Few actors had a better 2012 than "Justified" star Walton Goggins: he provided some much-needed comic relief in a very tense season of "Sons of Anarchy" with his memorable guest appearance as transgendered escort Venus Van Dam, and he had the unique experience of delving into both sides of the slavery issue with his performances in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" and Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" on the big screen.
And, of course, he shined in the third season of FX's fantastic Elmore Leonard-inspired drama, which hits DVD this week just ahead of the show's fourth-season premiere on Jan. 8 at 10 PM. One of the highlights of "Justified: The Complete Third Season" on Blu-ray (Sony), in fact, is a nearly half-hour-long conversation between "Justified" Emmy nominees Goggins and Timothy Olyphant about their experience making the stylish, meticulously crafted western drama.
Goggins, who should have been an FX Emmy winner years ago for his ultimately heartbreaking performance as Shane Vendrell, one of the most tragic of the corrupt cops on "The Shield," pops up on the big screen again in 2013 in March's "G.I. Joe Retaliation," but it's on TV where he continues to steal many a scene as he develops Boyd Crowder, a complicated criminal whose career choice puts him deliciously at odds with his childhood friend U.S. marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant).
In Season 4, Boyd is busily continuing to grow his Harlan County crime empire when he's confronted with a new challenger, a preacher named Billy (guest star Joe Mazzello), who tries to convince the local citizenry (i.e., Boyd's clientele) that they don't need to imbibe Mr. Crowder's recreational substances.
Goggins chatted with Yahoo! TV about the crisis that kicks off for Boyd, about the bigger plan that the ever-clever Mr. Crowder might have in mind throughout Season 4, about how he sparked the idea for that "SOA" role, and about how meaningful it was to help play out a pivotal piece of our country's history in back-to-back dream roles on the big screen.
Our boy Boyd Crowder is in a very different place when the new season opens. How thrown is he by the appearance of this new preacher?
I think Boyd is, for the first time, in charge, really in charge of something -- of an enterprise, so to speak, a criminal kind of entity. That is, the criminal empire that he runs in Harlan County. There's no one else really challenging him there. With that comes a lot of fiduciary responsibilities. Once you've made it, once you have something to lose, then you need to defend your territory. That's all new to Boyd. Between that, between his relationship with Ava, between the opportunities that are going to present themselves by working with the people up in Lexington and in Detroit, he is, in some ways, stepping way out of his league. That will continue as the season continues.
One part of that is greed. But what (showrunner) Graham (Yost) does and what Elmore Leonard does and what our writers try to do, when they are emulating Elmore, is give (Boyd) a reason for doing the things that he's doing. That's something that is the most important thing to me. Hopefully, what you'll see is that these steps, stepping out of one's comfort zone, are in the service of something greater. Boyd really has an endgame. He's working hard to that end. You won't really know what that endgame is until the season progresses. He sees this as a real opportunity to make some changes in his life that will affect him for the rest of his life and the people around him. We'll see whether or not he makes it. (Laughing)
Watch a preview of the new season of "Justified":
One of the most entertaining things about Boyd is that, even if there are 10 things going on around him, he sees them all, even if no one else does. Is Boyd aware that his cousin Johnny isn't trustworthy? Is that why he brings his military pal Colton (guest star Ron Eldard) to town?
Oh, I can't answer that question. But I can say that Boyd is probably the most observational character I've ever had an opportunity to play. I think if you got up earlier than Boyd, that wouldn't be enough time. You'd have to get up the night before (laughing) in order to try and pull one over on Boyd.
You mentioned Boyd working with people in Detroit. Are these the same people that last season's big baddie, Quarles (guest star Neal McDonough), was involved with?
Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) is a representative of the people in Detroit. So, through Boyd's dealings with Duffy, in some ways, when you're speaking to Duffy, you're speaking to Detroit, because he is a representative of that criminal institution.
Some people describe Boyd as a villain, but we never think of him that way. He's a complicated guy for sure, but not really a villain. Do you agree?
I would never use that word to describe him. What we like to do -- and what, again, is servicing the story, coming at it from that angle -- is to always try to find balance.
Graham and the writers chose to have this interaction between Boyd and Joe Mazzello's character, the preacher, in his church. It really afforded us an opportunity to have a real spiritual crisis from Boyd. This is something that is very painful to him. He has a lot of anxiety about confronting that part of his past. He is very comfortable with the way that he has defined the institutions of religion, but, as you will hopefully come to realize, there are no easy answers. Based on his past experiences, going forward, you can't put that in a box any more than Boyd Crowder can be put in a box … that it is all fluid and everything is connected, and this season of -- and when I say season, I don't mean the whole television season, but this season spiritually for Boyd in his life -- will hopefully reverberate throughout the entire show, for the rest of the time that we do the show. It's just another cog in the wheel, which will ultimately form his worldview and what he has to say, when it all comes down.
So, it's fair to say Boyd is not yet fully done, not fully cooked yet? He's still figuring out what kind of guy he'll be ultimately?
Well, yeah. Yeah. Boyd's never been that guy. I don't think that Boyd ever will be that guy. I hope that he finds peace. I really want him to. But we'll see what happens.
[Related: 'Justified' corrals 'Lost' vet for story arc]
How big of a role does Ava play in who Boyd becomes?
I think Ava plays the biggest role. Second to Ava is his relationship with Raylan. Maybe before those two, Boyd is Boyd's biggest ally in the sense that Boyd demands of himself a certain amount of self reflection and growth. I think that's really the only way he survives. For him, being stagnant is death. So, between those three entities, he will ultimately get to wherever it is he's going.
Watch an interview with Goggins and Joelle Carter, who plays Ava:
Speaking of Raylan, and Boyd's frenemies-type relationship with him, they're both much more alike than probably Raylan would admit, especially in terms of being unsettled by their pasts, their fathers, and not being sure of who they want to be yet. Is that what bonds them?
Yes, they are very much alike. I do think that that's one of the main things that kind of bonds them. History bonds them. What else bonds them? Intelligence bonds them. Probably, and most importantly, pain bonds them. Pain manifests itself as genuine emotion, but it also manifests itself through humor. They're very similar; they have a very similar sense of humor. They both have gone through an awful lot of pain in their lives.