Walton on Justified’s Most Intriguing Character!

In a teleconference Q&A session at the beginning of this first season of FX’s Justified [Tuesdays, 10/9C], I had the opportunity to ask Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder, a couple of questions and found him to be articulate and witty. As a result, I requested an opportunity for a bit of one-on-one time with Goggins and the result was a lot of fun.

I’ve just finished screening the episodes that FX sent out, so I’m not the most prepared I’ve ever been.

Walton Goggins: Do you have a timeline? Do you need to do this today?

I finished the last ep about five minutes ago.

Goggins: And that would be?

The Hammer. The one with the combustible meth lab. So, yeah, I think I’m good. Let’s just do this while the eps are fresh in my mind.

Goggins: What did you think about the episode?

I thought it was great – but first let me congratulate you on becoming a series regular for season two.

Goggins: Thank you.Yeah, it’s very exciting!

When did you find out?

Goggins: We had been talking about it for a while, during the season, but I couldn’t commit because I was in negotiations for a few other things – and it came back around to my realizing that I’m on a show that I absolutely love doing; a character that challenges me, by the minute, on a network that is my home as an artist in a lot of ways. So it just made sense all the way around.

When we talked as part of the Q&A at the beginning of the season, you talked about how the pilot was shot with Boyd dying – how testing suggested that Boyd was a character who should be around – and you mentioned Timothy Olyphant‘s suggestion that Boyd would be too smart to be a racist @$$hole.

Goggins: Well, actually, I did not want to do Boyd as a racist @$$hole. Because I don’t believe that Boyd necessarily believes everything that he’s saying. Then Tim came up with the line – which was so wonderful – “I don’t believe that you believe anything you’re saying. I just think you like to blow $#!+ up.”

I like the way the character has progressed from there. It’s really gradual and believable. How much input did you have in the evolution of the character?

Goggins: Copious amounts, in the sense that we really, really talked about this because I didn’t want to do this unless we were going to break some ground. I thing that… it’s not even just southern people, it’s regional people. I’m sure that in Canada people who come from bucolic areas are often perceived as dumb and slow – and that’s just not the case, y’know, with places farther afield, in my experience. I wanted Boyd to not only be an exception, but participate in redefining those places. And so I’ve had quite a bit to do with it.

While you were talking about redefining stereotypes, it struck me that the opposite should be true – people from these bucolic regions, who are stereotyped as being stupid, should be thought of as exactly the opposite. It takes hard work and smarts to keep those areas in that bucolic state. Bucolic areas don’t remain bucolic because the people are stupid.

Goggins: I absolutely agree with you.

It’s good to see that most of the people on Justified are so counter to the stereotype.

Goggins: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

There’s a reason why a lot of people live in these areas. There’s a reason a lot of people live in Hawaii, or Fiji. It’s beautiful, peaceful.

For the right kind of person there’s a chance to exercise your mind and relax. There’s a connection to nature, and to being a part of the land – and to being a part of the cycle of life that is missed in urban areas.

I’m getting political now. I should [laughter]…

I grew up going to a funeral once a week, in south. I’ve been to one funeral since I moved to L.A.

Whoa. That kind of segue’s into the True Believer arc Boyd’s going through now – as in, is he for real, or what?

Goggins: That is one of the most exciting discussions I’ve seen going on on the internet – and I won’t answer that question. I think that you will have an answer – at least, one that will satisfy you enough – by the end of the season. I think it was something we all wrestled with, and I kinda knew, in my mind, what I wanted to do. We, the writers and myself, wanted to keep it as ambiguous as possible.

I love the adjective wily. Boyd is a wily creature, man; he’s a rascal! In the pilot you saw Boyd pumped up, full of energy – the cock of the walk, so to speak. He really had about himself, the kind of grandiose showman. Right from episode two until the episode where Boyd gets out of prison, he’s a much more quiet guy; a methodical guy – and a different kind of listener. His cadence has slowed and everything about his persona has changed. Only in the episode where he gets released from person do you see him start to get full again… full of this sort of… snake oil salesman that he had in the pilot. But it comes from such a different kind of earnest way, through to the final episode of the season.

The impression I get is that he’s really sure about the direction he’s going, but he’s not sure if he believes it.

Goggins: Absolutely.

So he’s got to convince people even more than when he was convincing them to rob banks and blow $#!+ up. So he’s more focused, but he doesn’t let you see what’s going on behind his eyes as much – but it’s clear that there’s something going on there.

Goggins: And the audience will be able to peek behind those curtains as the season concludes.

I was very impressed that M.C. Gainey was cast to play Boyd’s did.

Goggins: Wonderful actor. He’s been around for so long. He’s one of those journeyman actors who’s popped up in everything.

What’s it like working with him?

Goggins: He’s a veteran. He’s the bull in that joke that says let’s walk down there and have sex with all of them.

Right.

Goggins: He’s that guy.

I’ve not met M.C. before, but we have a lot of friends in common and he’s the kinda guy that you want on your team when you’re doing a movie, or TV series. His professionalism is unparalleled. His commitment to the story and as an actor is to be commended and respected.

He’s very similar to a number of character actors that I know personally and admire professionally, and have been around so long that they give this industry a foundation.

For most of the season, other than Raylen, Boyd –considering the relatively small amount of screen time he’s gotten – has really had the largest pure presence on the show. Now, M.C. Gainey comes in… and Boyd’s dad has this gigantic presence. It makes me think that there’s going to have to be a collision of sorts there.

Goggins: Very observant of you, there. There will be a… I don’t know it’ll be a meeting of the minds, but a clashing of the minds for sure. After the next episode [Veterans], I don’t know how much space there will be for egos. Everyone will start filling up space again – between Boyd and Raylen and Boyd’s dad, there’s not a lot of room left.

How much fun is it to play a character that has gone through the kind of evolution that Boyd has gone through? You’ve a chance to do something of that nature with The Shield‘s Shane Vendrell, but to slide into another role that offers the same opportunities to evolve a character.

Goggins: It’s what you dream of. Certainly you are reminded every day of how lucky you are. It’s the reason someone chooses this for a profession. More often than not, you’re servicing something more than just a character. You’re always servicing the story, but rarely are you able to develop a character that become fully three dimensional, unless you’re the lead – unless you’re the lead of a movie… a movie, much less a TV show.

It’s only with basic cable, with the content of basic cable being what it has been over the last ten years that has really allowed for characters to evolve in that way on TV. And on a network, to be given such a character, one character let alone two, that’s reward enough. That’s the Holy Grail, in a manner of speaking. To get to do it twice, on a network with people that you love, that’s just unheard of. It’s a baseball player getting to play with the sane team for his entire career.

If I may make a comparison, using a television lead, what you’ve got here is kind like what Tom Selleck got: he had Thomas Magnum, a character who changed and grew over the course of Magnum, P.I., and now he has the Jesse Stone TV-movies. Over both, he’s grown as an actor and he’s gotten to do some writing and play two entirely different, yet evolving characters.

What you’re doing is taking two really different characters; for all that they might look alike at the beginning of each respective series, and evolving them in radically different directions. They’re both “roles of lifetime” and you’ve gotten them back to back.

Goggins: I hope it’s not all down from here! [laughter]

Going back to The Hammer, what did you think of that last twist, with the CSI guy asleep in the trailer?

Goggins: I kinda knew who was behind it, in this world. And it serves the dynamic of Boyd and his father going forward.

What can you can about the season finale without being too spoilery?

Goggins: I think that Boyd Crowder doesn’t ask a question for which he doesn’t already know the answer. Ever. But there come a point, after a series of events, where he will ask a question and it is very apparent that he doesn’t know the answer to that question.

And that, to me, is compelling.

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