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Walton Goggins: Getting 'Justified' With Brother Boyd

The Southern actor discusses playing a white supremacist turned born-again Christian on the critically acclaimed FX series Justified — and how he gets into the mind-set to play one of TV's worst bad boys.

37:05

Other segments from the episode on May 26, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 26, 2010: Interview with Walton Goggins; Review of Tracey Thorn's album "Love and Its Opposite"; Review of Jane Smiley's novel "Private Life."

Transcript

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Walton Goggins: Getting 'Justified' With Brother Boyd

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Justified")

Mr. WALTON GOGGINS (Actor): (as Boyd Crowder) Fire in the hole.

(Soundbite of explosion)

GROSS: That's my guest, Walton Goggins, playing a white supremacist
shouting fire in the hole as he blows up a black church with a rocket
launcher. It's a scene from the first episode of the FX series
"Justified," which is based on an Elmore Leonard story. Episode 11 was
shown last night.

In the interim, Goggins' character, Boyd Crowder, did time in prison,
where he was born again and dedicated himself to Jesus - or so he says.

I first became aware of Walton Goggins through his terrific performances
in the FX series "The Shield," as Detective Shane Vendrell, a member of
a corrupt narcotics strike team.

Here's another clip from "Justified." A deputy U.S. marshal, Raylan
Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant, has been sent back to his home town
in Kentucky, where his old friend, Boyd Crowder, played by Goggins, is
being investigated for robbing a bank.

Boyd and Raylan used to work together in the coal mines when they were
teenagers. Now they're on opposite sides of the law. In this scene,
before Boyd's alleged conversion, Boyd and Raylan are meeting again
after many years and have been talking about the time they spent
together in the mines. Boyd, the white supremacist, speaks first.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Justified")

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Yeah, all those days, good and bad, they all
long gone now. Everything's changed. It's all changed. Mine has changed.
No more following the seam(ph) underground. It's cheaper to take the
tops off mountains and let the slag run down and ruin the creeks. Hey,
you remember the picket lines, don't you? Of course, backing the company
scabs and gun thugs. Whose side do you think the government's always
been on, Raylan, us or people with money? And who do you think controls
that money? Who do you think wants to mongrelize the world?

Mr. TIMOTHY OLYPHANT (Actor): (as Raylan Givens): Who?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) The Jews.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) Boyd, you know any Jews?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) See, I recruit skins. They don't know no more
than you do. And I have to teach them that we have a moral obligation to
get rid of the Jews. See, it was in the Bible.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens): Where?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) In the beginning. It's part of creation. See,
in the beginning, right, you had your mud people. Now, they were also
referred to as beasts because they had no souls. See, they were
soulless. And then Cain - you remember Cain now?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) Mm-hmm.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Well, Cain, he laid down with the mud people,
and out of these fornications came the Edomites. Do you know who the
Edomites are?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) Who?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) They're the Jews, Raylan.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) You're serious.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Read your Bible, as interpreted by experts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) You know, Boyd, I think you just use the Bible
to do whatever the hell you like.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Well, what do you think I like, Raylan?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) You like to get money and blow (bleep) up.

GROSS: That's a scene from the FX series "Justified."

Walton Goggins, welcome to FRESH AIR. You may be a white supremacist in
"Justified," but I love watching you. It is so much fun to watch you in
this series. Did you feel like you had to figure out why some people
become white supremacists before you could play one?

Mr. GOGGINS: On some level, but I never believed that Boyd Crowder was a
white supremacist, to be quite honest with you. In my conversations with
both the network and with Graham Yost, our executive producer, and Tim
Olyphant, it was very important for me as an actor not to play this guy
as a white supremacist but to play him as a bit of a Svengali: a person
who doesn't necessarily believe all that he espouses.

So to that extent, yeah, I needed to understand how one might go about
recruiting people and a diatribe or a monologue that might service that
end. But beyond that, I don't believe his heart - in his heart, Boyd
Crowder is a racist person. No, I don't.

GROSS: Is that because you couldn't believe that you had it in you to
play that? Is that self-protection, in other words?

Mr. GOGGINS: No, you know, I think - you know, I've made four Southern
movies. I've been in quite a few Southern films. And initially, when
this was sent to me, I wasn't interested in playing another Southern guy
labeled as a racist.

You know, I think racism is a problem throughout our country, and it's
not confined to those states below the Mason-Dixon line. And for me, I
did not want to perpetuate a stereotype. So I had them take out
references to our president, Barack Obama, and I wouldn't say the N-
word, and I said I would do this if Raylan was able to point out that
Boyd doesn't necessarily believe that which he is saying, and that was
very important to me.

And the other thing that I wanted to explore with Boyd, which I think is
more appropriate for him as a person, kind of getting in his skin, was
to explore his intellect. And I don't think that that was there in the
original pilot. It was tweaked very easily with a couple of different
sentences here and there that explored how smart this guy really was.
That was important to me, more so than - that was interesting to me. To
be a racist didn't interest me.

GROSS: So okay, so going along with the premise that your character is a
really smart man who is in a bad situation and has become a white
supremacist, not because he deeply believes that everything is the Jews'
fault, and black people's fault, but because that's the way to get power
in the area that he is with the people that he knows - he goes to
prison, and in prison he undergoes a religious conversion and is born
again and dedicates his life to Jesus, so he says.

So I want to play a scene after that conversion, and this is a scene in
which Raylan, the U.S. marshal, played by Timothy Olyphant, is visiting
him, you, in jail, and Raylan had shot you in a previous episode. He
knows that you blew up an African-American church and that you shot your
associate right after, and also you had told him that if he didn't leave
town, you'd kill him. So he shot you right after you were drawing on
him.

He intentionally didn't shoot you in the heart. You survived, and now,
as we'll hear, you're preaching to him that he needs to mend his ways.
So here's Timothy Olyphant visiting you in prison.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Justified")

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Why hello there, Raylan.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) Hello, Boyd, how you doing?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) The food isn't as advertised, and there was no
mint on my pillow. So I don't think that I would come back to this
particular hotel, but it is better than Halverson(ph), or maybe I'm
better. See, I've done a lot of bad things in my life, but what I know
now is that the only hope that I have of saving my own soul is by
helping to save the soul of others. But I can see by the glazing of your
eyes that you didn't ask to see me because you wanted to hear about my
ministry. How can I help you, Raylan?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) I saw Arlo the other day.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Oh, how did that go?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) I want to know everything you know about what
he's up to.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Well, if I tell you, what do I get?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) What do you want?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) Well, you understand what it is that you're
asking for. I mean, me asking people in here about your daddy, I mean,
that could put me in a very compromising position.

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) You want me to arrange for that mint on your
pillow?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) No, Raylan. The only thing that I want you to
do is to think about your immortal soul. You are a violent man, my
friend. You have left a trail of dead behind you. You think about it,
the life that you've led, the work that you've done. One moment, you
could be breaking into the home of a fugitive, and the very next moment
you could be facing your final judgment. Now, how do you think that
you're going to fare on that glorious, glorious day, Raylan Givens?

Mr. OLYPHANT: (as Givens) That's always a good question.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Crowder) No, it's the most important question there is.

GROSS: That's a scene with Timothy Olyphant and my guest, Walton
Goggins, from the FX series "Justified."

I have no idea watching this series whether you're serious about Jesus
and having been converted or not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And I'm wondering if you know.

Mr. GOGGINS: I do know. I think it was a discovery, you know, along the
way. I don't think I knew initially. I don't think Graham or the other
writers on the show knew initially, and I thought it best that we - as
did they - that we keep it ambiguous until we figure it out. I think
that I figured it out shortly thereafter.

GROSS: And he's organizing a church now made up of meth dealers and
survivalists and...

Mr. GOGGINS: Absolutely, black and white, by the way, absolutely, yes.

GROSS: That's part of his revelation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: He's a walking paradox, for sure.

GROSS: So you grew up in the South. You were born in Birmingham and grew
up in Georgia. The accent that you use in the show, is that an accent
that you're familiar with? Because it's supposed to be a Kentucky
accent.

Mr. GOGGINS: It is supposed to be a Kentucky accent. I don't know quite
how accurate it is. I did study a little bit about people from Kentucky
and kind of how they talk. It's not an accent that I'm familiar with.

It's different because the cadence is so specific to Elmore Leonard, and
it's slightly stilted and heightened in a way that I also think
reflects, for me, what I'm trying to do - I don't know whether it comes
across or not - but something that speaks to Boyd's intelligence. You
know, more often than not, I don't or haven't seen Southern characters
like this with a penchant and a love for words. And we were able to, in
the pilot episode, kind of introduce that. And he says innocuous.

I was sitting there right before we were going on and talking over the
scene with Graham and said, you know, what if he were to say, just kind
of offhandedly, because it's the way his mind works, he were to say: You
picked an innocuous target. You know what that means? That means
harmless.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: So he not only uses these words, but he also gives the
definition right afterwards, as if he's very proud of knowing how to use
a certain word.

GROSS: And that he also assumes that people who he knows won't know the
word.

Mr. GOGGINS: Absolutely, absolutely, and the people that he hangs out
with won't know the answer or the definition of those words.

GROSS: So the first episode of "Justified" is based on an Elmore Leonard
short story called "Fire in the Hole."

Mr. GOGGINS: It is.

GROSS: And I'll confess, I haven't read that story. So I was wondering:
Does your character in that story have the religious conversion, or does
that story end before the arc...

Mr. GOGGINS: That story ends with the death of Boyd Crowder, and I have
not read that short story either, and purposely did not read it after
getting the job because I didn't want to be influenced by it. But as I
understand it, he dies at the end of the pilot, which is exactly how we
filmed it. I was only to do one episode. Boyd Crowder actually does get
shot in the heart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: It is only after showing it to audiences that Boyd Crowder
lived. About three months later, right when the show was getting picked
up, I came on to do more episodes, and we re-filmed, we re-shot the
ending so that Boyd had an opportunity to live.

GROSS: Oh, resurrected.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: Absolutely. He's like Jesus. He is Jesus. He came back in
three months.

GROSS: Can you, like, deconstruct the voice that you do a little bit for
us, like give an illustration of how you put it together?

Mr. GOGGINS: Well, this is a person with probably a ninth-grade
education. I think he's extremely well-read. I don't think that he feels
the need to raise his voice in certain ways. He - I think he understands
the power of manipulation sometimes can lie in whispering to people and
getting close to people and not averting one's gaze but looking deep
into their eyes and talking to their very soul.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right, good.

Mr. GOGGINS: How did that come off?

GROSS: Very well.

Mr. GOGGINS: Good. So do I have you on my team, Terry?

GROSS: I don't think so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Not on Boyd's team - no, thank you.

Mr. GOGGINS: Yes, but I understand.

GROSS: What was it like to, like, have a swastika tattoo and, you know,
spout all that Christian Identity religion stuff? I mean, the Christian
Identity movement that believes Jews are the mud people.

Mr. GOGGINS: Yeah, it was - you know, honestly, it was awful. It really
was. A lot of my friends at FX are - one gentleman in particular, Eric
Schrier, is Jewish, and we did a table reading of this script.

And I had to say that monologue and immediately after felt like I had to
say: I'm sorry, I don't believe any of this. Everyone in the room, I
have - my best friends are Jewish.

It was - no, it was really - it's difficult, and it's difficult to have
a swastika on your arm, you know. And I actually wore it home. I didn't
let them take it off. So I kept it with me during the process of filming
the pilot episode. And there were...

GROSS: What, you wanted to be infected by it?

Mr. GOGGINS: Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, you're certainly
infected or affected by ink on your body, and something as powerful a
symbol, as powerful as a swastika, I definitely wanted to kind of feel
that. And there were times during the day when I wasn't working, and I
was out at dinner, that I would roll up my T-shirt, and I would leave
the swastika there just to see peoples' reaction.

And there was one time when I was with Tim, and I had rolled my shirt up
just to see what would happen, and Tim didn't notice it for about five
minutes, until there were tourists walking through the lobby of the
hotel who almost gasped. You could hear them step back with their
Starbucks coffee in their hand. And Tim said: Please, please roll down
your shirt. Please, or I'm gonna have to leave you here alone.

GROSS: Well, yeah. I can understand his sentiment. I mean, like,
sporting a swastika in public is a very vile act.

Mr. GOGGINS: A very vile act.

GROSS: It's a very provocative act.

Mr. GOGGINS: It is.

GROSS: I mean, what kind of reaction were you expecting?

Mr. GOGGINS: I knew that I would get that reaction. I just wanted to
see. I just wanted to see what that would be like.

GROSS: It's funny, nobody noticed that you're both, like, actors, that
you're both stars.

Mr. GOGGINS: Not for a minute, but I definitely explained afterwards
that it was fake, it wasn't real, so...

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Walton Goggins, and he was
one of the stars of "The Shield," and he's now one of the stars of the
new FX series "Justified." Let's take a short break here, and then we'll
talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Walton Goggins. He is now
starring as a white-supremacist-turned-born-again-Christian in the new
FX series "Justified," and he also played Shane in the FX series "The
Shield."

Let me ask you about "The Shield," and your character on it, Shane
Vendrell, and you were one of the members of this really corrupt strike
team. It was a narcotics team that worked the streets of L.A. and was
supposed to be busting, you know, drug gangs, but it was - they were
pretty dirty so that they always took drugs and money.

Mr. GOGGINS: To say that they were immoral would not be an
understatement, yes.

GROSS: Yes, and your character, Shane, he often thinks he's smart and
that he can really come up with these schemes and even be smarter than
Vic, who's the leader of the team, but he's sometimes just, like, really
stupid and impulsive and does the wrong thing. And I thought we could
play a scene here.

And Season One ends with all the members of this small strike team
standing around like a dumpster of money that they've managed to steal
from an Armenian gang that trafficked in prostitutes and drugs and other
things.

So they're standing around this, like, dumpster of money, and they have
to figure out where are they going to put it, what are they going to do
with it? And then when the season, when the next season picks up, this
is a scene in which Michael Chiklis as Vic, the leader of the strike
team, is coming to see you because he needs some of the money. Here's
the scene.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Shield")

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Detective Shane Vendrell) Hey, what's up?

Mr. MICHAEL CHIKLIS (Actor): (as Detective Vic Mackey) Hi, I need to
make an emergency withdrawal from the retirement fund. You've got the
key, right?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) Vic, there's nothing in there.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) You've got to be joking me.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) No, we took it. (Unintelligible) we took it
to invest.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) Without telling me?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) You put me in charge while you were taking
time off.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) A quarter of that stash is mine.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) And I'm in the process of tripling it for
you. It was going to be a surprise.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) It is, a bad one.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) Look, I've been giving this thing a lot of
thought.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) Yeah? And what's your plan exactly?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) I've been stepping up shipments. I've been
overseeing distribution.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) Distribution? We're middlemen keeping the
peace, not drug dealers. What the hell are you doing?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) I'm not doing anything that we weren't doing
before. I'm just bumping things up a little.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) Oh, what level is that, prison? All right,
where's my investment now?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) It's all tied up in the coke shipment.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) That coke that had Tio's(ph) guy bleeding from
every orifice?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) We don't know that that was the coke.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) I need that money.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Vendrell) Yeah? Well, we all do.

Mr. CHIKLIS: (as Mackey) No, I need it now to get back my kids.

GROSS: That's a scene from the FX series "The Shield," which is of
course on DVD. And Walton Goggins, who played Shane, is my guest. I want
you to talk about how you see the character of Shane and how you
developed him.

Mr. GOGGINS: I think that you're exactly right in the sense that he's -
you know, he arrives in the room 30 seconds too late and is continually
playing catch-up, and he's not a very smart guy and doesn't think before
he acts, but a great foot soldier and extremely, extremely loyal to Vic.
And I don't think that Vic could have been the person that he became
without a sidekick like Shane.

But when Shane stepped out and tried to do the same thing, he failed
miserably. Whenever he takes a leadership position, he fails miserably.
He's a tragic, tragic guy.

GROSS: I love watching your face in "The Shield" because sometimes
you're just kind of blank and clueless looking and sometimes incredibly
defensive and sometimes really hurt. There's all these, like,
expressions that flash across your face, your eyes.

Mr. GOGGINS: He's just mentally processing. It's like he's just trying
to understand what the person just said. He spends a lot of time just
playing catch-up.

GROSS: My guest, Walton Goggins, will be back in the second half of the
show. He's in the FX series "Justified," which is showing Tuesday
nights, and he co-starred in the FX series "The Shield." I'm Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with actor Walton
Goggins. He's in the new FX series "Justified" where he plays a white
supremacist who has maybe converted to born-again Christianity. We're
not really sure. When we left off, we were talking about his role on an
earlier FX series "The Shield," in which he played Detective Shane
Vendrell, a member of a corrupt narcotics team.

I consider "The Shield" to be like - your work in "The Shield" to be
your breakout role. How did you get the part?

Mr. GOGGINS: Well I, you know, like most other actors in this town, you
know, you get sent a pilot, a screenplay or a teleplay rather, and you
think that this is the one, this could change my life maybe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: Maybe not. And I had gotten sent this script and read it
and was blown away by it. I had never read anything like it and had been
in a couple of pilots that had failed before and had finally come to the
conclusion that for someone like me to really succeed in television it
would have to be something that was a little off the grid and something
further afield. And I read it and thought this is it, if I can just get
this job. If I can improvise this scene that they've written because
there are only four lines that Shane has in the pilot, if I can do it, I
know I can make them see something. And, you know, went in and met with
Shawn Ryan and our late executive producer Scott...

GROSS: The creator of "The Shield."

Mr. GOGGINS: The creator of "The Shield," absolutely. And our late
executive producer Scott Brazil and our directors Clark Johnson, and we
just talked about it. And I told them my thoughts on it and I thought
that this was a very pessimistic guy, he's a very cynical guy. I also
thought he was a really funny guy. I thought that his sense of humor
came through his cynicism and that was something to be explored.

And I also knew just in the writing of the pilot and was assured by
Shawn that going forward Shane would play a significant role, a very
significant role in the series. But I was assured on the page by the
fact that Shane was involved in the original sin of the show, which was
killing another police officer. And these two men, Shane Vendrell and
Vic Mackey where inexorably tied to this original sin. So I knew that it
would come home to roost eventually. I didn't know exactly how it would
play out or that it would begin unraveling as soon in the series.

It was interesting. After the pilot episode and I didn't find this out
until the end of the season when we were doing some DVD commentary,
Shawn Ryan said, you know, after the executives at the network saw the
pilot they wanted to fire you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: And I said, really? He said yeah, they found you abrasive
and they didn't think that the audience would like you very much or
could get to like you very much. I said I had four lines.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: Can I offend people really with four with lines? Wow, have
I accomplished that? And Shawn said I knew I needed to convince them to
have you stay.

GROSS: So in the final season Shane is really over his head. He's
betrayed the cops that he works with, Vic wants to kill him and so do
the Armenians who Shane stole money from. He's hiding out with his wife.
She's hurt herself. She's hurt her collarbone in a fight I think with
drug dealers. And I want to play a scene from that part of the series.

So you're both hiding out. You're just coming back to the place where
you've been hiding out and she's lying down in great pain from her
injury.

(Soundbite of FX series, "The Shield")

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) Hey. I'm sorry I took so long. How is
it?

Ms. MICHELE HICKS (Actress): (as Mara Sewell-Vendrell) It's awful.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) I couldn't get us anything to eat
because the cops, they spotted me. (beep) I had to ditch the car.

(Soundbite of moaning)

Ms. HICKS: (as Mara Sewell-Vendrell) You okay?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about me.
You just - I want you to take these.

Ms. HICKS: (as Mara Sewell-Vendrell) What are these?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) They're Persecanols(ph) and they will
help with the pain.

(Soundbite of moaning)

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) Okay?

Ms. HICKS: (as Mara Sewell-Vendrell) Oh. Oh. What else did you get?

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) Just some street (beep) and some meth
and weed and a little blow but I had to do most of it. The stuff that
they made me do last night, that was great, right? And I needed to stay
focused so that I can get us out of this.

Ms. HICKS: (as Mara Sewell-Vendrell) You can't help us if you're high,
baby.

Mr. GOGGINS: (as Shane Vendrell) It was just enough to even me out.
Okay, I promise.

GROSS: That's a scene with my guest Walton Goggins from "The Shield."

Now I read that when you were young...

Mr. GOGGINS: Yeah.

GROSS: ...you were good at competitive hog calling and I'm not even sure
what that is, having grown up in Brooklyn.

Mr. GOGGINS: You guys didn't hog call in Brooklyn?

GROSS: No.

Mr. GOGGINS: That's not how you got your pork in Brooklyn?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: We got our pork in Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood.

Mr. GOGGINS: I understand. I understand. Yeah. You know, I was a first
place state champion hog caller. I'll do a little...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. GOGGINS: I'll do just a...

(Soundbite of hog calling)

Mr. GOGGINS: I think that's about as loud as I can get in the studio.
But as I was 10 years old and saw other people doing it and walked up on
stage and they had to adjust the mic for sure and I just leaned up on my
tiptoes and I won. I got a trophy with a big hog on top. I have it in my
office.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So when you win the competitive hog calling championship, is it
just like, do hog actually respond and say yes, coming?

Mr. GOGGINS: Hogs don't have to respond, Terry. Hogs don't have to
respond. It's the audience that responds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: The audience is sitting there responding to the hog call.
And right when you're done with the hog call they usher you off to the
greased pig contest.

GROSS: Which is what?

Mr. GOGGINS: They put a $20 bill on the back of a hog and they grease it
up and the person who gets the $20 bill gets the $20 bill.

GROSS: Oh. Wow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So was your hog calling like step one toward acting? You know,
you're at a mic. It's a performance. You're doing voices.

Mr. GOGGINS: Yeah. Absolutely. I go back to it as much as I can. No,
yeah, I grew up around a bunch of women, believe it or not. And my aunt
was an actress in the theater and another aunt, who was a publicist for
B.B. King and Phyllis Diller and Wolfman Jack so...

GROSS: Oh, really?

Mr. GOGGINS: ...I got to meet some of them through her. But I also grew
up watching my aunt perform on stage, and I think that's where, you
know, I got the initial bug. But early on, when I first began in
Georgia, it was also an opportunity just to kind of exorcise some of
these emotions, you know, that I was having as an angst-ridden teenager
and it felt good. It really felt - it felt therapeutic.

GROSS: You know...

Mr. GOGGINS: I didn't know that I would be doing this for the rest of my
life.

GROSS: It's funny you said angst-ridden teenager because Shane on "The
Shield," your character on "The Shield," sometimes behaves like an
angst-ridden teenager with Vic as his father. You know, it's like his
way of obeying or disobeying.

Mr. GOGGINS: Absolutely.

GROSS: It's kind of like what an uncomfortable teenager would do who's
not yet confident in the world but, you know, wants to follow but also
doesn't want to go along sometimes.

Mr. GOGGINS: Absolutely. You know, I think that Shane, I think that's a
part that kind of comes from me. He didn't have the strongest father
figure in his life. In Shane's life, he didn't have a male significant
figure in his life and really looked up to Vic. Vic took that spot for
Shane and in no small way defined his moral code. I don't know that
Shane would have gone down that path left to his own vices. I think it
was under the tutelage of Vic Mackey that Shane went down that road.

GROSS: Did you travel with cops, understudy cops before doing the role?
And I don't think any cops would much want to be associated with the
characters that you and the other leads play because you were just so
corrupt and amoral.

Mr. GOGGINS: I did. I spent - I'd gone on a number of ride-alongs with
police officers here in Los Angeles and then spent time in my car,
before every season would drive around this city in the places that we
were supposed, that kind of represented Farmington in the story. And,
you know, Chiklis said something early on and I found this to be very
true. You know, "The Shield" is fiction. I mean it is entertainment. We
tried to make it as real as possible but it is fiction. And Chiklis said
anyone below the rank of captain will tell you that they love the show,
they absolutely love the show. Anyone above the rank of captain will
publicly say that they hate the show but privately tell you that they
love it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: And I found that to be the case, you know, over the years
with the numbers of cops that I had met over the years and there were
some strange interactions with the cops over the years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, tell us about one of them.

Mr. GOGGINS: Well, I got approached by a man with, I think it was an AK-
47, in Panama of all places, who kind of stopped me when I was with my
significant other and started asking me for my papers. I said well, wait
a minute. I don't, you know, I don't have it on me. I'm sorry. I don't
understand. And he just said, I love "The Shield."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: He was Panamanian and he scared the hell out of me, for
sure. And then it happened with an immigration officer flying back into
this country where he started asking me all kinds of questions and
questions about drugs and this and that and said, I think you're lying
to me. I said man, I'm not lying to you. You can look through my bags.
He said, we're going to look through your bags. That's not the only
thing we're going to look through.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: And then I was like please, take me into a room. Do
whatever you have to do. And he said, I'm just kidding with you, man. Go
through. When's the next episode coming on? When's the next season
start? So they would just mess with you. It was like we were in this
fraternity of guys in blue. And while it worked when they came up to
you, it didn't always work when I tried to get out of a parking ticket.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOGGINS: Or a speeding ticket.

GROSS: Did you try?

Mr. GOGGINS: Oh yeah. Oh absolutely I tried.

GROSS: How?

Mr. GOGGINS: Because it - I ran a stop sign in a neighborhood and this
cop kind of came up and he let me off the hook. So he set a bad example.
He's like hey man, all right. Just don't do this again. I know you're
close to home. Don't do this again. When is the next season starting? So
then I felt that oh, there's a silent fraternity of guys that I'm a part
of and I didn't know it. But now I know it. And so the next time I got
pulled over I waited for the cop to come up to the side of the car and I
just kind of looked really cocky and just kind of laid back in my seat
and said, hey there. How are you? He's like can I see your driver's
license and registration, please? I said, do you really need to see
that? Come on. I mean I'm a guy in blue. And he said, let me see your
driver's license and registration, please. He came back and wrote me a
ticket and said when's the next season come on?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: It's really been a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you very
much.

Mr. GOGGINS: Thank you so much, Terry. It's a dream come true in a lot
of ways. I've enjoyed it.

GROSS: Walton Goggins is in the FX series "Justified," which is shown
Tuesday nights. There's two episodes left in the season. "Justified" has
been renewed for a second season. Goggins also co-starred in the FX
series "The Shield" and co-stars in the movie "Predators," which will
open this summer. You can watch three clips from "Justified" on our
website freshair.npr.org.

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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