Walton Goggins can cast a spell over you during a phone conversation just as easily as he does playing the magnetic Boyd Crowder in FX’s "Justified.”
He puts everything out there—even when doing an interview at the end of an early morning shoot after he’s been up the night before with his new son, Augustus Somerset. It’s hard not to be drawn in by his zeal for the work he’s doing.
“It’s always exciting,” he said, answering a simple “how’s it going?” “One should be so lucky to be in this situation that I’m in, or any other person on television [is in], who really cares about what they do every day.”
The former "The Shield" star definitely cares, and that translates to “Justified” (9 p.m. Wednesdays, FX), where his mercurial character continues to trouble U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), the childhood friend who just can’t trust Boyd, even if he claims his outlaw days are behind him.
Since last year’s freshman season, Boyd has gone from white supremacist criminal to born-again evangelist to leader of the disenfranchised to disillusioned ex-con. He’s about to change again, Goggins teased.
“I think that he has been without the ability to see himself as good or bad, and through the course of this season, he will acquire a pair of glasses that allows him to see himself really for the first time,” Goggins said, adding with a laugh, “How about that for a quote? Come on, Curt!”
Goggins talked more about working with Olyphant ("like doing a waltz"), being a father and how cool it would be to see Boyd wearing a marshal's star.
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Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) feel each other out in "Justified." (FX photo)
Good to talk to you again. How’s it going?
When you’re near the end of a season [they were shooting Episode 11 of 13 when we spoke], you just don’t know what’s going to happen. [It’s like] the way the audience doesn’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a very, very, very exciting, fertile time and you’re just—you’re just figuring it out. [You] can’t wait to read [the scripts]. Just like the audience can’t, hopefully, wait to see it.
You haven’t seen the final script?
No. I had never saw a final script on “The Shield” until two days before [we filmed]. And you just know that everything is changing; everything changes in a narrative like this that’s [done] over the course of 13 episodes. I can only imagine what it’s like with this [bleeping] “Sopranos” or “Boardwalk Empire,” when you have that many characters.
I love watching Boyd and Raylan together. One of their great exchanges came in the premiere when he Boyd says, “My outlaw days are behind me.” But how true is that?
Well, I think you have to take everything that Boyd Crowder says with a grain of salt. But I think that, on some level, he believes it. I think this is a guy who needs to get lost in the desert for a little bit and just to kind of re-evaluate his world view. That’s always tricky business with a guy like Boyd Crowder, because you just never know what conclusions he’s going to come to. But for the most part, I would say that he’s genuine in his desire to be alone. But things change.
Since the series began, he’s had quite a journey from sort of a racist bad guy to religious leader to sort of having Raylan’s back in the Season 1 finale. And now this season, he’s done changed again.
Yeah, to wanting to get as low as he possibly can, to this kind of cathartic experience, this release of this flood of emotion at the end of Episode 3, and the guy that you see [after that] is not the guy you saw in the first three episodes of the season. He’s a mercurial dude and he’s always changing. And he might not wear his emotions on his sleeve, but he is very much in touch with how he feels and that informs the next direction that he takes.
Do you think at the beginning of the season he was simply bent out of shape about his father being killed, or was something else troubling him?
I think he’s bent out of shape over the fact that his father was killed and 18 men of his were killed. Also his faith in a religious institution, with God as the CEO, [was shaken]. He was fighting a righteous fight and he wasn’t rewarded for that. To a religious zealot as deep as Boyd had become, to go down that path only to have that path illuminated with a different light [and learn] that things don’t always work out in the way that you expect, that really rattled him. [It] really debased his fundamental belief in the world. He was able to grasp religion and find order in the universe through religion. Once that was taken out and the rug was pulled out from underneath him, well, he’s directionless. He’s just wandering. He will find his direction again, in a different way.
Boyd always seemed to see things in black and white. Is he having a hard time just realizing that there’s some middle ground, some grey areas in the world?
I think he’s having a hard time seeing that initially, and I think that’s very intuitive of you, I think that he’s going to become a man in balance. And you’ll have to see what balance means for a guy like Boyd Crowder, a guy who lives in extremes. And that’s no longer working for him.
But what’s left? What is left after God? What is left after being an agnostic and then believing in God? I don’t know what’s left for Boyd Crowder, but he seems to find a way and he has a different answer. One that I didn’t expect.
Now you’ve got me wanting to see the rest of the season.
What's he drinking all the time, by the way? What's his drink of choice?
He’s a Jack Daniels buddy, straight up.
All right, and he’s not really all that happy in the mines, is he? Or is he happy because he can be alone down there?
I think that he wants to be lonely. I think that he's mired in this need to, in some ways, [be] repaired and not socialize. What I think you're going to get to see, hopefully, as the season progresses, you're going to see behind the curtain. This is a showman; Boyd is a showman without a show, and he's just backstage [at the moment]. … You're going to get to see Boyd Crowder as he really is. And you're probably going to get to see it as Boyd Crowder is discovering it, because I don't think he really understands the person that he is. But he's going to figure it out.
Does he see himself as either good or bad? Or does he not think about it?
Boyd will come to some definite conclusions about who he is. And be OK with that.
Do you still think he’s always the smartest guy in the room?
Smarter than Raylan even?
I think their smarts are used in different ways. So I don’t know that one is smarter than the other and I surely wouldn’t want that to be the case, because I think that Raylan needs Boyd and I think that Boyd needs Raylan. I think that they are worthy adversaries for each other. So no, I wouldn’t say that he’s smarter than Raylan, but I definitely wouldn’t say that Raylan is smarter than Boyd.
Tim recently said that he doesn’t think they’re friends even though they are old friends, so to speak. Do you think that’s true?
I don’t see it that way. I disagree with Tim on [that]. I wouldn’t have answered that question that way. Whether Raylan can ever see Boyd as a friend, I guess that would be up to Raylan, but I definitely see from Boyd’s point of view, Raylan being a friend. And not just a friend of convenience. But a friend that is tumultuous at times, but at the end of the day, a friend. And maybe that’s the difference between being a good guy and a bad guy.
I have this funny feeling that the two of them could have been flipped, had maybe a few things happened differently earlier in their lives.
I agree with you. Write that down, Curt. [I agree] whole-heartedly. Had Boyd been given more opportunities, who knows what kind of man he would have been? Had Raylan had opportunities taken away, who knows what kind of man he would have become? I think they are two sides to the same coin.
In Episode 3, Boyd drags Kyle Easterly (Michael Mosley) from his truck and then he screams when he throws the guy out the window. I saw that as a turning point for him. What was he thinking, feeling at that point, do you think?
I think that it is an exorcism of anger and pain and a true release of all of this pent-up anguish that he’s had. It’s almost like coming through—I mean, I just had a baby, so I’ll use this analogy: It’s kind of coming through the birthing canal, and it’s painful to go through it. It’s painful to look at those things, but once you really start to look at things for what they really are, there’s a salvation in there and there’s peace in there. That’s the most important thing. I think that through that experience for Boyd, and that release on the other side of that is going to be peace and it’s going to be peace in a way that he’s never felt before. How about that?
Wow. Since you mentioned it, how is it being a dad?
I realized how woefully unprepared I was for being a dad. And that combined with looking into the abyss of love and madness. It is quite the undertaking becoming a parent, and humbling on every level. What people say is the truth about it; your life is forever changed. But when you sit there and you’re holding another human being who is looking at you for everything, there is no greater purpose on this Earth. I wouldn’t have said that before I became a parent. But I believe that now.
Sounds like you’re loving it.
Loving it. But I’m tired. When he’s cranky, I’m cranky. When he’s up, I’m up.
Does he get you up at night?
Yeah. A little bit, but he’s getting into a better routine. We’re six weeks into it, almost seven weeks, and he’s starting to kind of have some rhythm … Take pictures of yourself pre-baby and then post-baby and hopefully you try to kind of retain the person that you were pre-baby, only better.
Has it changed your approach to your work at all?
It has, man, because you don’t have the time. I do not have the time that I had six weeks ago, to look on something and to work on something. When you take away that ability, what you have is more focused time on your work. Before I would have three or four days to prepare and now I have three or four hours. Work that is accomplished in those three or four hours is in some ways better than the work that you can accomplish in three or four days. It’s amazing how focused you have to become as a parent.
I’m going to mention a few names and tell me how Boyd’s going to interact with these people. Like with Ava.
I don’t know what I can tell you and you can print. With Ava, it’s going to get interesting.
OK, how about Mags Bennett? Does he have any run-ins with her?
It’s gonna get interesting. Next. [Laughs.]
You can comment on this: Margo Martindale is so amazing as Mags.
Man, she is so good in this. I love character actors, I love to watch them work. And to see this giant in her own right, at this stage in her career, be able to chew up scenery like that and just own that room. It’s really a pleasure to watch.
I said something the other day, she did a scene that you’ll see coming up in Episode 8 or 9, and I just applauded afterward because Margo, at the end of the day, is just a good [bleeping] storyteller. You know? Hopefully all actors are, but certainly characters actors are. And Margo’s one of the best I’ve worked with, man. It’s so nice to see someone who has the body of work that she does just still give a [crap] and just tear it up every day; she’s a consummate professional and a master at her craft.
She is, and she sure makes Mags scary as hell. But in such a quiet way, too. Menacing.
She said something really interesting: “The fact that I’m 62 years old and I can make people cringe, that feels pretty good.”
She does. The Bennetts and the Givens have a history. Do the Crowders have a history with the Bennetts as well?
Not as deep. No. They each have an understanding of the families and family businesses, but they operate in their own county and we operate in ours. There’s not a lot of crossover.
But there’s soon to be something.
There’s soon to be something big. Yeah.
I asked Tim Olyphant about working with you and he said that it’s easy to work with you, he just sits back and lets you do all the work.
Well, you know what? Raylan Givens is cool; Tim Olyphant is cool. And when I see his name on the call sheet, I know that I’m going to be challenged. … How can I phrase this? I’m just trying to do this poetically because I’m [bleeping] tired now. … Curt, put words in my mouth! I just hit a wall, I’m just not waking up this morning and I’m hitting a wall.
You got it. It’s the same opinion, “Back at you” basically?
Right, back at you. And that’s genuine.
The two of you still make my favorite scenes. I love watching Mags Bennett, but the Boyd/Raylan dynamic can’t be beat. It’s like they’re always doing a little dance.
You know what? There it is; there you go. Working with Tim Olyphant is like doing a waltz, a rumba, hip-hop and every other dance you can name. How’s that?
Awesome. Last question for you is about this big change in Boyd you mentioned. He’s not going to become a marshal, is he?
[Laughs.] You never know.
He turned in Dewey, so I was just curious.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see Boyd Crowder with a tin star on his chest? [Laughs.]
It would be a little scary.