When he plays Boyd Crowder on FX’s wildly entertaining “Justified,” Walton Goggins is the charming face of evil, the yin to the yang of Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens.
“I love my day job, with Boyd Crowder and his relationships on that show,” Goggins says. “I’m very grateful for this season.”
When I spoke with Goggins, he was part of a December press junket in New York for “Django Unchained,” in which he plays a vicious henchman of Leonardo DiCaprio, who nearly castrates Jamie Foxx. It is one of two visible (and slavery-era) roles he had in year-end movies that would go on to be Oscar-nominated for best picture (the other being “Lincoln”).
“Yeah, I have good management and a lot of kind people on ‘Justified’ who try to accommodate these other things,” he says. “It’s so nice to leave Harlan County and go into other worlds that come along. To go into the world of Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg is kind of mind-bending.”
The current season of “Justified,” its fourth, is at roughly the halfway mark, though, when I spoke with Goggins, the season had yet to debut. Boyd, who initially was supposed to die during the show’s first season, survived to become an integral part of the series: a former coal-miner and white-supremacist bank robber who was transformed by his near-death experience. Instead, he became a born-again preacher, though he ultimately returned to his larcenous and murderous ways.
This season, he has consolidated his power in an effort to become the kingpin of drugs and prostitution in Harlan County, Kentucky, with an eye on dominating the state itself. Where past seasons focused on one or two nemeses for Raylan to chase (and Boyd to either partner up with or go against), the current season has focused instead on Raylan and Boyd and their relationships with each other and with the people around them (while tracking a long-missing and presumed-dead criminal who may actually be alive).
“We’re going back to spend time with these two men – who they are and their interactions with each other,” Goggins says. “There’s some funny shit, and some really serious stuff. I’m really excited about it.”
Goggins, 41, is tall and angular, with a spiky outcropping of hair atop a high forehead and a wide, sometimes sharklike grin that makes him look a little like the young Jack Nicholson. A courtly Southerner, he grew up “18 miles outside downtown Atlanta in a farmhouse that was 150 years old,” he says. “I felt like I had the bucolic experience right outside a major metropolitan area. For me, in some ways, it was the perfect childhood.”
He had an aunt and uncle who acted in theater: “I’d sit in the audience watch them tell stories onstage,” he says. “And because of them, I wanted to be in this business.”
He moved to Los Angeles at 19, intent on being an actor but unwilling to necessarily suffer for his art: “I never subscribed to the notion that I needed to be starving to be an artist,” he says. He and friends started a valet parking business: “I did not make a lot of money but I had freedom,” he says.
He sold cowboy boots, worked as a personal trainer and took small roles in films like “The Apostle” and “Shanghai Noon,” until he had built a nest egg on which he could live. Then he gave it all up to pursue acting full-time.
“That was such a strange and scary proposition,” Goggins says. “It was not something I was accustomed to – not going to work every day doing something for a living, and just doing this, instead.”
His breakthrough came in 2002 when he was cast as Det. Shane Vandrell on “The Shield,” a role he played for seven seasons of the gritty, sometimes shocking series about an elite squad of rule-bending, vicious Los Angeles cops who manipulated the law to their own ends.
“I’d been working a long time when I got that, but I don’t think people knew what to do with me,” Goggins says. “TV really had no place for me before these programs started cropping up on cable. But then Shawn Ryan and Clark Johnson and Scott Brazil saw they could use what I had to offer.”
Goggins also has produced a handful of films, including 2009’s “That Evening Sun,” and hopes to do more in the future.
“There’s something so expansive about it, something so addictive,” he says. “I’ve got a movie I want to do this summer that my wife wrote, and a TV show I hope to find a home for in the not-too-distant future. I’ve been around a long time – sometimes it takes a person a little longer to arrive at a place, given the opportunity.”
Having played a diverse pair of bad-asses in Shane Vandrell and Boyd Crowder, Goggins laughs when asked who would win in a showdown between the two characters.
“Oh, definitely Boyd,” he says. “He’d rig the room with explosives. Boyd is a lot smarter than Shane. Shane would come in with his guns drawn – but Boyd would be somewhere else, flipping the switch to blow the place up.”Print This Post