You know him, you love him… Well, sometimes you love to hate him, but Walton Goggins is one of the best walkin’ around on God’s green earth today. Whether he’s the good guy, the bad guy, or just the guy with the gun, Goggins elevates every role and every project he’s a part of. This fall, he’ll be returning to network television with The Unicorn on CBS and he’ll reunite with his Vice Principals nemesis Danny McBride for HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones… But before that, you can see Walton Goggins in Them That Follow, a dark, earthy drama set in the mountains of Appalachia and premiering Friday, August 16th as part of the Macon Film Festival.
AI- You’ve got a film coming to Macon, part of our festival, Them That Follow… In the film you play a pastor, Lemuel Childs who preaches the serpent and the drinking of the poison and all of that. You grew up in Georgia. Was it rural Georgia? Did you ever experience any of that yourself?
WG- I grew up in a little town just west of Atlanta, only about 18 miles from downtown, but it was still a relatively small town, Lithia Springs, Georgia. And I’d never been to a snake-handling church. I did visit and frequent my fair share of Pentecostal churches and a number of different churches, really. Both Christian and nondenominational and secular. My mother was a big, forward-thinking spiritualist. So I had them all kind of floating in my head as a kid. But I will never forget the first time that I walked into a Pentecostal church and I felt the way that I felt, you know? They say that the spirit is in that room and when the spirit is in that room you feel it on a molecular level. And I certainly did.
Having had that experience, a lot of your roles, you get to quote a lot of scripture. Is that something that you retained?
Two roles, two roles– and no. I had access and an entree into these worlds and I got to see a lot of different personalities up there giving their interpretation of verse and what that meant. I happened to come across a lot of unbelievably dynamic people in my life and my childhood especially. But no, there was no one verse or no one thing that I kept with throughout my life. I suppose it was all of them. It was just a feeling. And that oftentimes isn’t encapsulated in one passage from any religious script. It’s the feeling that stays with you.
So I have to ask about the snakes in particular. I heard that perhaps, maybe those are not your favorite things, the snakes?
Man, I am not scared of many things, but snakes is high on that f—–g list. Like on the three things that I’m scared of. Snakes is…. I’m scared of them the most, you know? Like a lot of people, I have never been able to overcome that fear. Even walking in the woods, even being in South Africa recently for a period of time and walking through tall grass, it’s always in the back of your mind– and it’s right there for me anyway. It’s an underlying fear. And when I agreed to do Them That Follow, I knew that I would have to handle snakes. They said that right out of the gate, but I didn’t really believe them, you know? Until we only had two days left to go and the last two days, the day finally came. I couldn’t believe that I was actually doing this. And the only way that I was able to do it was as Lemuel Childs not as Walton Goggins. I couldn’t have picked him up.
I was watching it and I really, I tried to see if there was a look in your eye or a betrayal in the way you held your body when you were lifting these large snakes into the air. What kind of snakes were they?
They were non-poisonous snakes and they were snakes that looked like poisonous snakes. They weren’t poisonous and they didn’t have teeth. They were really kind of incapable of biting you or else we couldn’t have made the movie.
But I didn’t see… There was zero fear in your eye or in your body language when you were picking those up.
Well, thank you very much for saying that, buddy. That’s with a lot of faith.
Do you feel better about snakes now after having handled them in the film?
No. What I do feel is… There are many takeaways from Them That Follow and many of them are heartfelt and resonate on a very deep level. But the one thing that I will not do is take another movie with snakes in it! I just won’t! I did it. I had it and I don’t need to do it again.
I want to ask you about a couple of different roles that you’ve played in your career. House of 1000 Corpses… There is the, well, your [Deputy Nash’s] demise. The execution scene in that film, this long drawn out raising to the sky. Was that a difficult thing to stand? Because it was very disturbing to watch and it was something that a buddy of mine always commented on and I figured if I ever had the chance, I was going to ask you about that scene.
Well, first and foremost, I was just so taken with Rob. He’s such a visual artist and he is so visceral. He elicits such a visceral reaction to what he does. When we were filming that and he was playing that song and you know, I’ve been around a long time and I know what it’s like when someone that has that level of talent is excited This is something that he had meditated on and thought about for a very long time. And this was a shot that meant everything to him. And I was just grateful to be in it, to be quite honest with you. I thought that it would resonate visually. I didn’t know what would the camera was seeing, but I had a very good idea of what the camera was seeing and low and behold that that shot still holds up. I see It played on loops at parties that I go to, and yeah, it was just a very cool experience. A very cool movie to be a part of, and I just think the world of Rob Zombie.
Next one, Venus Van Dam. People have got to ask you about that one all the time. How much fun was that?
Yeah, man. You know, that role… That’s my girl. I never met the cast members of Sons of Anarchy as Walton while we were working. They were all really good friends of mine. We were on FX at the same time for a very long time, and I know all of them pretty damn well. But out of respect for me and my process, they never addressed me as Walton and I never addressed them by their first names. We were only ever in this world as the characters from SOA and Venus Van Dam. So in some ways, I, Walton, don’t feel like I ever did that. I think that Venus is a real human being that exists in the world and is in The Valley right now.
And may possibly come back to life one day?
Yeah. Well, you never know, man!