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. Continue reading