Justified Riffing: Olyphant and Goggins Talk High-Def TV Magic Page 2
WALTON GOGGINS: THINK BOYD
METTLER: I asked Tim a similar question, and now it’s your turn: As an actor, do you care about being shot in high-def?
GOGGINS: I’ve never really thought about it in those terms, ever. I got some advice early on about making friends with the camera. I try not to be aware of a camera in the room for the longest time. It just doesn’t work, because there is one there with a bunch of people around it. So I just invite that friend into the room, every single time. And then it’s no different than any other crew member.
METTLER: In a way it’s a callback to your time on The Shield. You were pretty advanced in terms of having handhelds and camerapeople in the middle of scenes and all around you. It was a fairly innovative way to shoot, and you got comfortable as an actor dealing with all that.
GOGGINS: It was a really big help. It was a relationship between ourselves and our cameramen Billy Gierhart, who’s now a director, and Richard Cantu. It was just unspoken. It happened organically. They anticipated what we were going to do before we knew what we were going to do. Or we would see them going for a shot in our periphery and we would adjust, and just extend the moment. It was fluid, and it was simpatico.
Very few actors are given that opportunity. It was going to a very specific film school doing The Shield. There was nothing traditional about it.
METTLER: Similar to Tim playing two quite different iconic lead characters, you were so recognized for your work as Shane Vendrell on The Shield, but you are quite a different person playing Boyd Crowder on Justified: different not only physically but in the mannerisms, the diction, and the way you walk, move, and talk. You are seen as somebody else entirely, and a lot of people can’t do that.
GOGGINS: I appreciate you saying that. I feel very fortunate to be given an opportunity in this medium, in a golden era of this medium, to play these two characters for an extended period of time and really delve deep into who these people are. And they’re so very, very different.
METTLER: And you had some great settings to work in and around in Seasons 3 and 4 too, such as Noble’s Holler.
GOGGINS: That was a great setting. And what a marked change for Boyd and for Eva [Joelle Carter] that came about in Season 3. I think you got to see Boyd move past his painful religious experience into a place of real love for another human being. I’ve said this before, but when it’s all said and done, his great redeemer will be his love for Eva.
METTLER: And for her too. They’re mutually saving each other. Now, one phrase I’ve seen people describe Boyd with is “career criminal,” but I don’t know that I’d agree with that. Would you?
GOGGINS: Hmm. I wouldn’t agree with that, no. The first night we were working on Season 4, I was sitting with another actor and we were talking about the show and this character Boyd, and just about humanity in general, and he brought up this word that I had never heard before that you as a fellow lover of words will definitely appreciate. He said, “Well, it’s agathocacological.” And I said, “I’m sorry, what did you just say?” It’s the term that describes the condition of humanity, the existence of good and evil in all of us.
METTLER: And that’s the perfect encapsulation of who you are and practically every other main character on the show.
GOGGINS: Yeah, that’s exactly right!
METTLER: And a word with the poetic rhythms of the Elmore Leonard school of script writing, we could also say.
GOGGINS: It’s hard to emulate that man on a week-to-week basis. But knowing that he is our patriarch, it’s motivation unlike any other for Graham [Yost] and all of the other writers, and for Tim and I and all of the other actors on the show, to get it right. And it is poetic. It’s this gangsta kind of low-rent poetry. It’s so straight and so simple that it feels complex, like it’s from another time.
I think we are at our best on Justified when it is just two people talking in a room. Very few shows can say that. And you know that there will be Elmore-like action moments as there need to be, but there’s an underlying tension in Elmore’s writing that just allows for two people to not talk about the very thing they’re talking about, and have it be extremely interesting.
METTLER: We could get a 50-minute show of just you and Raylan sitting around somewhere talking without any other action, and it would still be riveting.
GOGGINS: Yeah, yeah, thank you for saying that. I really appreciate that, because that’s what we try to do. That’s really nice to hear, because quite literally before I got on the phone with you, I was having a conversation with our second in command, Fred Golan, about a scene we were about to shoot. We’d been going back and forth, really boiling it down to its essence. And he had this wonderful reference from a character that Boyd would understand immediately. This character, who will rename nameless, says, “You know that I’m going to say this. I have to say this.” Because Boyd is so self-taught and so motivated to stimulate himself intellectually, he can get away with the stuff that comes out of his mouth that’s so incongruous to other Southern characters who have come before him.
And the same with Raylan. Raylan’s a smart guy. And Mags [Bennett, played by Margo Martindale in Season 2] is a smart woman. Quarles [Neal McDonough] is a smart character. Dicky Bennett [Jeremy Davies] is smart.
METTLER: It’s a smart show for a smart crowd. Speaking of knowing the right rhythms, I also have to ask you about music, since I know it’s important to you.
GOGGINS: I’m a big lover of music. My partner [Ray McKinnon] and I have made four films for our company [Ginny Mule Pictures], and music plays a very big part of that. We enjoy the process of taking people through the cinematic choices.
For me personally, I like the singer/songwriters who tell stories. There’s a guy whom I’ve been listening to a lot lately, Micah P. Hinson. The dude is fantastic. And another guy named Damian Jurado. They’re both incredible storytellers.
METTLER: You must also love artists like John Prine and John Hiatt.
GOGGINS: It’s funny you say that. I’ve been a fan of John Prine’s for almost 20 years. I did a movie for Billy Bob [Thornton], the one he did after Sling Blade called Daddy and Them , back when people carried CDs around with a Discman. And Billy Bob said, “Walt, thanks for coming down. All your stuff is going to be with this songwriter that I doubt you’ve ever heard, but his name is John Prine, and we’re all gonna go out to dinner.” And I said, “Wait a second, dude. I brought three CDs with me, and they’re all John Prine.” So it was one of the biggest treats of my life to work with John on that film since I’m such a big fan of his music.
METTLER: Do you remember the first album or single you bought with your own money?
GOGGINS: Yeah, I could go back to [Queen’s] “Another One Bites the Dust,” this 45 I bought back in like the 3rd grade. But I think the album that changed my life and really brought me into music was U2’s The Joshua Tree. And only after exploring all of the new music did I turn my head around and start looking backwards, and I got into all of these people who have been around for so long like the Motown artists and Otis Redding, and I have to thank my mother for a lot of that.
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Louis Armstrong and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band down in New Orleans. Oddly enough, my [infant] son is really attracted to things like bluegrass and Django Reinhart. He likes things that are modern as well as things that are old. It’s so curious for me to discover the same music through my son’s eyes. But that’s what parents do: We pass down music.
METTLER: There is one other thing that we have to discuss, something that was beyond brilliant and something that people generally agree was one of last season’s greatest surprises, if not one of the best TV surprises ever. And that’s your mind-bending role as the transgendered vixen Venus Van Damme on Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy [in Episode 5, “Orca Shrugged,” which first aired October 9, 2012.]
GOGGINS: [laughs heartily] Thank you, buddy.
METTLER: How f---ing great was that? Nobody knew or saw it coming. It was so well done. It has to be noted.
GOGGINS: Thank you so much for saying that. Kurt [Sutter, SoA creator and also a writer/producer/director on The Shield] and I had several, several conversations. We wanted it to be as authentic as possible, and as respectful as possible, and for her to be lovely and successful and someone who was self-respecting, and someone who had the courage to be who she really was.
METTLER: “Fearless” is another word that came to my mind. You were all in — and all out too, I guess we have to say.
GOGGINS: [laughs] She was plenty out, absolutely. Part of her being all in.
METTLER: Who came up with the name?
GOGGINS: It was Kurt. All his. It was a play off of Cletus Van Damme [one of Shane Vendrell’s recurring aliases on The Shield].
METTLER:So is Cletus her pimp, then?
GOGGINS: [laughs loudly] I’m sure Shane had his hands on her at some point.
METTLER: And I’m sure there are photos of that somewhere too. [Goggins laughs] It sounds like she might show up again.
GOGGINS: I think so, yeah. We’re talking about it now. It was important not to let anyone know it was coming. We wanted to be as quiet about it as we possibly could, even to the point of some people not even knowing and going, “What? WHAT?? No… nooooo!!!” [Mettler laughs]
So I think Venus is going to come back, yeah, and in a real special way.
METTLER: Did you shoot any behind-the-scenes footage that could show up on the Sons Season 5 Blu-ray?
GOGGINS: No, we were very careful. There were no photographs, and no sitdowns. One of the things I was most afraid of, because I’m friends with all of those guys, is I just didn’t want to have conversations with them the way that Walton has had conversations with them in the past. It was as much for their benefit as it was for mine. So they were very, very respectful. And nobody saw me before I walked onto the set. And no one saw me afterwards. It was a very specific slice of time that only existed in that 14-hour day. It was a beautiful woman meeting a new bunch of guys, so hopefully we’ll be able to revisit it that way again.
METTLER: The kiss that you gave Charlie [Hunnam, who plays Jax Teller] right as you were leaving had to be improv — the look on his face was priceless, it was so perfect!
GOGGINS: Yeah, it was really surprising. I’ve kissed Charlie Hunnam. [laughs] It’s nice to see that. It’s nice to be in a business, to be in a job where you have an opportunity to be surprised on a daily basis. There are so many people who don’t have that opportunity, or have stopped being curious about life. And life is so curious, you know?