Django Unchained spends its first hour on the many adventures of freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), the bounty hunter who freed him. When they embark on the long game with Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who owns Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), we meet the rest of Candie’s gang. Walton Goggins plays Billy Crash, one of Candie’s cowboys, a featured bad guy for sure. We got to chat with Goggins by phone while he was in New York. The cell phone connection got spotty a few times, and we’ve filled in the lost words with brackets to be safe. We do talk about some specific scenes in the movie, albeit with as few spoilers as possible.
CraveOnline: Actors used to all have to have skills for westerns because that’s what Hollywood was making. You got to do two westerns in a year, and three if you go back to Shanghai Noon. Have you gotten to develop all the old cowboy skills required for this genre?
Walton Goggins: You know, I can get on a horse. I know how to mount a horse and I know how to twirl a gun, so I guess I have taken these opportunities to improve my western bag of tricks just in case another one comes along.
Is it a dream as an actor to do this sort of classic genre?
Absolutely. For me growing up, [whether] cowboys and Indians or cowboys and robbers, I played cowboys as a kid and I always wanted to be the bad one because they had the best lines.
Did that work out for you since you’ve played a few?
I have, yeah. It has worked out for me as an actor.
Was it tough to say the N-word, even in character?
No, not in character, no, because I’m not Billy Crash. You’re in the service of a story by Quentin Tarantino. You’re in the service of the story when you say that word.
It’s getting some attention in the press for the film. What are your thoughts on people’s reaction to the accurate use of the word?
Well, the one thing that I will say about this experience and about having to say that word was that everyone was there for each other. All of the actors were there for one another and Quentin was there for everybody and we were all extremely sensitive to the subject matter and checking in with each other to make sure that we were okay. It’s said a lot in this movie but I think you have to ask yourself: how many times did a slave hear that word in a day? 1000 times in a day? How many times do you think a slave heard that word in a day?
You might be underestimating.
Right, exactly. So I think starting with Quentin and all the way down, everyone in this movie felt like we had to go up to it in order to tell this story, that you can’t sugar coat it. It can’t be sugar coated. It has to be real and raw. So at those moments in the movie where it gets serious, we try to do that with reverence, or I did. But you know, there’s so much about this movie that makes it palatable because it’s also funny and it’s also a love story.
What was it like shooting the torture scene?
You know, it’s antithetical to anything I can even remotely understand as a person in the world, looking at another human being hanging upside down. But in that moment, it was very, very difficult. It took us five days to shoot that scene with all of it. Again, you’re in the service of honoring [what was] inflicted upon an entire race of people. So I was able in that moment to show the horrors that slaves in this country were exposed to, and they were exposed to much worse than that.
When you read that scene, did you think Tarantino might go all the way with it?
Whenever you’re reading a Quentin Tarantino script, you do not know what’s going to happen. So I didn’t know what was going to happen, of course. Oh my God, but then you think no, this is the man that’s on the marquee. This is number one on the call sheet, but yeah, in the moment when I was reading it for the first time I just kept thinking, “Oh my God, no. Oh my God, he’s not. Oh my - - oh, thank God.”
Does Billy have a cool backstory that we don’t even see?
Yes, there are scenes that didn’t ultimately make it in the movie that involve Billy Crash and that scene in particular that you’re talking about, there was a monologue that Billy gives to Django that really articulates his point of view. At times it was funny the way that Quentin can be funny. At times it was very specific and showed another side to the story. So yeah, there was more than what you see but Quentin was able to tell the story with what ultimately ended up in the movie.
Did Tarantino know some of your most obscure work?
He knew a lot of it. He pretty much knows everyone’s work and obscure work. Tarantino can tell you the person who was guest starring on that episode of, say, “Sanford and Son” or insert television show here. I don’t know how he retains all of the information, much less has been exposed to that much entertainment. He is a walking encyclopedia of cinema and beyond. You know what it is, man? He loves it. He loves actors. He loves every aspect of making a movie, of telling his story from the crew that he works with and seeing them do their job to the actors, hearing them say his words, to the D.P. shooting the visuals that he has in his imagination, to the editors, to the music. There’s not an aspect of making [movies] Tarantino doesn’t love and that is infectious when you’re around someone that is that knowledgeable about what it is they’re doing and is also that passionate about it. You can’t help but be inspired.
How was your experience on Lincoln earlier this year?
It was equally inspiring. That you would tell me that I would have within a month of each other the opportunity to collaborate with Steven Spielberg and then with Quentin Tarantino, I would’ve thought you were crazy. But I suppose a person in my position hopes that he can hang around long enough and work on his craft in a way that eventually he’ll get to start working with the greats.
I’m also really looking forward to G.I. Joe: Retalliation next year. Do you have a good character in that?
Great, man, it’s a great character! It’s great! I play the warden and it’s just so much fun. John Chu directed it and Lorenzi [di Bonaventura] produced it. Everybody involved, Channing and The Rock, it’s just a visual extravaganza. I get to just make people laugh.
Were you involved in any of the reshoots earlier this year?
No, no. Everything that I had done was there and in the movie. No need to do reshoots for me.
Did The Warden have an action figure back in the day?
I don’t know. We’ll see what happens but I don’t think so. I don’t know that he is capable of jumping the way that the other action heroes are able to jump in a G.I. Joe movie. Maybe if you had an action figure whose special skill was walking.
Of course everyone loved your appearance on “Sons of Anarchy.” What did you think when you got that script and were you game to go for it?
Immediately. Kurt [Sutter] and I had two or three conversations about that before we began and we both agreed that if we’re going to do this, we have to go all in. We really have to go there and I had the time of my life. I don’t think that you’ve seen the last of Venus. She’s just too much fun.
Do you feel comfortable in a dress?
Do I feel comfortable in a dress? I got very comfortable in a dress, yeah. Absolutely. It was an incredible experience.
I’d say why not? When you talk about transforming as an actor, that’s one of the furthest ways you can go.
Yeah, I have always wanted to play a transgender. I have met a few over the years and it really started when I had an audition in my ‘20s. I was probably 25 years old and it was a reading for a part in a movie of a guy who was a transgender, and she was a junkie. I wanted that experience before I got into the room so I made my costume. Daisy Dukes were really in fashion at the time, so I cut off some jeans and really began to work on her look and went out for the day in my outfit just to experience what life was like for her. There was nothing about me, from my walk to the way that I talked to the way that I moved, for the three hours that I went out. I didn’t get the job ultimately but I thought, man, I would really like an opportunity to do this. So I got to speak to a couple of transgenders and hear their experience. I was just grateful for the opportunity and Kurt and I had wanted to work together since “The Shield” for a while. We didn’t want to do it unless it was [right]. We really wanted to do something special. At least that’s what we tried to do.
What was that audition for in your ‘20s?
You know what? I don’t even remember the name of the movie. They’re calling me off, buddy. It was such a pleasure to talk to you.
Oh no. It was a pleasure to speak to you too, and I didn’t get to ask about “Justified.” Where do we pick up Boyd Crowder in season four?
On top of the mountain. He has worked his way up. He is the king of the hill. There’s only one way to go but we’ll take our time getting there.
Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.