LOS ANGELES -- Walton Goggins is on a roll.
In a city where rejection and failure are what awaits most people who come here chasing a show-business dream, the 42-year-old native of Birmingham, Ala., has defied the odds by becoming what thousands aspire to be -- a working actor. For the last 12 years, Goggins has been steadily employed, playing memorable characters in a couple of acclaimed FX-network series -- The Shield (2002-08), in which he played Det. Shane Mandrell opposite Michael Chiklis's bull-headed task force leader Vic Mackey, and Justified (2009-present), in which he portrays Kentucky backwoods drug kingpin Boyd Crowder, a childhood friend and grown-up nemesis of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant).
Goggins has also appeared in several feature films including Lincoln and Django Unchained, and partnered with fellow actor Ray McKinnon to form a production company, Ginny Mule Pictures.
Onscreen, Goggins has been mesmerizing, bringing an almost-frightening level of intensity to every scene he's in. His critically acclaimed work has been rewarded with an Emmy nomination (for Justified), a Television Critics Association Award (for The Shield) and an Academy Award (a best live-action short film Oscar for 2001's The Accountant).
Free Press TV critic Brad Oswald sat down with Goggins recently during the U.S networks' semi-annual media tour in Los Angeles, on a day when FX announced Justified will end next year after its sixth season.
FP: There aren't many actors in the position that you're in -- you've been working steadily 12 years, in two iconic TV shows, playing a couple of the most complex and interesting characters on TV. Do you ever catch yourself wondering how this happened to you?
GOGGINS: Oh, yeah. There isn't a day that goes by I'm not thankful for what I've got. Lightning doesn't strike at all for many people, and it very rarely strikes twice in the same place in such rapid succession. I am extremely aware, and very, very grateful for this good fortune and for the work, more than anything else. We (actors) are transient people, and we never know what life is going to bring our way. I've been given these two shows, and these two characters, and I feel like I have something to say to the world through what Shawn (Ryan, The Shield's creator) has created and Graham (Yost, Justified's creator), through (author) Elmore Leonard, has created. I can't believe I'm living the life I'm living, really.
FP: You really haven't had time to take a breath, professionally, in the last 12 years. Is there, in any way, a down side to having been so intensely busy with these two roles?
GOGGINS: You know what they say about making hay while the sun shines -- I've had time to reflect on that, and I always think back to something Michael Chiklis said to me during the first season of The Shield; he took me aside and said, "Never be cavalier with success. Ever. That's Rule No. 1." And that really stuck with me; he was a great role model for me, in his work ethic and the way he dealt with success. For me, at this stage of the game, I find that my time is more productive, even though I have less of it -- that's a strange juxtaposition, but it's true. I'm a father now, so my priorities have changed, but as an actor, I feel like I'm just hitting my stride and I have more to say now than I've ever had.
Over the course of The Shield and the first year of Justified, I made four of my own movies with my partner, which was an extraordinary experience; I sold a pilot to Fox that I collaborated on with one of the writers from The Shield, which I'm extremely proud of; I have another pilot that I just started writing and that I'm out-of-my-mind passionate about; and I'm going to direct a movie later this year that my wife wrote.
Between the work and my relationship and being a father, there really isn't time for much else, but now is the time for me.
FP: The announcement that Justified will end after its sixth season means that the end is coming for Boyd Crowder, too. Do you have any thoughts about how you'd like the Boyd-Raylan relationship to end?
GOGGINS: Yes, I have a very definitive, measured idea about Boyd Crowder's ultimate fate and what I want to say from his point of view. I think it's about friendship. I guess we'll see if that's what it turns out to be, but I have a feeling that it won't be too far from that mark.
FP: Despite their differences, is it possible that they've both really wanted the same thing all along?
GOGGINS: I think there are definitely some overlaps -- I think that Graham and the writers have done a really good job of reflecting them going through similar experiences in different ways. I read somewhere, and I think it's true, that Raylan has been given an opportunity (this season) to go and do something that Boyd would literally -- and has -- kill to do, which is to see his wife (ex-wife) and daughter. Raylan decides not to, and Boyd can't, and in the first episode of this season, we see Raylan going in one direction and Boyd in completely the other. But I have a feeling they're going to circle back into each other's orbit in a way that will take us nicely into the final season.
FP: You spoke very beautifully about Elmore Leonard, and what he meant to the show and what his death means to the show and the people who make it. After playing the character of Boyd for this long, do you think that he belongs to you, or will you always be an actor playing a character that Elmore Leonard created?
GOGGINS: You know, I would love to ask Elmore that question -- have you, in some way, relinquished control of this character? I don't think I could answer that question without asking him. I wasn't as close to him as Graham and Tim were, but I had some great conversations with him and I know that for me, Walton, having played Boyd will always be a real bright spot in my career.
When people talk about Elmore Leonard and all the great things he did, the fact that Justified will be part of that conversation is something that I'm very proud of.
FP: At this point, in Season 5, are you able to look beyond Justified and think about what you want to do next, or do you have to keep your focus fully on bringing this to its conclusion?
GOGGINS: You always have to have an eye on the future, and to understand the uncertainty of it. You know, I feel like the rest of the country and the friends I grew up with have sort of caught up with the experience that actors and artists have been living with their entire lives, which is the idea that there is no 30 years at one job anymore. When I graduated from high school in 1989, that was still the conventional thinking of the people that were standing on either side of me at that graduation. And it wasn't too long after that that reality started to change. But in this business, you always have an eye on the future and what's next, and you have to live with the uncertainty. I do have a few ideas about what I'd like to do next, but I'm smart enough to know that whatever happens between now and then will probaby surprise me more than I could ever make plans for.
Season 5 of Justified is currently airing on Super Channel. Past seasons of the series can be found on Showcase TV.
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