Live From Hollywood
Cowboys & Indians: If Justified is a modern-day western, as fans and critics have claimed, and Timothy Olyphant’s U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is a modern-day
western hero — well, that should make your character, Boyd Crowder, a modern-day western outlaw. But he’s a bit more complicated than that, isn’t he?
Walton Goggins: I agree. In fact, I think his strength lies in his ambiguity. That’s where he gets a certain amount of his power from.
C&I: And by this point after two seasons, you could argue that, while he’s certainly not the hero, Boyd has emerged as the equivalent of J.R. Ewing on Dallas. And like J.R., you can never be absolutely certain about his motivations.
Walton: Yeah, and I enjoyed watching that in J.R. like I enjoyed watching that in Tony Soprano. You never knew what that guy was going to do. And there are not too many characters on television who are allowed to get away with that. One thing we had going with Boyd right from the start is, he appears in “Fire in the Hole,” the Elmore Leonard short story that the show’s based on. But he didn’t exist beyond that story in Elmore’s imagination. So when they decided to continue with him, it was like in those old cartoons where all they had to do to continue the road is just continue painting that yellow line that runs down the middle. If you do that, well, the road can kind of go anywhere.
C&I: Actually, the pilot for Justified indicated that Boyd wouldn’t be around for future episodes. How did you respond when they told you that Boyd would actually become a recurring character?
Walton: I thought that if we could take this character in a direction that hasn’t been done before, but would be very authentic to this particular set of circum-stances, and if we could continue unearthing his intellect and his Svengali-like persona — well, yeah, I would absolutely love that. Because I’m as curious as anyone else to see what’s going to happen to him.
C&I: How would you describe Boyd?
Walton: Boyd is what I would call a redneck academic. He’s self-taught, and he’s familiar with all the classics of literature, and math. It’s just the way his mind works, and how he chooses to spend his spare time reading. But I really think that, in his way, he’s an artist and a poet. And in some ways, he speaks from a poet’s heart. And speaks in these metaphorical, meta-physical ways, in the way that a poet would see the world. His language is so nuanced, and filled with these different flourishes that are so nice to listen to. [Laughs.] But you don’t know what the hell he’s saying sometimes. It takes the audience a minute to catch up sometimes. Hell, it takes a minute for me to catch up when it’s coming out of my mouth, or when I’m first looking at the script. Because, quite often, he takes 40 words to say what he could say in two. But it’s so nice, because of the juxtaposition between this very rough person in this very rough world — and all these beautiful things that come out of his mouth.
C&I: Speaking of his world: Justified is set mostly in rural Kentucky. When you think about it, TV audiences rarely see series set anywhere in the rural South, unless you’re talking about sitcoms or The Dukes of Hazzard. As an Alabama native raised in Georgia, how do you feel about TV’s depiction of that area?
Walton: I’m actually very proud of this show and its rural nature. I think that there has been a dearth of programming that offers a true and authentic representation of rural America for quite some time. And I don’t think it’s just the portrait of the South that people are responding to, or that this show is speaking for. I mean, there are places in California that rival any rural, bucolic area that I’ve seen in Georgia. And they’re only about an hour away from Los Angeles. So I’m proud that Justified is taking the TV audience to a place that maybe they’ve never been before.
TAKES TWO TO TANGLE:
Walton Goggins thinks the heart of Justified is the relationship between his Boyd Crowder and Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens. “Because this relationship is so three-dimensional and complex,” he says. “And fraught with jealousy and loyalty and history. They’re so similar — even though, at first glance, they’re so different.”
“When things are at their best,” Walton says, “I just take myself out of it altogether, and I think, I’m looking at Raylan Givens. And Raylan Givens is listening to Boyd Crowder. And I have to say — Tim really is a very good listener.”