Walton Goggins has an interesting relationship with the Bluegrass State.
The actor portrayed the charismatic Kentucky criminal Boyd Crowder for six seasons on the hit FX drama Justified. As an Alabama-born, Georgia-raised Southern boy, he feels a connection to Kentucky even though he’s never set foot there. He thinks that setting helped him embody his most memorable role.
“I’ve been in Kentucky in my imagination for six years and I’ve met the people in that state, and it’s loomed large in my family’s life and my friends’ lives,” he says. “There’s a real point of pride for them, and it’s a real point of pride for me because they got something out of it and my interpretation.”
Part of what has made Goggins, 44, such a successful actor in TV and films is that he brings an element of charm and humanity to characters who are eclectic, eccentric or utterly villainous. However, Goggins will be the first to tell you his acting has brought the words and characters of some amazing writers to life.
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He got to work extensively with writer, producer and director Kurt Sutter, both as corrupt cop Shane Vendrell on the acclaimed FX drama The Shield and later in a completely different turn, blending hilarity and sincerity as transsexual Venus Van Damme on Sutter’s popular biker gang drama Sons of Anarchy. Goggins describes Venus as “the flower that grew in the middle of all that concrete” and one of the most important and impactful roles in his career.
“I’ve never read anything that honest about that person’s experience. A trans-person’s experience ... and how regal she was about her reality,” Goggins says.
Following his turns on Sons of Anarchy and Justified, he found himself privileged to have the words and direction director Quentin Tarantino, first in a minor role in 2012’s Django Unchained and in a leading role as Sheriff Chris Mannix opposite Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Tarantino’s 2015 Western The Hateful Eight.
He said between working with Tarantino screenplays in film and bringing the essence of celebrated writer Elmore Leonard’s prose to life on the small screen in Justified, he’s had some pretty good fortune.
“When you get a monologue from one of these guys or you get just great writing, then what we as actors do is quite easy, actually,” Goggins says. “It becomes so easy for the flow to happen. It becomes behavior.”
Throughout Goggins’ career, he’s managed to inject more life and layers into characters than what was written on the page. In the case of Boyd Crowder, he was given — or rather, demanded — the ability to evolve the character how he saw fit over the course of Justified’s run.
“The one thing I asked for in the very beginning of this journey was autonomy,” he says. “More often than not, it was extremely harmonious but there were times where it was acrimonious and people dug their heels in, and that’s where creativity happens.”
Right now, Goggins is taking a much-needed break from a solid 14 months of work between filming and promoting The Hateful Eight and shooting two seasons of the upcoming HBO comedy Vice Principals opposite Danny McBride. When it comes to his next project, he said he would continue what he’s done in recent years and aim to do work that offers the most challenges and fulfillment, which seems to be working out just fine.
“There’s really freedom from not needing approval from other people,” he says. “I suppose once you really let go then you manifest things, and it becomes easier to manifest those opportunities. If they don’t hold the same place in your imagination or the door isn’t as impossible to walk through or not as large to walk through, it’s easier to find the keys.”
Before he dives back into work, he’ll make his first-ever trip to Kentucky for the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention. He’ll be there to meet the fans but, in a way, his appearance in the commonwealth will be like the first face-to-face meeting in a long-distance but very passionate relationship.
“To be able to come to Kentucky soil, man, I can’t (expletive) believe it,” he says. “I’m very excited about it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Blake Hannon: email@example.com
If you go
Walton Goggins will meet fans and sign autographs Saturday and Sunday at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention. According to convention website, autographs are $50 and table photos are $40.