I’ve added HD captures from the newest episode of Vice Principals into the gallery.
V.F.com: Hi! How are you?
Walton Goggins: It’s good being back in California. I’ve been in North Carolina for like two months as a prisoner of war. Fuck, man! It’s been very . . . Wow. God, what a tough experience. We’re not here to talk about that. How are you?
I’m great! I’ve seen the first six episodes of Vice Principals!
Wow, the first six? Fantastic. Season 1 is about who these people are, and Season 2 is why they are who they are. It’s tough to be that fucking mean. Lee Russell is way meaner than Boyd Crowder. He comes around.
You’ve always been hilarious on Justified, and Sons of Anarchy but would you consider this your first full-blown comedy?
I do, yeah, even though Danny, and Jody, and David Gordon Green would say that they only make dramas that happen to be funny. Once you look at this in the spring semester—because it really is a fall semester and a spring semester, and it’s one story, it’s one piece with different movements to it. It’s pretty fucking dark in a satiating way, and, hopefully, I think it’s funny.
Were you nervous at all to dive fully into the comedy genre?
I was studying Vice Principals while I was doing The Hateful Eight, and I got on a plane the day that we wrapped. After a 24-hour day I went straight to the airport and jumped on a plane, and landed in Charleston, and at ten o’clock at night went home and got my hair dyed. I got my tips done until one o’clock in the morning, and started work at six o’clock the next morning.
I was as intimidated as anything I’ve ever done, and in some ways probably more so because the idea of improv-ing with Danny McBride was—fuck, man—I just couldn’t sleep at night. He’s so smart, and their humor is so specific. I didn’t want to let him down; I didn’t want to let HBO down. It’s a lot to step into that ring with the roughhouse boys and how they do their things. Kenny Powers is an iconic character, and to play at that level I think would be intimidating for anybody.
How much improvising did you wind up doing?
Daily. All day long. That was the hardest part of this entire experience for me, I think for both of us, was containing the laughter. You just look at Bill Murray. It’s Meatballs! That’s my guy! That was really the hardest part. We would go on these tangents that would take us in places that were sublime, but then we would always come back to the text. Most of it is as it was scripted, as Danny wrote.
What about the physical comedy? Was that a new muscle that you had to learn?
I would be curious to hear what a comedian has to say about that, because I don’t look at it in those terms. If I thought about it as, “I need to be physically funny,” then I don’t think that I could have done it. I think I would have been too self-conscious. It’s no different than Boyd Crowder, or [The Hateful Eight’s] Chris Mannix, or [Sons of Anarchy’s] Venus Van Dam, or anybody else. It’s just, if you’re true to who this person is, and you understand who this person is, and they are an authentic human being in the world, a heightened, at times, person in the world, then the way that they walk, and the way that they talk, and they way that they interact, all of that is a part of it, is a part of the situation that lives in your imagination.
You talked about Kenny Powers being an iconic character. You auditioned for Eastbound and Down, right? Which role?
I auditioned for the role that Jason Sudeikis wound up getting. I had braces on at the time, and I had just wrapped a season of Justified. I took that time to take care of some personal business, and I had these braces on and I wasn’t taking a job for four or five months. So I got these braces on my teeth and then they called and it was like, “Fuck it, I’m not taking the braces off, I need to get my teeth fixed. I’ve been putting this off a long time, so fuck it, he’ll love it.”
I walked into this room with my braces on, and my fucking shorts on, and some white tube socks. I walked in and there were me and four comedians from Saturday Night Live, and it was like, “Well, this is never going to happen.” That’s Jason, that’s so-and-so, this is crazy. I had a great time, and we had a lot of chemistry. I just talked to him philosophically about Kenny Powers and what that means. What does Kenny Powers mean, from my own fanboy opinion.
He tolerated my opinion, and we actually really got along. I had always wanted to work with Danny. I’ve been a fan of his ever since The Foot Fist Way,, and I thought that I got his comedy and that we could do something really unique together. I always wanted to just jump in the sandbox with him. That was the treat. Even though the opportunity didn’t ultimately happen at that stage, it was still a fucking thrill to be in the room with him and to go through his story. I just think Eastbound and Down* was one of the most exciting, dangerous comedies to come out in a very long time.
Walton Goggins celebrated last holiday season as part of “The Hateful Eight,” Quentin Tarantino’s brutal western involving a pair of bounty hunters, a female fugitive, a band of outlaws and others holed up at a stagecoach lodge. By the final reel, Goggins, as the racist incoming sheriff of a town called Red Rock, was neck deep in bloody mayhem.
The role in many respects was an extension of a gallery of multidimensional bad guys Goggins has played since his breakthrough as a member of a rogue police unit in the landmark FX drama “The Shield.”
Armed with a wide smile that is simultaneously disarming and sinister, Goggins has stamped his smooth-yet-charming menace on many other projects, including “Justified” and Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” He also surprised viewers with his humorous but poignant portrayal of the transgender character Venus Van Dam on the biker drama “Sons of Anarchy.”
On Sunday, Goggins goes from “The Hateful Eight” to a “hateful two” in HBO’s “Vice Principals,” in which high school administrators Lee Russell and Neal Gamby (Goggins and Danny McBride), who despise each other, join forces to bring down their new boss, the outwardly pleasant Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory).
“Vice Principals,” created by McBride and Jody Hill as a follow-up to their previous HBO comedy “Eastbound & Down,” is a revelation for Goggins watchers, representing both his first major lead and a distinct change of pace — the only body part he’s taking aim at this time is the funny bone.
But just because Goggins is showing a lighter side doesn’t mean he’s fooling around.
“While I haven’t done an outright comedy, I don’t think Danny and Jody make comedies,” Goggins, 44, said recently. “I think they make dramas that happen to be funny. [Danny] did not want to hire a comedian to go on this journey with him. He wanted to hire an actor who has been given an opportunity to be funny in a lot of dramas. And we do have a real chemistry together.”
“Can you believe I have a fucking pool?”
Walton Goggins is showing me the lush backyard of his 1922 French Tudor home in the Hollywood Hills on a hot June afternoon in Los Angeles. Even after living in the house for five years, he still can’t believe he actually lives here. “I mean, this pool was carved into the mountain,” says Goggins, whose lingering Georgia accent infuses every declaration with the earnestness of a Southern preacher. “I’ve been gone a lot lately, so anytime we’re all together as a family, we’re out here. It’s our own little paradise, you know?”
As Goggins takes our tour inside, we are greeted by his cherubic 5-year-old son, Augustus, and wife, writer-director Nadia Conners, who kisses Goggins newly bearded face — a makeover due to his upcoming role in History Channel’s Navy Seal drama Six, filming in North Carolina — before she rushes off to a meeting. “I wake up every morning with one of the smartest people I have ever met,” he gushes about Conners. “I have unfettered access to her brain; a very specific, all-encompassing worldview every single day. I’m truly the luckiest son of a bitch in Hollywood.”
To call him lucky in Hollywood would be to skip past the 25 years he’s spent playing That Guy. He logged countless supporting roles in indie films (The Apostle), studio movies (Cowboys & Aliens), and cable dramas (The Shield, Justified) before finding a crazy fan in Quentin Tarantino. The director shifted Goggins’s career into overdrive by casting him in 2012’s Django Unchained and in last year’s The Hateful Eight, telling Vulture last fall, “Watching him for six years [on Justified] do faux-Quentin dialogue let me know that he’s got the right kind of tongue.”
This week, Goggins, 45, returns to TV for his biggest (and most ridiculous) role yet in HBO’s latest entry from Eastbound & Down creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill, Vice Principals — an 18-episode, two-season comedy about two Southern high-school administrators, Lee and Neal (Goggins and McBride, respectively), who channel their loathing for each other into taking down the school principal. Goggins spoke with Vulture about how growing up poor and as an only child in the South led him to acting, how he fought his way into Hollywood, and why he “loves” Harvey Weinstein.
What appealed to you about HBO’s Vice Principals?
I truly think Danny McBride is Woody Allen for fly-over America. But Vice Principals isn’t as adolescent as Eastbound & Bound. But then again, remember the end of Eastbound’s first season when Kenny Powers leaves his girlfriend at the convenience store? Shit! Kenny is a fucking flawed human being. That’s why it all works. And Danny and Jody are always walking that line. I really believe what they do is sublime. Vice Principals also gets fucking dark. Dark and deep.
It’s also arguably the most over-the-top comedic material you’ve ever done. Is it a different exercise for you playing a part like this?
I actually feel like I’ve been doing comedy forever. The Shield was actually one of the funniest shows on television. Justified was another level of comedic intelligence. It was Elmore Leonard–sophisticated humor.
Elmore wrote the way we wish people really spoke.
Yeah, exactly. And Quentin does the same thing. His sense of humor feels like it can take place inside a bar or at the Met Museum. Similarly, Danny’s sense of humor is as adolescent as you can get, but when you look behind the curtain, there’s a lot going on. It’s extremely sophisticated.
How does it feel, after 25 years in Hollywood, to no longer be struggling or be seen only as “that Southern guy with the spiky hair?” I mean, you’re on Quentin Tarantino’s actor roster now.
It’s incredible, but mostly a total fucking relief not having to work so hard just to get a seat at the table. Playing Boyd Crowder [in Justified] was actually a real cross to bear for me personally; he was a real mantle I was carrying for a long time, and in order to rise above the stereotypical portrayal of Southern people as …
Rednecks and white trash.
Yeah. I’m proud of Boyd because I feel like I was able to educate people in urban areas about the struggles that people have in rural America. And then to have moments, like I did at Comic-Con for Django, where I’m sitting on the dais with Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and just like, How the fuck did I get here? What is happening right now? I’ve had a lot of those in my career: “moments of manifestation,” I call them. Doing Shanghai Noon with Owen Wilson was one of those. Bottle Rocket was one of my favorite movies, and as soon as I saw it I thought, “I’m just gonna focus on this dude. I want to work with this guy.” And I did.
So Bottle Rocket comes out in 1996 while you’re in L.A. still looking for your big break as an actor. How did you pay the bills?
Well, first I refused to work in a restaurant. [Laughs.] Nothing against waiters and waitresses, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be that actor in L.A. having conversations with other actors about acting. I usually run away from those things. I generally don’t hang out with actors in between takes. I’m an only child, so I’ve always been off in a corner somewhere. I think it’s actually taken some learning to know how to be around other people. But the one thing I never had a problem with was listening. My mother was a great listener. And so I never had to compete for her attention because I was an only child.
What did your parents do for work when you were growing up?
My mother made $12,000 a year working for the State of Georgia in Workers Comp. My father sold insurance. But my parents divorced when I was 3. He and I had an on-off relationship for most of my life. So growing up it was me, my mom, and father’s father, oddly enough. He was the one consistent male figure in my life. I was the apple of his eye. I was mostly raised by extraordinary, highly dysfunctional, crazy Southern women. My mother’s mother was an actress in New Orleans in the 1930s. She met my grandfather and moved to Warm Springs, Georgia, and he was good friends with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He had a thousand acres growing peaches and pulpwood. They had this beautiful life, and my mother and her three sisters were born into it. My mother remembers Roosevelt stopping in the yard saying, “Hiya, neighbor!” Then they went from this incredible cultured bucolic life to my grandfather dying from diabetes in my mother’s arms when she was 14. Then the house burned down, my grandmother went insane. She was a nurse and got addicted to amphetamines because of the grief of losing her husband and raising four girls ages 4 to 17. It’s a passel of amazing fucking stories. I had a front row seat to the real Steel Magnolias. But we were all fucking black sheep.
Who first introduced to you to the arts and performing?
Another aunt of mine wound up being a publicist for B.B. King, Phyllis Diller, and Wolfman Jack. But because my mom had me when she was 23, after they had lost everything, all we really had arts-wise was a lot of storytelling. Our family time was never about TV or cinema. And a whole bunch of her friends were always stopping by. There was a dude named Rabbit who was a locksmith and a small-time pot dealer who’d park his van in our yard, open our windows, and use our electricity to make his keys. Another dude named Be-Bop was also always there. He gave me my first job —selling hope chests for young girls who wanted to get married. [Laughs.]
Did you act at all in high school?
No, but I grew up watching another aunt perform on stage from the time I was 6. I stayed with her while she was doing dinner theater, and I’d see these beautiful women changing backstage, the whole life, the bohemian lifestyle, the reaction from the audience and thought, “I want to do that. It’s very powerful.” So I went to this casting director’s office in Atlanta, a woman named Chez Griffin — I didn’t have an appointment, so my mother drove me down there, I was only 14 — and I knocked on her door and said, “I want to talk to Chez. My name is Walton Sanders Goggins Jr. I don’t need an appointment. Just tell her.” And she came out and said, “Okay, who is this kid?” I told her, “I don’t know how to do this, but I know that I’ve had an interesting life, and I know that I feel things deeply. With some guidance and help, I can do this.” And she said okay. Then I started working in Georgia, and did a movie in 1990 called Murder in Mississippi.
In the TV business — as in warfare — things often don’t go as planned.
The new History action drama series SIX was originally scheduled to premiere on Monday, July 18. Channel Guide Magazine featured SIX prominently in our July 2016 print edition, and we talked with stars Barry Sloane and Walton Goggins about the show and their roles. History has postponed the series for an undetermined date later this year, though with good reason.
SIX is inspired by real Navy SEAL missions from the past 15 years, and delves into the complex personal and professional lives of the soldiers faced with life-and-death decisions. Written by William Broyles Jr. (Cast Away, Jarhead) and David Broyles, the eight-episode first season follows a mission to rescue a SEAL operator captured by a terrorist group in West Africa.
Sloane (Saints & Strangers) stars as SEAL team leader Joe “Bear” Graves, and Goggins (Justified) plays SEAL Richard “RIP” Taggart. Goggins was a late replacement for Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike), who had to withdraw from the project due to health concerns. This necessitated reshoots for all of Manganiello’s completed scenes. Rather than rushing SIX to the screen and risk jeopardizing its quality, it was decided to delay the premiere. Given the gravity of the show’s subject matter, that decision seems wise.
“First and foremost, you would never want to wish anything but health and happiness for every single actor,” Goggins told Channel Guide Magazine‘s Kellie Freeze (Goggins also stars in HBO’s comedy Vice Principals, premiering July 17.) “I guess the most important thing out of all of this is that Joe is going to be OK. I don’t know Joe. I’ve never met Joe, but that’s scary. Your health comes first. I understand that he’s fine now. It was just something came up and that just happens, because actors are not impervious to pains in their body. That’s just the way things go. I hate it for him missing out on this, because I know how emotionally invested he was in it. I’ve thought about him daily and his struggle, just with that aspect of it, because all of us lose jobs or something comes up at one point in our career. That just happens. When it’s physical, the most important thing is that you’re OK. I’m happy that he’s OK.”
As for what it’s like stepping in as a pinch-hitter in the middle of a shoot, Goggins says, “It’s a lot. It’s a lot. There’s a relationship amongst the cast. You step into something that’s fully formed, and you want to respect that and the road that people have gone down. Then you also have to respect your own space and your own interpretation of it. These guys were just so open and receptive and welcoming that it really just wasn’t a problem.”
We’ll have more about SIX and more from our interviews with Sloane and Goggins on channelguidemag.com closer to the show’s premiere date.
Hey guys! It’s been awhile since Walton was a guest on Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast but that’s about to change. Looks like Walton and his Vice Principals co-star Danny McBride will both be dropping by live at the San Diego Comic-Con next week.
First up at 7PM, none other than the queen of clonedom herself, the lady of ten thousand very different faces, Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black. Joining her will be the hilarious duo of Danny McBride and Walton Goggins of HBO’s new series Vice Principals. Given Maslany’s experience in improv comedy—which we frankly don’t see enough of—we’re working really hard on Kafka-ifying ourselves into a fly so that we may sit on a wall in the green room and listen to this gang joke around together.
You read a little of what Walton had to say, but be sure to check out the interivew in it’s entirety over at NYTimes.com
For Mr. McBride’s slick, bowtie-clad nemesis, Lee Russell, the creators turned to Mr. Goggins, a star of “Justified,” “The Shield” and “The Hateful Eight,” who had once auditioned for an “Eastbound & Down” role that went to Jason Sudeikis of “Saturday Night Live.”
(As Mr. Goggins recalled of that encounter: “I got to the meeting, and it was me and five ex-‘S.N.L.’ guys. What am I doing here, really?”)
This time, Mr. Goggins said he was still eager to work with Mr. McBride, who he called “a Woody Allen for flyover America,” and to tell a story about “the absurd need for power.”
“Both of these men are profoundly insecure,” he said, “and unfortunately for the people around them, they feel the only way they can be accepted in the world is through fear and intimidation.”
Knowing that all the episodes of “Vice Principals” had been written in advance, Mr. Goggins said, was a welcome change from “a world where so many decisions are based on public polls or how many likes you get on Instagram.”
“This isn’t,” he added. “This is 18 pictures posted without reading the comments.”