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 →