With a great white shark of a grin and a maniacal laugh that's at once infectious and chilling, it's no wonder that Walton Goggins so often plays shady characters. As Justified's Boyd Crowder, the actor was first seen as a white supremacist bombing black churches in an episode that was meant to be the character's last gasp, but Goggins's performance was so mesmerizing that his death scene was reshot. Crowder made it to the last scene in the series as Deputy Raylan Givens's main antagonist and ally, a complex, charismatic and surprisingly sympathetic man who's at least as much victim as perpetrator.
Goggins is now co-starring in Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, an Agatha Christie-esque mystery in the guise of a western, in which a motley collection of shady individuals trapped inside an enclosed space spin stories, spar, and kill one another as the question of who's behind the murders and other mysteries are gradually revealed. Chris Mannix is another of Goggins's antiheroes turned unlikely hero, a vigilante who's just been appointed sheriff of Red Rock, Wyoming, and a proud but defeated Confederate who forms an initially reluctant alliance with a former Union officer—and a black one at that (Samuel L. Jackson's Major Marquis Warren).
When we spoke earlier this month, Goggins was analytical, witty, and sincere as he talked about having come to terms with playing “that guy,” being grateful for the opportunity to play smart, complicated characters for the past few years, and the Zen of discovering a new character.
A lot of people assume that Southerners, especially poor white Southerners, are stupid or somehow backward, and you often play characters who are underestimated in that way. As an actor, have you ever had to deal with that stereotype yourself?
Certainly in the early part of my career. You have to go to work and earn the right, over the course of your career, to say things that are more meaningful. More often than not you're relegated to whatever box that the story needs to put you in, and you have a line here, two lines, whatever that is, and you have to service the story that way. But you hopefully, over the course of your career, earn the right to contribute to the story in a more complex way.
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