'Sons of Anarchy': Walton Goggins talks Venus and Tig's heart-to-heart
Spoiler alert: In the Nov. 11 episode of Sons of Anarchy, “Faith and Despondency,” Venus (Walton Goggins) and Tig (Kim Coates) took their relationship to the next level—then almost called it quits. The always eloquent Goggins, who’s recurred as the transgender escort for three seasons, talked to EW about filming their emotional conversation—and where he thinks Venus and Tig went afterward. Bonus for Justified fans, he also got us psyched for that show’s final season, which premieres in January. (He’s about to start shooting episode six.)
EW: Venus and Tig’s heart-to-heart follows Jarry and Chibs’ combative love scene. It made me realize that while I understand Jarry’s and Chibs’ motivations as characters, I don’t want to relate to their volatile relationship. And then you have Venus, who is the most singular person on the show, and yet at this point, she really is the most relatable. What did you see in that conversation between Venus and Tig?
Goggins: I’m just blown away that you said that, and I know Kurt [Sutter] would be blown away as well and very grateful for that comment. I think that there’s something about two people that are looking for love from an honest and truthful place that is extremely appealing. Vulnerability that is not trying to be used in some manipulative way is something that we’re all attracted to and that we aspire to, I think, whenever we’re able to truly let our guards down. And that’s really what that is: It’s not gender specific. It’s more than a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. It’s just about two human beings who need to be seen, and that’s what Kurt wrote. He gave both of these people the words to articulate how they feel. When I read it, I just thought I’ve never really seen honesty in that way, with what is a perceived way of life that would be unacceptable to another person. Venus is understanding of that, and in some ways, accepting of the limitations of that kind of commitment from another person. And she is graceful enough to let him out, but she was also vulnerable enough to say, “But I let myself believe in it, and I do believe in it. And I’m not a fool for allowing myself space for that emotion. I’m a better person for it.” Because she was able to say that, Tig came around. I mean, I’m gonna cry right now talking about it. It was so organic and so beautiful, and that comes from the mind and really from the heart of Kurt Sutter.
I assume it was scripted for you to not use Venus’ voice in that scene since Tig, at the end, asks to hear her lilt again. Is that the case?
That was Kurt, and that was in the stage directions. Paris Barclay directed this episode. Paris has been a friend of mine well over 18 years. He did episodes of The Shield. I did a movie for him back when I was like 23 years old called The Cherokee Kid. I did NYPD Blue with Paris. I’ve known Paris for a long time. Obviously I’ve known Kurt for a very long time. And Kim I’ve known for a while. That it was this collaboration between these people who have been in each other’s lives just made it all the sweeter. It was just about creating the space for this to happen. In that moment, Paris said, “Walton, I think you have to even go deeper without Venus’ voice.” Which was so strange for me because I don’t look at it as “Venus’ voice,” that’s just the way she talks. To think about her sounding other than how she sounds, that was hard for me. It was really difficult. It was like, okay, let’s bring it down, and then it just made it even sweeter for me. I think it made it sweeter for Kim as Tig.
When we walked into do it and rehearse it, I’d just gotten back from filming a movie in Canada. I’d been back for not even 24 hours. I got off the plane, went home and slept, woke up six hours later to start the process. By the time we got to start shooting [the conversation], it was like six o’clock at night. We’d done the other stuff beforehand, and Kim really wanted to approach the making love scene in the montage in a very certain way. He was absolutely right, and I thought that was beautiful. And then [Venus] coming out of the shower, I really talked to Tracey [Anderson], our makeup artist, about where we are in the stage—what is right and what’s not right. And we did that scene, and Paris staged it so that Venus was looking in a mirror at herself at the end. For me, all the sudden for the first time, Venus is looking at herself and judging herself. She’s looking at herself for the first time through another person’s eyes, not through her own. And what she sees is not how she sees herself. It’s something less than perfect. And that f–kin’ broke my heart.
So by the time we get to the scene, we walked in and everybody was really quiet. We sat down to rehearse it with Paris, who Kim and I trust implicitly, and it’s all right there. I turned to Paris as Venus and said, “Can you shoot this at the same time?” And Paris said, “Absolutely. That’s exactly what we’re gonna do.” Paris set it up so there was a camera on both of these people as they were going through this emotion‚ and I say “these people” in third person because I don’t believe that I was there or Kim was there—it was them. It was their relationship. And Paris just let the camera roll. He came in and tweaked us as needed, and that was it. We did it maybe three times total. It was so pure and so without ego and so not result-oriented. It was just outside of all of us: Just let these two people heal one another, and then let’s walk away. It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life as an artist.
I bet a lot of TV viewers don’t realize that typically, the camera is focused on one person in a take, so the other actor may not bring their emotion full force until it’s time for their coverage, because there’ll be so many takes in total. But in a conversation like this, you really do need that other person to be with you every step of the way.
Yeah. And that is the take—you’re not cutting in between. It’s flowing, and there’s no need to be aware of the people around you, it’s just what’s happening in that moment. You don’t have to save or hold anything back, it just is what it is. I’m really happy that Paris decided to do it that way.
Just to go back to the love scene—that is the first time Venus and Tig have been that intimate, which is what set him off in the morning?
Yeah. I think that’s the very first time, and I think it came after this very, very long courting between these two people, which did not start off that way. It was just two people becoming friends organically. They had pain in common, and laughter and humor, and a zest for living. And one probably never refrained from having sex—meaning Tig would f–k anything—and one only gets paid for it, for the most part. So their relationship wasn’t about sex, and then it happened. It was so beautiful, and it happened at a point in their relationship where it’s like, why wouldn’t domesticity be the next logical step? It would have been if not for the parameters that our society places on what is allowable as a relationship. It was only after that came into the room that there was ugliness. Therefore the mirror: I suppose the mirror is kind of like society, metaphorically speaking, looking at it. And then it was one person who said, “And all that being considered, f–k that. F–k it. This makes me happy, and this completes me as a person.” I’m just very grateful for Kurt, and to all the people on the show, for giving me a little space in their epic story to experience life in this way. It just means the world to me.
The conversation ends with Tig telling Venus to put on a dress and the flowers back in her hair. He wants to go out and feel what it’s like for her to be his. Where do you think they went?
I think she got dolled up. I think they went to a very expensive, conservative restaurant—her in her beautiful outfit with color, and him with his leather cut. And they sat and ordered the most expensive bottle of wine. And then they ordered another bottle of wine. And they had a seven-course meal in front of all of these people and were more in love and more themselves than anybody in that restaurant.
Will we see Venus again before the series ends?
I can’t tell you, baby. [Laughs] Boyd Crowder, it’d be bad enough. Sons of Anarchy crew—I don’t even know what would happen to me. You watch the show. They make people disappear every week.
You brought up your character on Justified. We’ve seen the first promo, which really sets up this final showdown between Boyd and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant). In recent seasons, we’ve had to wait a handful of episodes to see those two have scenes together. Is that the case in the final season?
You’re not going to have to wait that long for those to start happening, and the way they happen, when I say they’re organic, you’ve got one man lookin’ for another man— lookin’ to arrest another man or kill another man—and that man who he’s lookin’ to kill doesn’t know it. It’s interesting when Raylan chooses to insert himself into Boyd’s life, and it’s electric. I have always waited for this. I’ve wanted this experience with Tim since we did the pilot. Six years ago, I was looking forward to these interactions between these two men, and they are complicated and they just turn me on, man. Graham [Yost] and all the writers, the crew, everybody understands that we have something to protect here—and we’re doing it for Elmore [Leonard] and for his legacy as much as we’re doing it for ourselves. So nothing has been taken for granted. Every scene that Boyd has had with Ava has blown me away because so much is happening from word to word, from sentence to sentence. So much is changing all the time. Everything is loaded. It’s just a pleasure to be a part of. It leaves you exhausted mentally at the end of the day. A lot’s happenin’ in Harlan County. I mean there’s so many pieces movin’, I forget which game we’re playing sometimes.
I think fans were excited to read about the additions of Sam Elliott and Garret Dillahunt [as a legendary gangster who returns to Kentucky with a private army and plenty of cash, and a skilled special ops veteran who now handles security for a quasi-legal businessman, respectively]. What are they bringing to the show?
Look, I’m not sayin’ this because this is an interview. I’m tellin’ you straight up, Garret Dillahunt is one of my heroes. I put him up there with Sam Rockwell and all the greats of my generation—we’re contemporaries. I just think he’s one of the finest working today. And Sam is a f–kin’ icon. I remember the first time I saw Mask. I’ve seen that movie, I don’t know, man, maybe 15 times. And he’s the real deal—the real deal—he’s so good and effortless, that it’s beyond just, “Wow, we’ve got two great actors.” It’s, “We’ve got these two guys.” I’m just trying to convey my genuine regard for these two men and our genuine happiness to have them be a part of our last lap.
Is Boyd happy to have them be a part of it? That is the question.
No. No! But neither is Raylan. Boyd’s not happy with any guest star who’s ever been on this show.
Sons of Anarchy
Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.