And after that, we had hit a vein with [Boyd], and how he was becoming a part of the world they were creating in Harlan County, and we decided to continue through the end of the season. And it was really only by episode 10, when we all looked at each other and said, "This guy is just too ... delicious. Why don't we continue this on a permanent basis? Why don't I just become a part of the show? Let's explore this story to the lengths in which it will reveal itself. In regards to the relationship between Raylan and Boyd, let's see what these two men ... who they are, and what they will do over time." And it was just a great opportunity, for me, to be back on FX, and with this character I had just grown to really, really love. It just made sense, so I signed up.

You obviously have a penchant for this kind of complicated character, and taking them and bringing out their more likable sides ...

[Laughing] It's a blessing and a curse. I'm just trying to get the love interests. I'd like to be the boring guy in a romantic comedy, but [those roles] just aren't coming my way.

Ah, I don't think you could ever be the boring guy. But where do you begin taking a character like Boyd and making him someone people will try to understand, and maybe even come to like, instead of, as you said, a stereotype?

Well, I maintain that Boyd Crowder was never a converted white supremacist. He was a man who was extremely bright and intelligent, who didn't leave, who grew up in a place and never got out. He was bored. He was bored more than anything else. And I think for him, it was a challenge intellectually to ... he's a manipulative Svengali. He's a natural-born leader, and needed to stimulate himself in some way, and he just ended up wearing a black hat based on the limits that were self-imposed by him staying behind. And Boyd kind of went down this path ... and I don't know that he really, fully, bought into any of that.

Raylan says to him in the pilot, "I don't think you really believe everything that you're saying, Boyd. Do you even know any Jews?" [Laughing] I think it's a combination of that, and for me, saying, 'How do you get an audience to fall in love with this guy?' If you can be a Svengali to the audience as well, and manipulate the audience and kind of take them on this journey with you ... and how do you do that? Through behavior, through being gregarious and being a little over the top, a bit of a showman. And through humor. Boyd's a really funny guy. He has a dry, cynical wit.

When Boyd first tells Raylan that he's found religion, Raylan doesn't believe him, or at least has a lot of doubt, and the audience definitely doesn't know whether he's being sincere. At that point, did Boyd himself even know whether he really believed what he was saying?

I can't tell you that! [Laughing] You know I can't tell you that! That's one of the most interesting things about this character. You never know where he's coming from. You never quite know how to take a person like this, or how to go about understanding a person like this. And that, for me, was really challenging, and really interesting. And, to be quite honest with you, I don't think the writers knew, at that point. And on some level, I didn't know, but began to understand it more deeply as the show went forward, and, by the end of the season, certainly you have a much clearer understanding.

You touched on Boyd and Raylan's relationship, which has been a big part of the season. We learn at the beginning that they used to be friends, when they were younger, before Raylan left Kentucky, and even though they're on opposite sides of the law, do you think they genuinely like each other?

I do, I do think they genuinely like each other. I think the genuinely understand each other. The one thing that you can't take away from Raylan and Boyd is history and time. No matter who may come into Raylan's life going forward, or Boyd's life, you will never know that person longer than the person or people you grew up with. And that's a very rich position to craft a story around.

Justified Boyd and Raylan, given their backgrounds, their relationships with their fathers, could easily have switched places, if Boyd had left and Raylan hadn't, no?

Absolutely. Absolutely, I wholeheartedly agree with that, that it's just the paths that each one took that led them to be where they are in their lives. Boyd, given an opportunity ... who knows, Boyd might have been wearing a badge, and Raylan would have been blowing sh** up. They're both very, very smart men, and when they're in conversation with each other, see each other in each other. And that ... I haven't seen that on television in a while.

Will you watch the finale when it airs?

I will, I will watch it when it airs. I haven't seen it yet. I hadn't seen a lot of the episodes, but watched them as they aired.

What is that like? Do you get the impact of it more when you watch the finished episode?

It's like reading the entire book as opposed to reading just one chapter. It really is a different experience. It's a movement ... it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and so it's been very interesting for me, as an actor, to watch this, and kind of lay down my participation in it, and just watch it as a fan, and see how all these characters have developed. Raylan and his relationship with his father, and (Boyd) and his relationship with Bo, and how they mirror each other. They're not the same, but they're very similar.

As we touched on before, this certainly isn't the first time you're playing such a complicated character ... Shane Vendrell, on 'The Shield,' was an incredible character, one that really took viewers on a rollercoaster from hating him to empathizing with him to liking him and then, in that series finale, just being crushed by how his story ended. What was your reaction to Shane's storyline in the series finale, how he and his family were painted into this tragic corner, after all those years of investing so much in the character?

Thank you for saying that. Initially, when I read the script, I was alone in Italy, of all places, doing this movie for Spike Lee ['Miracle at St. Anna'], and the script had been sent to me on location, and upon reading it the first time, I threw it down, and just started crying and screaming, to be quite honest with you, and said, "There's no way I'm gonna do this. There's no way this character can recover from that decision." And I felt like I had had to overcome quite a few things to get the audience to sympathize and to care for Shane, from saying the N-word to killing, arguably, one of the most-loved characters on the show in Lem to a number of the things that Shane had done, and I thought that making that decision for his family was something he can never recover from.

But then I read it again, and realized the genius of ['The Shield' creator] Shawn Ryan and the rest of the writers on the show, and the opportunity that I had been given, which was to, if we did this with love, if I was able to infuse this with love, and not coming from a self-centered point-of-view, then maybe I can get the audience to be moved in a way that they may not have expected, and to make, in some ways, Shane the ultimate martyr, and his family the ultimate martyrs, for everything they had engaged in over the course of these seven seasons. That it was, maybe a great morality tale ... that karma is a motherf***er, and you will eventually reap what you sow.

And did you feel it played out that way?

You know, I did not know for a year. It was a year between the filming of the last episode, and when it aired, almost to the day. And so, I felt it on the day. I felt like we'd done something really special, not just with Shane's storyline, but with all the characters ... But it was only when I was sitting in an audience with 400 people watching a live feed of the finale episode, and I knew the scene with Shane was coming up, and my heart was in my throat. I just thought, "Oh, here we go. Either they're gonna hate him or they're going to love him ... I'll know in about 45 seconds." And then the shot went off, and Shane made the decision to end his life, and it was completely quiet. You could hear a pin drop, with 400 people. And then the only thing you could hear afterwards was sobs, people crying. And I turned to my fiancée and I said, "We got 'em. We got 'em. I can't believe it worked!"

Walton GogginsYou also touched on 'Predators,' which you were working on at the same time you began filming on 'Justified.' What can you tell me about the movie?

Well it is, for lovers of the original, and I am definitely in that category, it is going to be a return to what this franchise originally set out to do, and that is to entertain people by scaring the sh** out of them, and by making them laugh. And I think that's what we've done. I think we've made a really good film. And with Robert Rodriguez's participation as executive producer, and with our director, Nimrod Antal, who is just extraordinary, I think they have delivered on the promise of what this franchise set out to do.

And you're playing a death row inmate ... what's his deal?
[Laughing] You know, again ... his name is Walter Stans, and if I've done my job, it will be a character that has red flags around him. The moment you see him, you just know that you're not going to like this guy, only to make you turn around and fall in love with him.

Ah, it's the Walton Goggins way again ...

That's the Walton Goggins way! (Laughing)

Check back with TV Squad on Wednesday morning for Goggins' reactions to tonight's 'Justified' season finale. Teaser: "It really (came) together in the finale ... the season makes sense," Goggins says.

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The first time I seen Walter Goggins was in Major League: Back to the Minors", and you could tell right there that this guys has got that something that could make him a incredible leading man in any situation. I think if there are any two men who deserve best supporting actors is Walter Goggins and John Noble a.k.a. Walter from "Fringe"
I initially didn't want to like Justified, but man, it just keeps you hooked. It's not fast action or all car chases, but the characters, man they just hook you into their lives and don't let go. I can't wait for the season finale tonight.

June 08 2010 at 8:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gord's comment

Sorry, Walton Goggins, not Walter.
My bad.

June 08 2010 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
J. Mitty

Love this guy! one of my favorite actors on Television. Shane was incredible in the shield and now he's teamed up with with Olyphant for another hit. Well played sir.

June 08 2010 at 5:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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