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.”