With Season 5 of the hit FX series Justified about to unspool on Tuesday nights, Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins, has watched his life spiral downward and at the moment, is helpless. TVWise sits down with actor Walton Goggins to talk about what fans can expect from Boyd at the beginning of the new season, the ups and downs of playing Boyd Crowder and how he envisions Boyd’s ultimate happy ending. We also talk with Walton about his memorable appearances as Venus Van Dam on FX’s Sons of Anarchy, how that role affected him as an actor, his time working with Michael Chiklis on The Shield and more.
TVWise: How would you explain Boyd’s frame of mind as we begin season five with Ava unjustly imprisoned?
Walton Goggins: I feel that Boyd is cornered. He’s a man with no real options and he is impotent, he is without power and that’s a very scary place for a man like Boyd Crowder to be. In that situation – which has never really happened to him – it’s a new paradigm for Boyd. He’s acting out in ways that he normally otherwise would not. He’s been reduced to a man who is reactive instead of proactive. So, when you are the kind of person that Boyd Crowder is, that can be very dangerous.
TVWise: Season 4 was a bit different from the past three seasons with the mystery of who Drew Thompson was. Did you as an actor enjoy that different angle to season 4?
Walton Goggins: I like a good mystery as much as anybody, but that wasn’t why I was attracted to Season four. Season 4 for me was returning back to the basics. We took a season to really understand more about Raylan Givens, Boyd Crowder and Joelle who plays Ava and some of the other characters on the show. So, it was a season without one central bad guy and for me. What also was gratifying more than the mystery was the fact that I got to know these people a little deeper. It also goes for Jim Beaver who played Drew Thompson and his character. With the absence of having a “bad guy” for the season, it really allowed for a lot of what I felt to be, human experiences.
TVWise: Your character has gone through many ups and downs over the past four seasons, as an actor, how has it been to play this role?
Walton Goggins: It’s a dream come true. I’ve been in television now for almost 12 years in this way, on a series. To go from my first experience which was 7 years to this experience, I feel like I am one of the most blessed actors working because I’ve had an opportunity to play two guys back to back that are never static, always moving and always changing and tragic in similar, but very, very different ways. I understand what this opportunity means and what this experience really means. Michael Chiklis said something to me during the first season of The Shield and it’s been a mantra of mine for the better part of a decade now. He said you should never be cavalier with success. It is something to be honored and respected and to be grateful for every single day. I feel that way 5 years into this show and all the friendships I’ve made and getting to work with Tim Olyphant and all the other actors. It will be a sad day when I no longer button my shirt all the way to the top as Boyd Crowder.
TVWise: The way you say the dialogue on the show almost has a rhythm to it. Is this an intentional thing that you bring personally to the character?
Walton Goggins: Yes, it’s very intentional. He’s a lyrical guy and those were conversations that we had early on in the pilot. I didn’t want to play a dumb guy from the South. I wouldn’t have done that if that was going to be the experience. They didn’t want that either and luckily for the both of us, it really worked out. Being from the South and I’ve said this in interviews over the past 5 years , but being from the South I am not interested in perpetuating a stereotype anymore. I made a living off that early in my career. I was able to feed myself and get a lot of work, but that’s not the only experience of the South that people should have, there’s another side to it. When I say that about Boyd Crowder, when I talk about his intelligence, I’m obviously not talking about the fact that he’s a murderer or a criminal, I’m talking about the one aspect of his personality that is largely what I experienced growing up in the South and that is very, very smart people; in a lyrical, kind of poetic sense of the word, so that is something that is very, very important to me. When I saw Boyd Crowder and I looked at all he could be; that’s really the first thing I started with.
TVWise: Many of the characters seem to have their own moral code, what are your thoughts on that?
Walton Goggins: I think all the characters in Elmore Leonard’s novels have a sense of a moral code. They are all united in several different ways, especially Elmore’s bad guys who are all self-serving, they are all schemers and they are all more often than not, engaged in endeavors that ultimately wind up failing. That’s no secret or mystery, but the way Elmore gets us is the way he talks about their failings and that’s what I get caught up in and that’s the reason why I’m five seasons into Justified and still figuring it out.
TVWise: Has there been a scene or moment that occurs this season that stood out to you and might surprise us fans?
Walton Goggins: There have been multiple [scenes] this season. At the end of episode 1 and what Boyd does at the end of that episode really surprised me. It went through several different incarnations before we settled on that one. It was the choice that was most organic to Boyd and the journey that he finds himself on. This is a man whose greatest sword is his tongue and for the first time when faced with the truth about his own responsibility for Ava’s incarceration, he has nothing to say and that never happens to a man like Boyd Crowder. When it did happen, he resorts to brutality and the response of an animal. Once that is over as you see in episode one, once he has exercised those pent up emotions, he’s able to go back to being himself and that was very surprising to me. It’s something I’ve always known was there if he was forced in a corner, but it’s the first time it’s ever really happened to that degree.
TVWise: Do you think there will be a happy ever after for Boyd?
Walton Goggins: I don’t think so. I don’t know that there is a pot of gold at the end of Boyd Crowder’s rainbow. I don’t think that you live life the way Boyd Crowder does and expect there to be anything other than pavement at the end of that rainbow. I won’t tell you what episode, but I will tell you there’s something that Boyd’s said and it’s as true as any line he has spoken in these last five years and it’s talking about death. He quotes Kahlil Gibran when he says, “A wise man once said what is death but to stand naked in the wind and then melt into the sun.” I’ve been at peace with that for a very long time and I think he’s speaking the truth. It’s beautiful when you think about it.
TVWise: What can the fans look forward to with Season 5?
Walton Goggins: I think you are going to see a lot of people who are trying really, really hard to honor the memory of Elmore Leonard and you are going to see a relationship between Boyd and Ava fractured and then hopefully come together, you never know. You are also going to see violence in regards to Boyd and how he is dealing with his world kind of spiraling out of control. As far as Raylan goes, I’ll leave that for Tim to say.
TVWise: Have you dealt with any backlash as far as the violence on Justified and when you worked on The Shield?
Walton Goggins: Obviously when a great tragedy happens in our culture, that’s the first place you go, I would too, because I’m a parent. We live in a very specific world and its Elmore Leonard’s world and Elmore wrote 40 novels and had been writing for what 60 years. In some ways, we have a license to do what other shows are restricted to do. We float between absurdity and comedy and drama and both involve violence. That is from the imagination of Elmore Leonard and we are just an extension of that and that is the person we are ultimately servicing.
TVWise: What has playing Venus Van Dam meant to you and how did you end up playing that character?
Walton Goggins: You know it was a conversation with Kurt Sutter who is an old friend of mine from The Shield. We were talking about how I could participate in Sons of Anarchy and the restrictions based on Shane from The Shield and how a character like that could be seen in the world of Sons of Anarchy. I kind of off handedly said that the only way we could do it is if I was a transgender. He sent me a text about a year later asking were you serious and I was filming Django at the time and was about as masculine as I could possibly be and I said “about what?” He said “about playing a transgender” and I said, “why do you have pages” and he said “yep”. So I said send them and when he did, I was just floored. I was blown away by this woman who is elegant, refined, sophisticated, funny and a three dimensional human being. Regardless of their sexual orientation and it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was stopped by someone the other day walking into the grocery store and it was a transgender and she said, I want to tell you how much I admire what you did. I didn’t want to be the jerk who assumed it was for Venus, so I asked this person what are you referring to specifically. She said Venus and she said thank you very much for liberating us from the definition of victim and misfit and drug addict and thank you for giving us a voice with power behind it and someone who has fully accepted who they are and has something to contribute to the world and that is a light in the world. Outside of what any critic or fan would ever say that conversation for me alone was the most important endorsement that I have ever received as an actor. It was an extraordinary experience and I was with my wife at the time. It really made me cry.
TVWise: Will we see Venus again in future episodes of Sons of Anarchy?
Walton Goggins: You know, I think you have to wait. You have to wait and see!
TVWise: When looking back on the seven seasons of The Shield, what are you most proud of?
Walton Goggins: I think it’s like a three or four part answer. I’m most proud of the friendships that I made. I’m proud of the fact that I participated, a small part, but I played a part in bringing about this new platform for telling stories and Shawn being one of the pioneers of this new way of telling serialized stories over the course of 6 or 7 seasons. I’m proud of the character that I played, Shane Vendrell and what he ultimately came to understand about himself at the end of all of it. He learned what they did morally was wrong and he was too far down the rabbit hole to get out. I think I’m as proud of, not just myself, but I include myself because I was on the show but every actor from CC to Michael to Jay Karnes to Kenny Johnson to David Rees Snell to CCH Pounder to Michael Jace, one thing I can say more than anything I’ve ever done is that there was not one day were every actor on that show did not leave it all on the field; did not walk away from that set exhausted by what they put out and I feel the same way about Justified, but it began with that for me with The Shield. Seeing that and being a part of that is very, very special.
The fifth season of Justifed premieres on FX on Tuesday January 7th at 10/9c.
– Special thanks to Carol from Walton-Goggins.com for her assistance.