Walton Goggins, Sons of Anarchy
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Tuesday's episode of Sons of Anarchy. Read at your own risk.]
Thanks to Sons of Anarchy, we've now seen a side of Walton Goggins we never thought we'd see.
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On Tuesday's episode, the former star of The Shield reunited with Sons creator Kurt Sutter for a jaw-dropping cameo. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) asks Mayor Hale (Jeff Kober) to lease one of his properties to the Sons so that they could get their "companion" business with Nero (Jimmy Smits) off the ground. When Hale refuses, Jax promises to help the mayor push through the Charming Heights development project. Jax's plan: to blackmail a council member who opposes the mayor's plans.
Enter Goggins as Venus Van Damme, a transgender escort who, for a cool $2,000, was willing to wear assless pants and pose for incriminating pictures with the incapacitated councilman. (Fun fact: Venus' name is a play on Cletus Van Damme, the alias Goggins' character Shane used on The Shield.)
TVGuide.com chatted with Goggins — who also stars as Boyd Crowder on FX's Justified and wrapped shooting on Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained just days before shooting the cameo — about how the role came about and the transformation required. Plus: Will we see Venus again?
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So how much dirt does Kurt Sutter have on you exactly?
Walton Goggins: [Laughs] He's got so many of my bones in his closet that I'll pretty much do anything he asks.
Seriously, how did this all come about?
Goggins: It was a conversation we had about me participating on the show and how to do it in a way that was diametrically different than how I've ever appeared on FX. I said, "Let's do it as a transgender." I was kind of half-serious, but I knew in the back of my head I did want to do that. A year-and-a-half later, I get a text [from Kurt] that says, "Were you serious when you said you wanted to play a transgender? Because I've written it, and I'm not going to do it if you're not going to play it.' They sent me the pages and Kurt knocked it out of the park. I really fell in love with her.
What sort of discussions did you guys have about how to play this?
Goggins: I wanted to be very respectful about the transgender culture in our society. This is a woman who, like a lot of people who have made this choice, doesn't have a choice. That is who they are and that is how they need to express themselves. I wanted her to be, not a low-rent call girl, but a woman of some sophistication and class and a woman with a real sense of humor. She understands that this decision that she's made puts her in a position to make money in a very specific way: fulfilling the fantasies of both gay and straight men. Or in helping motorcycle gangs do nefarious things. She has a very unique gift. We tried to make it as three-dimensional and grounded in reality as we could. And we wanted to use a lot of humor.
Are you worried about how the transgender community might react?
Goggins: I think if you approach any subject matter with a pure heart, then the slings and arrows can't hurt you. Our intention was to be beyond respectful — uber-respectful — of the transgender community in our country. So many actors before us have touched the line of the gay experience, so much so to the point that it has helped transition our society at large into really accepting gays in our respective communities and seeing them for who they are as real people. Hopefully that community will see this as another step toward everybody accepting everybody. Our intention was not to make fun, but to run towards acceptance.
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Venus certainly won over many of the Sons, especially Tig (Kim Coates).
Goggins: We tried to construct a character that is so cool and so beautiful and so in her power and in her element. [But we're] still allowing for the straight men in the room to be curious and to foster that curiosity. ... It's about admiring the female form. That's enough. That in and of itself is a beauty. Whether you eat the fruit or you don't, you can say, "Wow, what a beautiful piece of fruit."
So, was there a body double involved?
Goggins: It was all me. That was my ass! I don't want anyone taking credit for that but me. [Laughs]
That obviously wasn't your chest.
Goggins: It was a prosthetic. Kurt really wanted her to have large breasts, and I agreed with him. With my frame, it served to kind of soften my whole sort of physical countenance. It allowed the rest of her body to seem sexual. It takes my kind of physical components and just tweaks them in a way that makes them sensual and real and a little heightened without going over the top.
What else can you tell us about the transformation?
Goggins: I literally had a full beard and had been at the peak of my masculinity for the better part of four months. I wrapped Django at 9 in the morning, went to my hotel and shaved, got on a plane at noon, got back home at 10 o'clock at night. The next morning, I woke up and went to the wig shop. The next morning it took me two-and-a-half hours to shave my entire body. On Saturday I got my mani-pedi; Sunday, I soaked in the tub. Monday, we did the test and we started shooting on Tuesday. It happened really quickly and it happened with the effort of some very, very talented people on Sons. Their hair and makeup department — I was blown away.
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What was the reaction when you walked on the set?
Goggins: None of the guys saw me before. I didn't want them to see how it was done and I didn't want to hang out with them as Walton. Their experience of [seeing] me was the same as their characters' experience. It was really special. And they treated me like a lady. [Laughs]
If Jax is going into business with Nero, might we see Venus again?
Goggins: I think that you've not seen the last of Venus. I think that she will pop up again. And hopefully, once you are kind of over the initial shock of how strange it is, you're with Venus, because she's so much fun to be around and so smart and sassy.
So is something already in the works? Is it for later this season or somewhere down the line?
Goggins: Something's already in the works. But I don't think I'm at liberty to say [when].
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How do you think Boyd Crowder would react to Venus?
Goggins: Boyd is a very curious individual and someone who likes a good conversation. And I think Venus is a very good conversationalist. I think he would be enraptured and take her into a corner and sit and talk for hours about her transformation .
Ava (Joelle Carter) could put her to work in her brothel!
Goggins: She may take over Audrey's. She would make more money than any other woman at Audrey's. Maybe Venus shows up in Harlan County too. If Boyd and Ava don't start making some real money real soon, we may have to bring Venus in.
Between Boyd and Shane, you've played some memorable characters on FX. Where does Venus rank?
Goggins: If we're able to flesh Venus out, for me, she is as important as and is on par with Shane and with Boyd. And we're only three scenes into one episode of her journey. I fell in love with her in a way that was really surprising to me. She holds a special place in my heart. It was so liberating for me as an artist and as an actor. Plus, the other two were boys. I've always wanted a girl and I finally have one!
What did you think of Goggins' performance?