Walton Goggins is an actor who makes whatever he’s in better just by being there. Every film or TV series is improved when it has Goggins. It’s impossible to look at his work and not be a fan, and I’m glad he’s been able to find success over his career. Earlier this month, he landed arguably one of the biggest roles of his career thus far when he nabbed the villain role in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. Getting to play the antagonist in a blockbuster film is no small feat, and Goggins has already played some incredibly memorable baddies in his career.
Christina Radish recently spoke to Goggins about his upcoming History Channel series Six (which premieres January 18th), and during their conversation, he talked a little about what appealed to him about this new adaptation of the popular video game franchise:
The idea of a Tomb Raider reboot became interesting when Alicia Vikander was cast as Lara Croft, but it became even more interesting when you were announced as the villain, or antagonist. What was it about this telling of the Tomb Raider story that spoke to you?
GOGGINS: I’m just so excited about it! I’m such a big fan of Alicia and this director, Roar [Uthaug]. Quite honestly, the script feels like it’s already been in the world, in some ways. The structure and the foundation of this story is so solid and so interesting. It’s so unbelievably entertaining, and yet it’s real in the journey that it takes you on. And this person that I get to play is confused and angry and desperate. I’m just looking forward to getting in his head. I’m really, really, really excited about it.
Goggins then talked about what it is about villain roles that he finds so appealing, and he provided a thoughtful breakdown of how he goes about choosing any role, whether the character is good or evil.
When you play antagonists that are so memorable that they’re thought of alongside the story’s protagonist when people think of that particular TV show or movie, does it give you pause when the next one comes up?
GOGGINS: Yeah, I suppose. On one level, I think about it in those terms. In another way, I just go where the work is and where people are extremely passionate about telling their story and where they’re capable filmmakers, no matter how long they’ve been doing it. It’s about whether they understand what it is that they’re asking themselves to do and whether they really want to say something. That’s always been my motivation. This thing that I did after Six, Three Christs, I don’t know if there’s an antagonist in the bunch. Maybe schizophrenia is the antagonist, or maybe it’s how we view those that aren’t like ourselves. Maybe that’s the antagonist. It was just an incredible opportunity. And Tomb Raider is an incredible opportunity. People have only seen the first season of Vice Principals, but when you see where the show goes, there’s so much more than whether or not those are bad guys. That’s what I’m interested in playing, regardless of what side he’s on. I’ve had some opportunities lately to play the hero, and they just haven’t been about the right thing. They haven’t spoken to me, in that way. But Six certainly did, and Three Christs did, and lord knows that Tomb Raider did.
Goggins also talked about how it was a variety of factors that led to him signing on for Tomb Raider:
When Tomb Raider came your way, was it the script that sold you on it, or did you also wanted to talk to director Roar Uthaug first?
GOGGINS: It was threefold, to be quite honest with you. I think Alicia is one of the greatest actors of any generation, let alone her own. And I saw Roar’s movie The Wave last year, and I wanted to meet that filmmaker. And then, it was the script. It always starts with the story for me. I couldn’t believe I was reading what I was reading. I couldn’t believe that it continued in this way, and the ball was never really dropped. It was the combination of those three things. I understand why Alicia signed on for it. Those things don’t happen every day. And then, you go forward and you just try not to be result-oriented and you try to do the best job you can possibly do, before you move on to the next one. It’s a good life! I’m just grateful to be a small part of that life.
We’re still waiting on the first successful video game adaptation, and there’s no reason it can’t be Tomb Raider. It’s got two strong lead actors with Vikander and Goggins, Uthaug showed he had directing chops with The Wave, and if there’s a good script, it could make for a solid adventure film.
Tomb Raider opens March 16, 2018.
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. Continue reading
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.” Continue reading