Fresh Air Interview: Actor 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.
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Walton Goggins: Getting 'Justified' With Brother Boyd

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Walton Goggins: Getting 'Justified' With Brother Boyd

Walton Goggins: Getting 'Justified' With Brother Boyd

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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 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 people's 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 were 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: 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?


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.


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

Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the third solo album by Tracey Thorn, best known for her part in the British duo Everything But the Girl.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

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