‘Unicorn’ Walton Goggins: ‘The Shield/Justified’ Were ‘the Funniest Shows’

Hollywood finally caught on to how funny Walton Goggins is. Danny McBride cast him in Vice Principals and again in The Righteous Gemstones. Now The Unicorn stars Goggins as a single father getting back into the dating scene one year after his wife passes away. However, to hear Goggins tell it, he’s been doing comedy all along.

Walton Goggins in The Unicorn
Walton Goggins in The Unicorn | Erik Voake/CBS

Goggins spoke with reporters after CBS’s Television Critics Association panel for The Unicorn. Goggins’ most famous television roles were as dirty cop Shane Vendrell on The Shield and bootlegger Boyd Crowder on Justified. He also did drama for Tarantino in Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight as well as movies like Lincoln, Straw Dogs and Them That Follow. The Unicorn airs Thursday nights at 8:30 on CBS.

Walton Goggins treats drama like comedy and vice versa

The Unicorn certainly has its serious moments, dealing with a death in the family, grief and mourning. Likewise even Walton Goggins’ most serious shows have comic relief.

Walton Goggins in The Unicorn
Walton Goggins in The Unicorn | Erik Voake/CBS

“I think drama and comedy is comedy and drama if you will,” Goggins said. “For me it always starts with the story. What is the story and what are you trying to say? I think in a comedy is very serious and drama is very serious. They’re both situationally funny but I think Justified and The Shield were some of the funniest shows on television at the time and I wouldn’t approach them any differently than I approach The Righteous Gemstones.”

Walton Goggins approaches characters the same way no matter the genre

Many of Walton Goggins’ comedic characters have come from places as dark as Shane Vendrell and Boyd Crowder. Vice Principals’s Lee Russell just acts out in funnier ways.

“The story is still the same, meaning that the approach doesn’t change from role to role,” Goggins said. “If Lee Russell was a deeply flawed insecure man. When you turn yourself over to an imaginary set of circumstances and you pretend to be a deeply flawed, insecure man, the fact that his behavior is different is something that just kind of comes through living in your imagination. The approach is never different. Because if the  approach is different, at least for me, then you’re result oriented. You’re going for something.”

Every role uses every tool at his disposal

The comedic characters may have more overt demonstrations of silliness. The Righteous Gemstones had Walton Goggins clog dancing, a real life skill he has. However, Goggins doesn’t feel restricted in any way by the genre of his roles.

“For me, you have to touch every single wall in the room in order to find the light switch and turn it on,” Goggins said. “You are doing a disservice to the creator that you’re working with, the writer that you’re working with, the director that you’re working with if you don’t give them all their options.”

Walton Goggins in The Unicorn
Walton Goggins in The Unicorn | Cliff Lipson/CBS

This is just Goggins’ process. He’s not telling anyone else how to act, but this is what works for him.

“And who’s to say that any one of them are right?” Goggins said. “I don’t really judge it in that way. That’s the take that the director picked because that’s the story that he wanted to tell, and my job is to tell that story in a number of different ways that can be interpreted a number of different ways.”