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 →