Seasoned actor Walton Goggins joins Joezer Mandagi in an intercontinental chat about Marvel movies and the evolution of television
Walton Goggins is the kind of actor whose name you might not instantly recognize, but who you’ve probably seen in dozens of movies and TV shows, quite often as one of the villains, like in 2000’s “Shanghai Noon” opposite Jackie Chan or 2010’s “Predators.” His most important claim to fame—and to household name status—arguably came when he started playing in the award-winning crime drama series “The Shield,” which, in turn, is arguably one of the best and most influential cop shows ever. From then on, Goggins’ career trajectory kept rising, especially on the big screen. Since 2010, he’s appeared in two movies by Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight”), landed another leading role in another hit crime drama series (“Justified”), joined one of the better-received big screen adaptations of a video game (this year’s “Tomb Raider”) and even joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe (in “Ant-Man and the Wasp”). For sure, picking the brains of an actor of this caliber allowed us to gain a lot of new insight into the what goes on in Hollywood and beyond.
DAMAN: So, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is set to hit theaters this June. We understand that you can’t really disclose much about the movie itself, but what would you say was the best part of working on this project?
Walton Goggins: Well, I think that the first film was so unbelievably smart and what director Peyton Reed did with that story in conjunction with Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas and all the rest just made me gut laugh. It was as evolved and quick-witted as anything I’ve seen in a long time and that spirit continues in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Just to be included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for any actor is a real feather in one’s cap, you know. They’ve been doing what they’ve been doing for 10 years now and it’s extraordinary if you look at the movies that have come out of these stories over the last decade. And now I finally have some pull with my son’s friends; now they finally know who I am. [ Laughs ]
DA: Right now, however, a lot of moviegoers would best remember you as Mathias Vogel, the villain in “Tomb Raider.” What do you remember the most—what is your fondest memory—of working on “Tomb Raider”?
WG: First and foremost, it was the story. What young person wouldn’t want to make some great discovery in one’s life? It was that journey— turning myself over to that journey and playing Mathias Vogel—that was so exhilarating. And that coupled with getting to have that experience with one of my favorite actors, Alicia Vikander, was a dream come true for me, really. I always wanted to do a movie like that and I thought that it could be done a little differently. And Roar Urtaugh and Graham King, director and producer respectively, also had a similar vision. Whenever you get a group of people that are actively trying to do something different and dig a little deeper on a movie of that scale, you feel like you’re doing something new. And I can speak for all of us when I say we just had the greatest time. Probably the last answer to your question was getting the opportunity to spend so much time in Africa, especially in South Africa.
DA: Your character in a movie, Mathias Vogel, is often described as a relatable villain—or perhaps “understandable” would be a better word. We’ve always wondered: How much of this characterization comes from the writers and how much comes from you?
WG: Well, you know, that’s a great question and I would say it’s a combination of both. When I read [the script] for the first time, it was all there on the page. So often villains in movies like this are one-dimensional and you understand their motivations at first glance, even sometimes without them speaking a word. But this was different and I felt that it’s a journey that I really wanted to go on, because I didn’t fully understand where Mathias was coming from. And I felt that his motivations were pure. In a world where we have so many stories available on a daily basis, throughout the world, I think that audiences by and large are just smarter, and I think that they demand more from their stories. So, it was a real opportunity to dig in and understand this world from Mathias Vogel’s point of view, and to know that he is a very different person today than he was the day that he the book. This show is really a retelling of the novel itself and I’m really proud of it. I can’t talk too much about it beyond that, but suffice to say we’ll find out if we get picked up in the next couple of weeks. You know, the opportunity to go back to an analog world and to explore this city that I love so much—Los Angeles—at a time that was both glamorous and extremely violent and subversive on a number of levels was a real eye- opener. And I had a great time.
DA: You’ve been playing on TV since 1989, what would you say has been the biggest change in how TV series are produced then and now?
WG: I think that the biggest difference is the transition from film to digital. When we were doing “The comes to time. You’re not loading the camera or canning the film, as they say. And that’s been maybe the biggest change. That and the quality of story. You know, when I started in 1989, the storytelling and television was very different. Then came along “The Sopranos” and “The Shield” and it turned into a real serialized format. It’s as if you’re watching a novel instead of reading it.
DA: The 2010s sees you playing in two movies by Quentin Tarantino— “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight”—and now joining the MCU. How do you think will you eventually top all that
WG: You know, I don’t live my life in the past, so I don’t feel like I have anything to top. A new day is a new showed up on that island—and to explore that as an actor. I think that Roar Uthaug wanted to do the same and what you see is really kind of a collaboration to that end.
DA: Moving on to your upcoming works, there’s the pilot for the “L.A. Confidential” TV series. Most people associate the title with the 1997 movie adaptation, so can you tell us a bit about this 2018 version?
WG: Yes, we just wrapped a couple of weeks ago and it is based on James Elroy’s novel. While the movie, “L.A. Confidential,” was also based on Elroy’s novel it really only explored Shield”—I did “The Shield” for seven years—we filmed that on 16mm and you only had two takes, really, for the most part and a take could only go as long as the amount of film that we had in the mag. For a 16mm mag it was about eight to nine and a half minutes. So, you had to get it right and then you had to move on, because you didn’t have the time that you have with digital. Now you’re able to leave a take running for five or six minutes—seven, eight, ten, twenty minutes if you want. While the magic is still there the precision has been lost, I think, because digital is a little more forgiving when it day. The experiences that come from this day will be what they are, not to be compared to what came before it or to what comes after it, to be quite honest with you. I just don’t look at any given day that way, let alone a season of my life and in entertainment. Hopefully, at the end of my experience on this planet, I will be able to share with my son and my friends a body of work that tells a story—bigger than me, but certainly a part of me. That’s really kind of how I approach my life and it’s certainly how I approach my job.