Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched the Oct. 22 episode of Sons of Anarchy, “Sweet and Vaded” (read our recap), stop now. We learned why Venus Van Dam (Walton Goggins) had returned looking for Nero: Venus’ 15-year-old “nephew” Joey, who was actually her son, had fallen into the custody of her mother, Alice — who’d launched a lucrative child pornography service back when Venus was a young Vincent. Venus needed SAMCRO to help her liberate Joey. Here, Goggins chats about Venus’ drama — and about that tender moment with Tig (Kim Coates). Special bonus for Justified fans: He also offers a juicy Boyd Crowder tease for season 5.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When we spoke last season about your first appearance as Venus, you hinted that we may see her again. Was that always the plan?
WALTON GOGGINS: It was something we talked about. We had to see where Kurt [Sutter, SOA's creator] was in his story and if it made sense. But I think we both really, really wanted her to come back. The first go-around, it was not farcical but definitely full of humor. That’s the direction that Kurt really wanted to go in, and I think it was absolutely the right call. But we felt there was another side to her that merited exploring, and so I was happy when he and the writers figured out a way to make that happen. This is the story that we felt gave Venus the opportunity to become really three-dimensional.
Who came up with Venus’ backstory?
That’s all from the mind of Kurt Sutter. The conversations that we had revolved around the audience having expectations to see one thing and then actually giving them something else. [His voice becomes more Venus like.] With a little bit of humor in there, too. Venus is who she is. She can’t help but be funny, because she’s that cool.
I love that your voice changes a bit when you talk about Venus.
(Laughs) My walk changes, too.
What kind of conversations did you and Kim Coates have about the interaction between Venus and Tig? I adored their relationship in this episode.
He’s just such a wonderful actor, you just know that regardless of what choice he makes, it’s going to be grounded in truth. We talked about it a lot. We talked about that moment at the end at the bus station and what that really means — to take it out of the context of last season and to ground it in a human connection of, I’ll be a shoulder that you can lean on. To take sexuality out of it and to make it be more about consoling a human being who is going through this experience, which is very trying emotionally. I was so, so happy with that scene. As happy with anything that transpired over the course of the two episodes. It was just a sweet moment between two humans outside of their sexual orientation.
The smile on Tig’s face after Joey’s bus drove away was wonderful. He’d put his arm around Venus’ shoulders, and she’d reached to hold his hand. He couldn’t save his daughter last season, but Venus’ son was safe.
That’s the underlying motivation, hopefully, for us as human beings: I think compassion is inherit in all of us, and once we step outside our preconceived ideas about a person or situation, and we just come from a place of compassion, you change.
Let’s go back to the scene in which Venus told Jax and the boys her history with her mother to convince them to help her. What do you remember most about shooting that?
It was an unbelievable experience. We didn’t have a long time to do that. I think that was one, maybe two takes. It was coming from a place of asking these very strong men to step outside of their comfort zone and to help me, because I have nowhere else to turn. I worked with Paris [Barclay, the SOA exec producer who directed the episode] for the first time doing a movie called The Cherokee Kid for HBO 17 years ago. He directed episodes of The Shield, and I did NYPD Blue with Paris. He’s been a dear friend of mine for a long time. To have Paris there again behind the monitor, and to see Katey [Sagal's] character and where she had come in this acceptance of a person that normally she wouldn’t accept — to bring her son and the members of SOA into this meeting — it was really unexpected. I didn’t know that’s where it was gonna go, that it would be that difficult to tell Venus’ life story in that forum. But once the box was opened, everything started to pour out. It was very cathartic. I think it’s the first time Venus has ever really verbalized that to anyone. Certainly in that public way. For her to do that in a room full of bikers was, I guess, the therapy session that she needed.
Venus and SAMCRO confronted Alice at her house, then Alice fled with Joey. Venus took off her heels as she ran to the car to chase after them. Was that scripted, or was that you not wanting to run in heels?
That was not wanting to run in heels. (Laughs) That was, like, how dumb would I look running in heels with a shotgun in my hand? Let’s ditch both of them. Let’s get rid of the gun, because she doesn’t carry a gun, and running in heels is probably not her strong suit. She’s too much of a lady for that. Let’s take them off and go with that for the sprint to the car.
And what do you remember about that car chase, which ended with Venus grabbing a handgun and firing shots at her mother’s men when their car rammed them from behind?
That a young Vincent is still underneath it all. It was such a smart way to go about exploring her sexuality and who she is, but also who she was, and blending them both in that way. I was surprised that Vincent’s voice came out in that moment. I didn’t intend for it. It was with anger that Venus let down that part of herself and blended both. You have this anger coming out of this person from 35 years of abuse before she made the decision to live life as the person that she is inside. And that was really, really mindbending for me. I think the other thing that was so difficult, but also so exciting, about filming this [arc], was staying in that head space for more than a day. Over the course of the two episodes, it took about three weeks to get everything. Last year, it was really only one day. I broke my electric razor keeping the hair off my body. (Laughs) Believe it or not, there are Venus disposable Gillette razors, so I went through a boxful of those. And my wife lived with Venus for much longer than she expected this time. But it was a lot of fun.
Take me through what you were feeling during that confrontation with Alice at her studio, Happy Carousel, when she told Venus that Joey would hate her and the life he’d been forced into if he found out she was his father. [Ed. note: Said confrontation ended with Jax putting a bullet in Alice's head.]
Relief mixed with a profound sadness. I think that one of the hardest things as an actor was listening to Adrienne Barbeau, who’s playing my mother, say what she said about me and taking it in but not taking it on. We should all live in a world where we can be who we really are. And unfortunately at times, we’re asked to suppress that. I think we would all save ourselves a lot of pain if we just accepted people for who they are.
Will we see Venus again this season?
I’m not at liberty to say. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see her again before this show is done. I’ll just say that. (Laughs) She’s like a drug for me. And I think she’s like a drug for Kurt. Kurt and his writing staff did such a good job of creating this woman who is as strong as they come and now simultaneously as vulnerable as they come. I just… I miss her. I missed her the day that we wrapped, and I miss her now. (Laughs) I hope to be six inches taller than some of the members of the gang on Sons of Anarchy again, but we’ll see.
In the meantime, we have season 5 of Justified to look forward to. Give us a tease.
I did a scene last night [Oct. 21] — we didn’t wrap until 1 a.m. — and it was a scene that will forever change the way that I see Boyd Crowder. It was something that was not planned, as these things often are. So I’m on the other side of that and really thinking about him and who he is. He’s a man who ended last season with his fiancée going off to prison. She’s collateral damage for the person that he is in truth. And he’s rendered impotent by it. And he is going to lash out in ways that I think will be surprising to the audience because they’ve definitely been surprising to me. He’s a man cornered, and I think that Boyd is seeing a side of himself that he chooses not to look at in the mirror. So I’m really excited about it.