There’s a rich TV drama tradition of characters who are supposed to die in pilot episodes who prove so popular that they’re resurrected between the time the pilot is shot and when it airs. On “Hill Street Blues,” beat cops Hill & Renko were supposed to die a stunning death in a shooting, but the characters proved so likable that they were just badly wounded. In the “ER” pilot, Carol Hathaway’s suicide attempt was supposed to succeed, but the producers realized Julianna Margulies added a valuable ingredient and let the ER docs save her.
And on FX’s “Justified,” Raylan Givens was supposed to kill his old friend Boyd Crowder, just as he did in “Fire in the Hole,” the Elmore Leonard short story on which it was based. But producer Graham Yost saw that “The Shield” alum Walton Goggins was so magnetic as Boyd that it would be a waste to kill him – and Leonard, often irked when adaptations deviate too much from his work, approved.
As Boyd, a demolitions expert, onetime white supremacist and religious leader, and a born liar – even he’s not sure sometimes whether he believes the ridiculous things he says – Goggins is every bit the charismatic equal of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan, and he’s again memorable as the series returns for its new season Wednesday night at 10.
Goggins is also a very smart, articulate guy (he produced the Oscar-winning short film “The Accountant” back in 2001), so I was eager to talk to him at press tour a few weeks ago. We spoke about the evolution of Boyd, his contributions to that, and also quite a bit about what happened to his character at the end of “The Shield,” so read at your own peril if you haven’t seen that finale but intend to one day.
(Also note that I had to cut out a number of exchanges about things Boyd does in the first three episodes of the new season, so there may be a few abrupt transitions in the transcript.)
Am I going crazy, or has Boyd’s accent evolved over time?
It has evolved over time because he’s evolved over time. In the pilot, I wanted this guy to love words. I wanted him to love words and I wanted him to wrap his mouth around words. And there was one scene early on that I just started playing with and kind of tweaking. And Graham let me have carte blanche, gave me autonomy with this guy. And in the pilot I was able to introduce this guy in the way he sees the words by saying, in the middle of his speech, “Well you, know we were talking about this target and it was an innocuous target, you know what that means? That means harmless.” And Boyd was a showman. He was a bigger than life kind of showman in that pilot episode. And then when they came back and they said, “Would you stay?” I said, “If we can do something else, because a guy has a near-death experience, then he’s going to find God, you go to God and you’re going to experience a high level of humility.” And so with that we were able to bring him back and make him very quiet and very humble. Those next 4 episodes for him (when Goggins was busy filming “Predators”), I was just able to pop in for a scene here and there, but he was very quiet. And then once he found his next stage, he was really able to start to get big again and more precise because the message was more precise and the Bible was more precise. He wasn’t quoting himself; he was quoting the Bible. And this season… he’s just kind of in a spiritual turmoil. And he doesn’t really understand any of it. He’s just trying to be known. He’s looking for nothing and that’s dangerous. So his voice would reflect that.