A Portrait of the Outlaw as a Storyteller: A Conversation With Walton Goggins

04/16/2015 12:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015
Walter Goggins

Last night, Justified finally concluded its wonderful and oft overlooked six-season run, and with it, brought to a close the final chapter of one of the most enigmatic and iconic characters in the history of television, Boyd Crowder, who is played by the criminally under-appreciated Walton Goggins.

A number of articles in the past, and recently, with Mr. Goggins have revolved around his thoughts on the character he embodied or have focused on his penchant to play the outlaw, the anti-hero, or as was the case in the film Lincoln and Django Unchained, a southern racist. The problem with many of them, in my opinion, is that they tend to lose how interesting the man who infuses his roles with such intelligence and empathy truly is. Many will recognize him from The Shield or Justified, yet few will know him as a well-read man who loves art, literature, or as a man who won an Academy Award for his 2001 role in the short film The Accountant.

I had the chance to speak with him over Easter Weekend as he took a break from painting eggs with his family. And after five minutes I realized that Walton Goggins is not only one of the most talented and criminally under-appreciated individuals in Hollywood, he is also one of the most humble, intelligent, and sincere individuals I've ever spoken with.

Presented the chance to speak with one my favorite performers, I chose to avoid the typical cliché and generally pointless questions of typical media outlets. I wanted to learn about the man, his influences, his life, really the context and motivation and inspiration that drive the individuals we simply see as characters on our screens.


Born in Georgia, and raised in the front-porch culture of a dying rural life, Walton Goggins is by his own admission not what Hollywood considers a conventional leading man. A man of most unique features, in his early career Goggins bounced around, from show to show, from extra to side characters for almost 15 years. His break came with the launch of acclaimed FX series The Shield. A main character on a seven-year critically acclaimed series is quite the feat, Goggins managed to did it twice.

And though I would love nothing more than to share the entirety of our conversation (the man spoke with me an hour, and God knows few are kind enough to speak with me that long), yet due unfortunately to word limits, but moreso the short attention span of online readers, I shall share my favorite pieces:

On his influences growing up

I was raised in a household full of storytellers. For the most part I was raised by women, so a lot of very colorful women, my mom and her sisters in particular. And I come from a group of people and family that celebrates storytelling. I grew up in part of this country at a time when front porch culture still existed and the evenings weren't filled with television, and were instead filled with long conversations.

On when he realized performance was his calling

There was one performance I remember, when I was 9 or 10, I believe it was Wally's Café, but, I was just captivated with how they held the audience's attention and the applause they received afterwards. And it wasn't narcissistic, they weren't seeking self-gratification, but it was an acknowledgement of people suspending reality for a period of time and just believing these actors aren't just on stage but live in this home or have this dysfunctional relationship. At that moment, I knew I could do this for the rest of my life and how happy I would be.

On his preference as a storyteller

I quite prefer the term storyteller to actor. I'm never prone to over-intellectualize. I turn myself over to the role and live within my imagination. It's an immersion into the story, and as someone who loves stories, I'm a person who loves to hear a person's life story, and enjoy listening what happened to a person on any particular day. And that dovetails nicely into stepping out from how the world views you, and live in that place. Instead of look at me look at me, view me as part of the story.

On his recent career breaks

It's like Malcolm Gladwell said, I studied this stuff for twelve years. I had around 10,000 hours of practice before I was given the true opportunity to properly work. It was the advent of cable programming that allowed me the opportunity to truly find the success I can currently find myself in. It was simply the right time at the right place and I happened to be the right age. And that opportunity only existed because of all the sacrifice that came before it.


Now that the major role that has defined that last half decade of his life is over, Walton is more than excited to open up a new chapter in his career, one that sees him starring in Quentin Tarantino's new film The Hateful Eight, as well as taking a major shift in career direction by leaving drama to star on the new Jody Hill written HBO comedy Vice Principals alongside Danny McBride, he of Eastbound and Down and Pineapple Express.

But as he puts it, even from his beginnings as a nineteen-year old in the industry, to his new found critical acclaim and boundless set of opportunities, all along, hit or miss, he's had only one thought.

God, how blessed am I to be doing this.

As the first chapter of his story comes to a close, and as humble as he may be, the hustle to finally be able to choose the material has come and the second act of his career is set to blossom.

Chances are, if you haven't heard of Walton Goggins, you will soon.