Dec 16, 2020

Press: Walton Goggins on finding comfort in ‘The Unicorn’ and reuniting with Natalie Zea

Dec 16, 2020

Press: Walton Goggins on finding comfort in ‘The Unicorn’ and reuniting with Natalie Zea

AVClub.com — Walton Goggins is best known for playing dangerous and/or disarming characters on series like The Shield, Vice Principals, and The Righteous Gemstones, and in films like The Hateful Eight. But as audiences learned when The Unicorn premiered on CBS in 2019, the Justified alum is just as at home in the cozier confines of a broadcast comedy. The charming sitcom, from co-creators Bill Martin, Mike Schiff, and Grady Cooper, follows a widower, Wade Felton (Goggins), as he raises two teen daughters (played by Ruby Jay and Makenzie Moss) and rebuilds his life with the help of his friends (played by Rob Corddry, Maya Lynne Robinson, Michaela Watkins, and Omar Miller).

The Unicorn’s premise hits close to home for Goggins, who was himself a widower, and for Cooper, who also had a couple of teens to take care of after the death of his wife. That storyline certainly drew Goggins to the series, which just premiered its second season on November 12, but as the actor tells The A.V. Club, The Unicorn has a lot to offer a variety of viewers, not just those recovering from tragic loss. Even Justified fans were on alert after the season-one finale reunited Goggins with Natalie Zea. The A.V. Club spoke to Goggins about working with Zea again, filming in the middle of a pandemic, and how The Unicorn offers catharsis and comfort through its comedy.

The A.V. Club: You started filming season two back in October, seven months after the shutdowns started. What’s it like to work on the show now?

Walton Goggins: Initially, it felt like there was so much to kind of overcome. But CBS and all of the studios, both big and small, had done such a good job taking into consideration people’s safety, and the protocols that they put in place are extraordinary. The one thing that was so jarring at first is, you know, you’ve got a mask on and the shield in front of your face. And I can’t read with my glasses off, so I had to figure out a way to get my glasses on and off. I’m not savvy enough to have bifocals, so I’m taking them on and off, and I have nowhere to put them. I got to get them over the shield, and it’s very complicated. [Laughs.] Our job is predicated on looking another person in the eyes and communicating to them, with and without words. When we started doing rehearsals with all of this stuff on, I thought, “Oh man, how’s this going to work? I don’t know how this is going to work.” As soon as that mask came off the first take, and it was just us, and there were two people looking into each other’s eyes, saying these lines, experiencing these emotions. It all just–I almost started crying because it made me feel so human. It was beautiful. And we’re back, and that’s it. It’s the new normal. You just adjust like everyone else.

AVC: Lately, there’s a lot of talk of the “perfect show for these times,” with a lot of people being drawn to comedies for comfort. Where does The Unicorn, which has a very lovely little community at the center of it, fit in that discussion?

WG: When we set out to do this a year and a half ago, it was this subject matter that attracted me. This is a story about a guy who loses his wife to cancer, and he has two daughters, and he has to learn how to live again. His group of friends come around to help him do that. It was very, very, very funny, but also infinitely relatable because when we are earnest and when we come from the heart, it lands in a real place. I felt then, and even more so now, that if we get this right, and we don’t shy away from what Wade is going through—because it’s happened to me. It’s happened to six friends of mine. It’s happened to all of us on some level. Whether you’re losing a job or you’ve lost a pet, we all experience loss. That is what we all have in common. And if we can get that right, and come from our hearts, and be unapologetically earnest in this endeavor, then we could do some real good in the world. Over the course of the last year, I’ve had countless people stop me on the street and just break down crying. I’m just holding them saying, “Hey, man, tell me about it. Tell me what’s going on in your life.” And it’s been cathartic. It’s been extraordinary.

But it just so happens that now, in our second season, we’re coming into a changed world, and we’re all experiencing it, like every single day on whatever level we’re experiencing it. To have a place to go to where you can see your own struggles reflected in your entertainment and you can laugh for a moment at your situation. God, we all need that, man. We all need it. And I think for all of us at any 24-hour period, you will definitely experience anxiety and fear and sadness. But in the same 24-hour period, you will experience a great amount of joy and laughter and comedy, because life is absurd. And that’s the fine line that we’re trying to walk on The Unicorn. We’re not forcing it. It’s just, that’s just built into the DNA of this show. That’s the nature of the guy’s life that the story is predicated on, Grady Cooper, and life in general. Continue Reading →

Dec 16, 2020

Press: Why ‘The Unicorn’ star Walton Goggins likes his rare nice-guy role

Dec 16, 2020

Press: Why ‘The Unicorn’ star Walton Goggins likes his rare nice-guy role

NYPost.com — Walton Goggins knows his way around memorable characters.

CBS sitcom “The Unicorn” sees the prolific actor starring as all-around nice guy Wade Felton, which he says is his biggest risk yet.

“It was scary, really. I’ve never played anyone that’s as close to who I am as Wade,” Goggins, 49, tells The Post.

“And that requires a lot of vulnerability. I like to hide behind things and dig deeper into other people’s lives. This one hits close to home in a number of ways.”

Now in its second season, (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.), “The Unicorn” follows widower and father Wade as he raises his daughters and tries to get back into the dating scene following his wife’s death from cancer (his fundamental decency makes him an unexpected catch — or the “unicorn” of the show’s title).

A regular-Joe sitcom dad is a far cry from most of Goggins’ previous characters, as he’s known for a colorful array of off-the-wall personas such as the scheming Lee Russell (“Vice Principals”), criminal Boyd Crowder (“Justified”) corrupt cop Shane Vendrell (“The Shield”) and soulful sex worker Venus Van Dam (“Sons of Anarchy”).

“At the end of the day, I’m not Machiavellian in the choices that I make,” Goggins says about his differing roles. “It really comes down to, ‘This is what speaks to me now.’ And maybe that’s because of where I am in my life. I felt like we could really make a difference if we get this story [‘The Unicorn’] right, and make people feel a little less lonely. It’s about a guy who lost his wife and he has to learn how to live again. I thought, ‘Man, I’ve had this in my own life; this has happened to a number of friends of mine.’ Loss is something that we all have in common, whether it’s the loss of a job or a pet or anything, really.

“The thing that I love so deeply about ‘The Unicorn’ is that it is unapologetically sentimental, but that sentiment is earned. It’s kind and earnest, at a time when I think we could all use a hug because of what’s going on in our personal lives. That’s what we’re trying to do every week with telling the story of Wade Felton and his family and friends.”

Season 2 picks up with Wade having a potential love interest (Natalie Zea, “Justified”) after the two have a meet-cute in the cemetery. Goggins teases that finding her won’t solve all of Wade’s problems, however.

“I think for all of us, whenever we have found some peace in our life — when one door closes, inevitably right around the corner, another opens that offers new insights and new lessons. And that’s what Wade is headed towards this season with this relationship. Maybe it’s more complicated than how he imagined. It’s about how his daughters and friends deal with that.”

Up next, he’s also appearing in Season 2 of HBO’s televangelist comedy “The Righteous Gemstones,” reuniting with his “Vice Principals” co-star Danny McBride to play oddball preacher Baby Billy Freeman.

“We are so d–n excited, I got off the phone with Danny a couple days ago and they’re back in writing and doing some tweaks. That story just means so much to us and we have so much fun. It’s a big hole in our experience this year. [Filming was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.] We’re ready to get back.”

Oct 31, 2020

News/Photos/Video: Walton Goggins is a hitman aiming for Santa in ‘Fatman’ Trailer

Oct 31, 2020

News/Photos/Video: Walton Goggins is a hitman aiming for Santa in ‘Fatman’ Trailer

AL.com — It’s Santa as you’ve never seen him before.

That sounds like a Hollywood cliche, but in this case, it’s true.

Mel Gibson plays Chris Cringle in “Fatman,” a dark comedy/action movie written and directed by the Nelms brothers, Eshom and Ian. In their twisted take, Gibson’s character is far from the jolly old elf of holiday lore.

This Santa is a gun-toting hellraiser who’s gruff, bitter and feeling mighty unappreciated. He decides to team up with the U.S. military — in a “one-time deal” — that gets complicated when Cringle is targeted by a hitman (played by Alabama native Walton Goggins). A spoiled rich kid (Chance Hurstfield) hires the assassin, seeking vengeance on Santa for gifting him with a lump of coal.

“Fatman” is currently set for release in theaters in mid-November. Tagline on the poster: “’Tis the season to get even.”

Aug 21, 2020

Press/Interview: Catching Up with Walton Goggins (Garden&Gun Magazine)

Aug 21, 2020

Press/Interview: Catching Up with Walton Goggins (Garden&Gun Magazine)

The Georgia-raised actor on good cocktails, The Andy Griffith Show, and playing Southern right

GardenandGun.com — It’s a child’s game. Turn yourself over to an imaginary set of circumstances. Everything you need to know is in the script. Read it three hundred times. Walton Goggins says those are the simple keys to acting, wisdom he gleaned from studying with the acting coach Harry Mastrogeorge for a decade. Such lessons have paid off. Goggins has appeared in some of TV’s best, from the gritty dramas The Shield and Justified to the indelible HBO comedies Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones, which will return for a second season. On the big screen, he’s part of Quentin Tarantino’s stable, with memorable roles in Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. And last year, Goggins got his own series on CBS, The Unicorn, in which he plays a widower in Raleigh raising two daughters while trying to date again. CBS has renewed the show.

Born in Alabama, Goggins grew up in Georgia and moved to Hollywood at nineteen, working at LA Fitness and starting a valet parking business while taking acting classes and auditioning. Now forty-eight, he co-owns Mulholland Distilling with his friend Matthew Alper.

I first met with the actor over whiskey at Bar Stella in Los Angeles. In the midst of the pandemic, we caught up by phone and started by talking about our mutual obsession with The Andy Griffith Show.

Like Andy GriffithThe Unicorn takes place in North Carolina, and you even play a widower dad.

That’s right. I grew up watching The Andy Griffith Show in reruns. It was a seminal thing in my life. And I looked at it again in preparation for The Unicorn. In fact, my son started watching it with me.

Has it aged well?
The people who made that show were really putting something wonderful into the world. It’s unapologetic in its earnestness and sadness, but it’s also uplifting. I saw that and thought, “Why can’t we do that in the year 2020 on network television? We can do that.”

How did the South impact your career? 

I never appreciated my culture and my people until I moved out here away from it. All of a sudden, the things that I wanted to get away from became very important. My accent gave me an opportunity to sustain myself. At first, there were just roles playing dumb hicks. It’s no different than an Italian actor from New York who moves to Los Angeles— you’re going to play a mafioso. And if you’re from the South, you’re going to play a redneck. Those parts gave me enough free time to study. Once I started getting some power, I made movies with Ray McKinnon, who’s from Georgia. We did stories about our childhoods and what the South meant to us. We started with The Accountant, a short released in 2001, and it won an Academy Award.

You took playing a redneck to another dimension as Boyd Crowder on Justified, which was set in Kentucky.

Boyd allowed me to give a platform to people from rural America. I wanted them to see a person who, without an education, was the smartest guy in the room. Those were the people who I knew growing up. So often people from different regions in this country are reduced to a very narrow interpretation. I wanted to blow that out of the water and to make people proud, in a way.


Whiskey became an important part of that show. Is that what inspired you to start Mulholland Distilling?

Well, I’m not going to sell toothpaste, you know? And I’m not really good at selling anything. But I am good at living my life in a certain way, and I think people from the South by and large have to sign a contract when you’re born that when you’re of age, you have to have a sundowner at night. When my friend Matthew Alper, who was one of the best cameramen in the business, said he wanted to start distilling, I said, I’d like to go on this journey with you.

It seems to come naturally.

I love drinking with people, and I’ve done it all over the world. Sneaking a beer with some Indians outside of Jaipur during the week of Holi. Having a glass of wine in Namibia when I was doing Tomb Raider, hanging out with members of the Himba tribe on the Angolan border. I love imbibing with people, hearing their stories.

What makes a great cocktail?

Simplicity. It’s like the best George Jones song—three chords and the truth. For me, it’s whatever liquor I choose, a simple syrup, and citrus. I do love a martini as well.

In 1997, you appeared in Robert Duvall’s movie The Apostle, about a Pentecostal preacher. What did you learn from him?

Authenticity. To not talk down to your audience. To be truthful with the story that you’re trying to tell and the place that you’re trying to tell it from. He also taught me to have fun with storytelling. And Bobby loves the South.

You play his assistant, Sam, and when Duvall’s character gets arrested, Sam becomes a born-again Christian. Your performance of that moment is stunning. How much of your conversion was in Duvall’s script?

Bobby is a dear friend and a mentor, but I can safely say that none of that was on the page of the script he wrote. When we got back to Los Angeles after shooting, he took me to lunch. “Son,” he said, “I don’t know if acting is what you want to do for the rest of your life, but it should be because you feel deeply. You can’t manufacture that. It’s either in you or it isn’t. What you did in that scene made my story.” That’s the biggest compliment I could ever receive from anyone, let alone my hero. I was twenty-four years old, and he changed my life.

Whom did you look up to growing up? 

Burt Reynolds. Burt made movies in Atlanta, and I remember when Sharky’s Machine was being filmed in the Peachtree Plaza downtown. That was extraordinary to me. He was a real folk hero—an icon, man, to people from the South.

On Vice Principals, your character was a conniving high school administrator named Lee Russell, which sounds like a Southern name.

Yeah, “Lee Russell,” absolutely. I loved making Vice Principals. The creators, Danny McBride and Jody Hill, are from Virginia and North Carolina. The executive producer and director, David Gordon Green, is from Texas. There’s this shared kind of sense of humor that is part and parcel of being from where we’re from. Nobody makes me laugh the way somebody from the South can make me laugh.

This article appears in the August/September 2020 issue of  Garden & Gun.

Aug 2, 2020

Press: ‘The Unicorn’ Renewed at CBS

Aug 2, 2020

Press: ‘The Unicorn’ Renewed at CBS

TVSeriesFinale.com — Fans of The Unicorn won’t be disappointed. CBS just announced they’ve renewed the TV show for a second season for the 2020-21 broadcast season.

The Unicorn comedy series stars Walton Goggins as Wade, a widower and single parent who finds he is a hot commodity when he begins dating again. The cast also includes Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Omar Miller, Maya Lynne Robinson, Ruby Jay, Makenzie Moss, and Devin Bright.

The first season of The Unicorn, which wrapped in March, averaged a 0.71 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 5.66 million viewers. Though it underperformed when compared to CBS’ established Thursday night comedies, The Unicorn is among the top CBS TV shows for the 2019-20 broadcast season.

Dec 8, 2019

Walton Nominated for Critics’ Choice Award!

Dec 8, 2019

Walton Nominated for Critics’ Choice Award!

Shortly after the Golden Globes, the critics will also have their say. The nominations for this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards were announced on Sunday. And as it turns out our guy Walton was nominated for Best Actor In A Comedy Series for The Unicorn! Congratulations Walton! So proud of you!

The show will air Live on Sunday, January 12th, 2020 on The CW Network.

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Ted Danson – The Good Place
Walton GogginsThe Unicorn
Bill Hader – Barry
Eugene Levy – Schitt’s Creek
Paul Rudd – Living with Yourself
Bashir Salahuddin – Sherman’s Showcase
Ramy Youssef – Ramy

Dec 8, 2019

Video: ‘Three Christs’ Official Trailer

Dec 8, 2019

Video: ‘Three Christs’ Official Trailer

HeyYouGuys.com — IFC films have launched a rather compelling trailer for Jon Avnet’s real-life story ‘Three Christs featuring Richard Gere.

Based on a remarkable true story, ‘Three Christs’ is a look at one man’s journey into the deepest mysteries of the human mind.

Directed by Avnet from a script he co-wrote alongside Eric Nazarian, the film stars Peter Dinklage, Walter Goggins and Bradley Whitford who all believe they are Jesus Christ.

The film hits US cinemas and On Demand January 10th 2020.

In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding.

As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men—Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins), and Clyde (Bradley Whitford)—each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ. Hoping that by getting them together in the same room to confront their delusions he can break through to them.

Dr. Stone begins a risky, unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved—including Dr. Stone himself— profoundly changed.

Sep 24, 2019

The Unicorn’s Walton Goggins Revisits His Most Memorable Roles, From The Shield to Sons of Anarchy

Sep 24, 2019

The Unicorn’s Walton Goggins Revisits His Most Memorable Roles, From The Shield to Sons of Anarchy

TVGuide.com — You may know Walton Goggins from his Emmy-nominated turn as charismatic outlaw Boyd Crowder on FX’s modern Western Justified. You may also know him from his seven-season stint as the flawed cop Shane Vendrell on the groundbreaking drama The Shield. Or you may know him as one of the many other memorable characters he’s brought to life over the years: Venus Van Dam (Sons of Anarchy), Chris Mannix (The Hateful Eight), Lee Russell (Vice Principals), Sonny Burch (Ant-Man and the Wasp), Nathan Miller (Deep State), or “Baby” Billy Freeman (The Righteous Gemstones). The list goes on and on and on.

Regardless of where you know Goggins from — and trust us, you definitely know him from somewhere — you’ve experienced the actor’s impressive, somewhat hypnotic ability to make viewers feel for even the most flawed or complicated of characters. He doesn’t set out to do it — quite the opposite actually — it’s just something that happens.

But Goggins, who it should go without saying is nothing like the morally gray men he is most famous for playing, is leaving those roles behind, at least for now. This fall, Goggins is taking on the starring role in CBS’s new sitcom The Unicorn as a widower stepping back into the world a year after losing his wife.

“[The Unicorn is] kind and … earnest, and I think that this character and this show wear [their hearts on their sleeves],” Goggins told TV Guide of the show and its overwhelmingly compassionate message. “I think we need that in the world right now.”

As he prepares to lead this heartfelt new comedy on the most-watched network, the versatile actor takes a stroll down memory lane and looks back at some of the roles that got him to where he is today before previewing what’s to come.

SHANE VENDRELL, THE SHIELD

A not insignificant portion of Goggins’ television career has been spent appearing on FX prestige dramas. This fruitful relationship began when he first stepped into the shoes of Strike Team member Shane Vendrell on The Shield, a critically beloved drama about corrupt cops starring Michael Chiklis that ran from 2002 to 2008 and put FX on the map in terms of scripted programming.

“The Sopranos had been out, and we came on six months later and told a story that, on some level, vilified police officers right after 9/11, when police officers were running upstairs to save lives,” Goggins recalled of the early days of the show. “The people in charge questioned whether or not that was a good thing to do, but ultimately, I think it asked the question that we’re still answering today, and that is, what are we willing to accept from our law enforcement in pursuit of our own security? What does that mean? What [is] the price of protection or feeling safe, what does that really mean? I think we’re all so very proud of [The Shield] and what it ultimately had to say.”

The Shield ran for seven seasons, culminating in what many critics consider to be one of the best series finales of all time. Its longevity meant that Shane, whose lengthy list of offenses came to include betraying and killing his friend and fellow team member Lem (Kenny Johnson) and eventually poisoning his wife and son before turning the gun on himself, was the first character Goggins had the opportunity to get close to as an actor, and as such Shane remains a big part of his life.

“I think about his journey often,” revealed Goggins. “He was a very complicated guy, but he was never self-serving; he thought he was servicing the person that ran this entire operation. And while on paper he’s easy to vilify … the price that he ultimately pays, I think, more than compensates for anything that he ever did in his life. I think he’s one of the great, tragic characters in television, to be quite honest with you. I think his journey is so, so unbelievably bittersweet.”

When asked if he’d have changed anything about the character or his journey, Goggins definitively said that he would not. Had Shane survived, the actor explained, it would have likely brought him great anxiety and pain to imagine what the character was doing now. “There was something about the finality of how ugly that [ending] was and the decision that he made for his family and how selfish that was that [it] allowed me to just make peace with it and to let him go,” Goggins said.

Still, Goggins remains best friends with much of the cast (he attended Chiklis’ birthday party the weekend before our interview) and those relationships, now quickly approaching the two-decade mark, are still vitally important to him. “The relationships that I made over the course of that show, with everyone on it, to have that stable of friends this long after that experience has been one of the most important things in my life,” said Goggins. “I never knew about community from an artistic point of view before that experience. I didn’t know that it would be that deep.” Continue Reading →

Sep 24, 2019

Walton Goggins plays a babe magnet in ‘The Unicorn’

Sep 24, 2019

Walton Goggins plays a babe magnet in ‘The Unicorn’

NYPost.com — Nothing on Walton Goggins’ résumé suggests that he’s the perfect guy to play “The Unicorn,” the new CBS comedy about a widower with two adolescent daughters who becomes a babe magnet.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a unicorn is the perfect single guy: employed, attractive, with a proven track record of commitment. A full head of hair doesn’t hurt, either.

Goggins, 47, snared an Emmy nomination in 2011 for playing outlaw Boyd Crowder on FX’s “Justified,” a role he had for five years. He also played detective Shane Vendrell on “The Shield.”

In between, donned a pair of vinyl chaps to play transgender hooker Venus Van Dam on “Sons of Anarchy” in 2012. (“I’m the belle that doesn’t tell,” she cooed.)

Goggins is very aware that when it comes to comedy, he’s a stranger in a strange land, but reveals that CBS network executive David Nevins suggested him for the role of Wade Felton.

Executive producer Bill Martin tells The Post,” When we sat down with Walton, we had no idea what to expect given the roles we’d seen him play. We all wanted someone who wasn’t glib or slick in any way, someone who was so good-hearted that you’d immediately believe his friends would rally around him and root for him. As soon as he started talking about the character, it was clear that he understood that and embraced that. The fact that he was funny as hell was just gravy.”

Although Goggins was “really taken” with the script, he asked for one substantial change — to switch the production from multicamera in front of a studio audience to a single camera on a soundstage.

“For me to go in front of a live audience and tell this story about a man who lost his wife to cancer and has two daughters, I don’t know that I could have pulled that off,” Goggins tells The Post. “Somebody else could have done it in a minute. I think it needed that space, that improvisation, for it to feel like a film. We talked and I said, ‘Let’s go do this.’ I’m going to lean into the sadness. I’m not going to shy away from that, but I promise you it will be funny.”

“The Unicorn” is based on the real-life experience of Grady Cooper, a friend of show creators Bill Martin and Mike Schiff. Cooper was the caregiver to his terminally ill wife while raising their two daughters. After a period of mourning, he came “out of the weeds,” according to Martin, and started sharing stories that suggested a TV show.

“My wife said, ‘So it’s funny that his wife is dead?’ I said, ‘That’s not what’s funny about it,’?” says Schiff. “What really appealed to us was a real serious issue because that’s what life is. Life is not tragic or funny. It’s both, at all times.”

Goggins, who is married with one son, knows other men who’ve been in the same situation as Cooper — namely himself. His first wife, Leanne Goggins, died in 2004 (he ultimately got remarried, to writer Nadia Conners in 2011), but he doesn’t talk about it. He will only say obliquely of men like himself, “They did it, they just kind of made their way.” Like the supporting characters on “The Unicorn,” the widowers’ friends introduced them to women to get them dating again. “They became hot commodities; yeah.”

Goggins would never describe himself that way, of course. “I’m a 3-miler,” he says.

What’s that? “It means you look good from 3 miles away,” he says, laughing. “I believe I am sexy .?.?. I am a very curious person. That’s what I find attractive in other people. Beauty is skin-deep. What we find attractive in other people changes the older we get.”

If “The Unicorn” catches on with viewers, Goggins is aware that people might attribute Wade Felton’s qualities to him. He’s ready for whatever comes.

“I’ve been around a long time, and given the roles I’ve played you can bet I’ve met a lot of nutty followers,” he says. “But I love them, man. I’m stopped on the street all the time. I don’t have a passive fan. You’re either a fan of what I do or you’re NOT a fan of what I do.

“I have no attachment to the outcome either way.”

Sep 2, 2019

Walton Goggins on becoming Baby Billy for Danny McBride and ‘The Righteous Gemstones’

Sep 2, 2019

Walton Goggins on becoming Baby Billy for Danny McBride and ‘The Righteous Gemstones’

 

EW.com — Walton Goggins will do anything for Danny McBride — even play a creepy, milk-drinking, 70-year-old pastor named Baby Billy Freeman.

The third episode of HBO’s new comedy The Righteous Gemstones introduced the family’s alienated uncle, who returns to the fold when Eli (John Goodman) brings him on to run the Gemstones’ newest church. Best known for his turns in The ShieldJustified, and The Hateful Eight, Goggins, 47, takes on the hilarious role, reuniting him with McBride, the star and creator of Gemstones and Vice Principals, which the duo costarred together on.

“As soon as we sold this, I had the idea for Baby Billy and I wanted it be to Walton,” McBride recently told EW of casting his old friend. “I pitched him early, ‘I’ve got this idea, I want you to play an old man,’ I could just picture it in my head. He was like, “I’ll do anything,” but he was on the fence, he didn’t know what this character was, and I basically told him to let me write these episodes and I’ll send them to you to give them a read, and he got it and thought it was funny. He was just worried whether he’d be able to pull it off. It was amazing to watch him transform into this old man. Walton just disappears in every role that he’s in, I think he’s one of the most talented actors I’ve ever been around. He’s so damn funny and he can break your heart and we were honored to have him step into this.”

With Baby Billy officially out in the world, EW chatted with Goggins about his initial response to the part, why he’ll do anything for McBride, and how quickly we really got to know the old man.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your first reaction when Danny asks you to play a 70-year-old pastor named Baby Billy?
WALTON GOGGINS: I started laughing, because I didn’t think he was serious. And then he was just looking at me while I was laughing, and was like, “No, I’m serious, I want you to play Uncle Baby Billy Freeman.” I said, “As a 70-year-old?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m not joking.” [Laughs] I’m like, “Oh, okay, alright, yeah, let’s do it. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but let’s do it.” I’ll do anything he asks me to do, anywhere, anytime, because I’m such a fan of what [McBride and executive producers Jody Hill and David Gordon Green] do creatively, and Danny as a person. But I was really kind of blown away by the story, and I thought, like everything else that those guys touch, that they would just set the room on fire in this particular world, create a stir, probably piss a lot of people off, and then also make a lot of people laugh. They do those things simultaneously better than anybody, and so I just said, “Absolutely, are you kidding me? I’m in, buddy.”

You said you’ll do anything for Danny, so what is it that you love about working with him and what he brings out in you comedically?
I’ve been a fan of his for such a long time and admired his ability to convey his particular brand of comedy, which is not really comedy, it’s also drama. I was so unbelievably intimidated by it when I got the invitation to come and play on Vice Principals, even though I thought that something really special could come from it. Once I was there and got into it and the way he is as a person and the way they structure their sandbox, it just allows for real creative freedom, and it is so open and free from judgment — and you laugh. I’ve laughed harder with him, both onscreen and offscreen, than I have with any other person in my life. Whenever you find a situation like that, that allows you to express yourself with full support, then you run back whenever you can. It’s the same thing for me as working with Quentin [Tarantino]. Those are two people and environments that allow for magical things to happen. It’s sublime for me as an artist.

After a career of some heavier material, you’re on a pretty good comedy run with Vice PrincipalsGemstones, and The Unicorn. What have you liked about getting to dive into these waters? Was that an intentional transition?
No, it wasn’t intentional. I just go where the best writing is, and it just kind of moved in this direction. With Danny and David and Jody, those guys make dramas as much as they make comedies, but it allows for this absurd behavior before it distills it down to the essence of what they’re trying to say. And that’s the kind of comedy that I feel like I’ve always been doing. I think The Shield was actually one of the funniest shows on television, and Justified is Elmore Leonard, so you don’t get much funnier than that, but it also doesn’t shy away from the emotional dramatic elements of that story. So, for me, it just fit. It was like, “Wow, this is what comedy can be. There’s artifice here, it’s still moving in a direction and we’re telling a story that amounts to something and says something,” and that’s what I’m always looking for in the work that I choose, certainly at this point in my life. When there’s a strong sense of direction and a filmmaker behind it like Danny that really have a purpose for doing what they’re doing, that’s when I’m most comfortable and where I think I can contribute the most. And so the fact that I wake up today and find myself in this new arena, somehow it all makes sense, even though it’s a big diversion from the way people normally see me — and that’s a good thing. I can’t believe it, to be quite honest with you. There is great joy in laughing 90 percent of the day as opposed to needing a shrink after work. Continue Reading →