By Lynette Rice
September 26, 2019 at 10:00 AM EDT
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After playing so many bad and complicated characters over his nearly three decade-long career, Walton Goggins, 47, is looking forward to breaking type as a widower dad who’s looking to date again on the new CBS comedy The Unicorn, debuting tonight on CBS: “I want to play the nice guy. I want to see what that’s like.” But first, he’s agreed to revisit many of the not-so-pleasant ones.

1. Beverly Hills, 90210 (1992): In one of his first TV roles, Goggins played a frat boy with the unusual ability to bark like a seal. “I think it was a story about Donna [Tori Spelling] not wanting to believe how stupid it was to be in a fraternity,” Goggins recalls. “Literally, my lines were ‘Arf, arf, arf, arf.’ ”

2. The Next Karate Kid (1994): Goggins auditioned to play the lead bad guy. But when he lost the role to Michael Cavalieri, Goggins called director Christopher Cain and begged to play Cavalieri’s friend instead. “It changed my life. It gave me a nest egg.”

3. The Shield (2002–2008): Goggins got emotional on his first day playing Det. Shane Vendrell on the gritty FX drama — and not just because it was “one of the best pilots I have ever read.” He discovered that his old pal Kenny Johnson, whom he met on Major League: Back to the Minors, was cast as a fellow detective. “It was like, ‘Oh my God. I get to be with you?’ We both started to cry.”

Prashant Gupta/FX

4. The Bourne Identity (2002): Goggins was originally cast as Chris Cooper’s assistant, but the producers wanted someone younger and replaced him. But they didn’t want to drop him completely, “so they asked if I’d play a research tech,” he recalls. “Go to Prague with Matt Damon and Doug Liman? I said sure.”

Justin Lubin/NBC

5. Justified (2010–2015): As career criminal Boyd Crowder, the Alabama-born Goggins relished playing someone from rural America. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my life. It means a great deal to me.”

Prashant Gupta/FX

6. Sons of Anarchy (2012–2014): Though other actors from The Shield appeared on this FX drama, creator Kurt Sutter felt he couldn’t cast Goggins because he was too memorable. So Sutter crafted the part of a transgender woman named Venus Van Dam, just for Goggins. “I said, ‘Man, I’m in, but we’ve got to do this for real. This is going to be special if we treat it with care and kindness.’ We did.”

Prashant Gupta/FX

7. Lincoln (2012): After playing wishy-washy Ohio congressman Clay Hawkins in Steven Spielberg’s epic, Goggins wishes schoolkids spent more time discussing the 13th Amendment. “I went home every night with such profound disgust and pain and sorrow in my heart that this conversation even needed to happen.”

Everett Collection

8. Django Unchained (2012): Though he was ultimately cast as Billy Crash, Goggins was satisfied to simply audition for director Quentin Tarantino. “He let me read for all these other roles,” Goggins recalls. “I’ll never forget his kindness. I walked out literally not caring if I got to work with him because I got to work with him.”

Columbia/The Weinstein Company/Kobal/Shutterstock

9. Tomb Raider (2018): Goggins couldn’t pass up the chance to play treasure hunter Mathias Vogel in this remake starring Alicia Vikander. “Look, I’m never going to play Indiana Jones, so I got to live out that fantasy in Tomb Raider.”

Graham Bartholomew/Warner Bros.

10. The Righteous Gemstones (2019): In August, Goggins reunited with his Vice Principals costar Danny McBride on this HBO comedy about a world-famous televangelist family. Goggins plays Uncle Baby Billy Freeman, a flamed-out Christian music star. CBS has already given Goggins its blessing to moonlight on the premium channel. “I am there for Danny, whenever and however he needs me.”

Ryan Green/HBO

The Unicorn, a comedy about a widower named Wade (Goggins) who tries to keep back into the dating world with the help of his friends, premieres at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight on CBS.

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