Actor Walton Goggins talks about ‘Justified', being from the South

Walton Goggins is a man in full.

The 38-year-old, who grew up in the Atlanta area, not only boasts starring roles in the FX hit series “Justified” and the upcoming summer blockbuster “Predators,” but Goggins also got engaged to his girlfriend of five years, screenwriter Nadia Conners (“The 11th Hour”) while on vacation in Mexico last month.

Goggins portrays a serial killer on the other side of the hunt in “Predators”, which opens in theaters Friday.

Earlier this summer, Goggins and I sat down at the Laurel Canyon Country Store, nestled in a quiet hamlet between the Hollywood Hills and San Fernando Valley. Both patrons and the owner alike dropped by our table to say hello; all echoed the same sentiment: Walton is a great guy.

Q: You’ve found a favorite spot in Los Angeles where everyone seems to know you.

A: I think that people try to find a sense of community wherever they go. Coming from the South, I grew up where you could see your neighbors, but they were a fair distance away. A field separated me from my neighbors Kermit and Fanny. So, I grew up with space. Moving to a city with 12 million people it’s hard to find space. Laurel Canyon provides the perfect hybrid for me in this city as it is urban, but it feels very bucolic. It gives me a feeling of home.

Q: Everybody here seems to know you. Do you ever get tired of that?

A: No, everyone has different levels of celebrity and my celebrity is very familiar and familial. Mostly people that come up to me feel like they have the right to do so and it’s usually resulted in a really nice conversation. So, for me, it’s the perfect level of celebrity. People aren’t shy to tell you how they feel about your work, and when you’re working on screen, you’re often working in a vacuum, so it’s nice to have the feedback from people that follow your work.

Q: Speaking of feedback, is it true that your character Boyd Crowder on “Justified” was brought back to life by the fans?

A: Pretty much. I had agreed to do one episode and based on the reaction of the test audiences, they didn’t want to see Boyd die. I was doing a movie while the show kept rolling and the executive producers asked me if I would stay on for a bit. We were having such a good time and the relationship between Timothy Olyphant’s character Raylan and my character became so complex and juicy and delicious that once the movie shoot was over, they asked me to come on full time.

Q: Were you reticent to play a role where the character is such a bigot?

A: I don’t like being the token Southern racist and I think that that is trite and overdone and we’ve seen it. Racism exists everywhere in this world, not just in the South. So, yes, I was very reticent at first and had long conversations with the creators before I began, and wanted to make Boyd very smart and self-taught and almost have a genius IQ. They went for that. I also didn’t want him to necessarily believe everything that he was preaching and we were able to do that with infusion of intelligence and a love of words. Raylan says to Boyd that he doesn’t think Boyd believes everything that he is saying. After a near death experience, Boyd is forever changed and he finds God in a real way. His conversion is indicative of his personal beliefs because there are African-Americans in his church immediately. To me, it was something never done on television, a villain that isn’t twisting his mustache as he speaks.

Q: When did you meet your producing partner Ray McKinnon?

A: Ray and I worked together in Atlanta about 22 years ago, and then we both moved to Los Angeles. I was 19 at the time and I sort of just went my own way. We would check in with each other from time-to-time, but it wasn’t until he saw me in “The Apostle” that we reconnected.

Q: Then you accepted an Oscar for “The Accountant” with him at your side.

A: I didn’t even know there was an Academy Award for best short. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when we were nominated. And when we won, to say it was surreal would be an understatement.

Q: You’re the second Oscar winner out of Campbell High School. There are a lot talented people from Smyrna. Why do you think that is?

A: Not only Smyrna, but Georgia in general. Southerners are great storytellers. In the South, people spent a lot of time telling stories and that is how people entertained themselves. I think that is great fodder for creative endeavors, whether it is music or acting or writing or any of the other creative pursuits that people engage in. To this day, Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ and Drive by Truckers are my favorite bands.

Q: Do you think that to be a good storyteller you must also be a good listener?

A: I agree with that 100 percent. I don’t think that this conversation would be complete without that statement. Southerners by in large are really good listeners and will let you tell your story, but know that they’re going to take the time to tell their story as well. It’s very reciprocal.