[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of Sons of Anarchy. Read at your own risk.]
Tuesday's episode of Sons of Anarchy took viewers deeper inside the history of Venus Van Dam.
Although the transsexual escort — played by The Shield and Justified star Walton Goggins — was introduced as part of a comedic blackmail scheme last season, the character's most recent appearance took a more serious, emotional turn. When Gemma (Katey Sagal) tells a jailed Nero (Jimmy Smits) that Venus turned up at Nero's place with a shiner after a family altercation regarding Venus' "nephew," Nero urges Gemma to ask Jax (Charlie Hunnam) to help Venus out.
As Venus explains to Jax and the boys, her mother (Adrienne Barbeau) was less than accepting of her son's choice to become a woman. Instead, Venus' mother tried to "straighten" young Vincent out by forcing him to perform in a child pornography operation the family still runs to this day. Venus asks the club to help rescue her nephew — which we soon learn is actually Venus' son — from a similar fate in the twisted family business.
Then all hell breaks loose. After a near-brawl at Venus' mother's house, a high-speed car chase during which Venus starts shooting on the open road and a final showdown at the kiddie porn headquarters, Venus is unable to pull the trigger when offered a chance to kill his mother. But when Venus' mother continues to belittle and berate the son she no longer has, Jax puts a bullet in her head instead.
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TVGuide.com caught up with Goggins to talk about showing Venus' softer side and what might be next for her and her son. Plus: Will Venus pop up again down the road?
When you did the first guest spot, did you know the character would come back with such an emotional story line?
Walton Goggins: I think both Kurt and I wanted it to continue the moment we wrapped the first day. I certainly did — I wasn't ready to say goodbye to her. We just kind of kept the conversation going over the course of the last year. We both wanted to say something more substantial, to show another side of her ... to ground her, three-dimensionally. ... She's a cool woman, but she's also had great tragedy in her life. I was just over the moon when he told me about it. He told me about the direction that he really wanted to go in, and I thought really there's no other way that we could go.
This episode required a much different performance than last time. What was that like for you?
Goggins: I think the most important thing is seeing past just what she does for work. I liked piercing the veil of who this person is outside of what she does for a living. When she goes home at night, what's that like? What are the regrets in her life? And how has she dealt with those and how have those regrets reverberated throughout her life? What I was so excited about when I got the script was how immediate this situation had come up in her life and she really had nowhere else to turn. And for a woman who, more often than not, has the answers, she only had questions and she didn't quite know what to do.
Were you and Kurt trying to make any sort of statement with this story line?
Goggins: We wanted to explore that side of her history so that it makes her a real person living in the world. This was always approached with much earnestness as we could muster and seriousness because it is very delicate. [We wanted to] participate in that argument, the conversation that is going on in this country about where we are as a society. And in my mind, if Venus Van Dam is able to help a young man or a young woman in America, in a small town, feel better about themselves because they see their story reflected dramatically, then I feel like we've done our job.
Venus clearly got away from her family, but how much is she scarred by her past?
Goggins: What would it be like for a person to be asked to deny who they really are? That's a horrible existence, and that happens every day. It's not just your sexual orientation, but for Venus it was traumatic. And it took breaking the cycle of violence and negativity to emerge as this beautiful butterfly that she'd become: a fully realized human being that is expressing herself the way nature meant for her to express herself. That's why I'm so in love with her because of that strength and that willingness to say, "Accept it or not, this is who I really am."
But why isn't she able to tell her son the truth about his parentage?
Goggins: Unfortunately for her, one of the greatest pains in her life is she hasn't come to a place where she thinks that she can have her cake and eat it too.
Do you think after this experience, she's closer to being able to do that?
Goggins: I do. I think she's closer than she's ever been in her life, and I also think that she was able to have a confrontation with her mother and say things and hear things and overcome those things in a way that will lay the groundwork for healing going forward
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How did Venus feel watching Jax shoot his mother, just moments after she couldn't bring herself to pull the trigger?
Goggins: I think she felt relief. She was numb at first, but she felt relief. There are no easy answers. She also felt remorse and sadness that this has been her life and, "Why couldn't it have gone a different way?" It didn't, and this is what we're left with. You save yourself a lot of pain if you just embrace the change much earlier in your life as opposed to resisting it.
And it wasn't just cold-blooded murder. She was trying to spare her son the same horror she went through.
Goggins: It's a matter of breaking the cycle. And sometimes breaking the cycle of violence requires an act of violence. Hopefully on the other side of that, once you cross that rubicon, you walk in greener pastures. I think that's what it was like for Venus. She's eternally grateful for Jax for doing something that she could never do. It solves a lot of problems. It solves more problems than it creates.
So. is this the last we've seen of Venus?
Goggins: [Laughs] I wouldn't be surprised if you saw her again. We'll see what happens to Jax and all the boys and how these stories intersect. I wouldn't think it out of the realm of possibility.
Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX. What did you think of Venus' latest appearance?