HomeCultureThe Rise of Walton Goggins, One of the South’s Finest Actors

The Rise of Walton Goggins, One of the South’s Finest Actors

Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, Walton Goggins is a Southerner through and through. His rise to the top in the world of TV and film has been unconventional, characterized by defied expectations and a commitment to exploring the complexities of his roles. Goggins established himself as a heavyweight in television acting before successfully making the transition to major movies in recent years—to the point where he now has one of the most recognizable Southern voices in all of Hollywood.

Bringing TV Characters to Life

That Southern accent, formed by his upbringing in Lithia Springs, Georgia, is something that Goggins was pressured to change early in his career. Goggins had moved to Los Angeles to find more acting opportunities and was told that his strong accent may lead him to end up being typecast in roles as a Southerner, potentially roles that would reinforce some of the negative stereotypes of those from the Deep South.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

However, Goggins stayed true to his roots and has instead challenged those stereotypes through his nuanced portrayals of Southern characters. His characters haven’t always been “good guys,” largely because Goggins has shown an aptitude for switching from mild to menacing in a flash, but he has always been keen to ensure that his roles don’t do a disservice to his Southern heritage.

Goggins’ big TV break came in 2002, as the Georgian detective Shane Vendrell in “The Shield.” Vendrell was originally projected to die in an early episode, but Goggins’ performance was deemed too good to waste. Vendrell became a fixture in the show throughout its seven years, with Goggins adding real depth to an undoubtedly flawed character. Goggins didn’t disappear from the small screen for long, taking up a starring role in “Justified” in 2010. The FX crime drama was based on the works of Elmore Leonard, with Goggins playing another dubious character in the shape of Boyd Crowder.

As with Vendrell, Crowder wasn’t supposed to have a long shelf-life; in fact, he was supposed to expire in the pilot. However, Goggins’ compelling performance was received favorably by test audiences and Crowder ended up being a key character throughout the show’s six seasons. Goggins’ talent took these two shows in new and unplanned directions, giving new meaning to the idea of bringing a character to life.  

The Jump to Major Franchises

In the early 2010s, Goggins became a face that you would be increasingly likely to see in major Hollywood blockbusters, although those movies didn’t garner the critical acclaim that their budgets demanded.

2010’s “Predators,” 2011’s “Cowboys & Aliens” and 2013’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” weren’t the big breakouts that an actor of Goggins’ caliber deserved. However, 2018 saw Goggins join two of the biggest entertainment franchises of the 21st century to much greater success, making key appearances in “Tomb Raider” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

Goggins’ appearance in the 2018 “Tomb Raider” movie brought him to new prominence. That’s because the “Tomb Raider” video game series is immensely popular, inspiring a range of spinoffs into other media to create a heavyweight franchise. The Lara Croft character was brought to life on the big screen by Angelina Jolie, who starred in a pair of movies in the early 2000s. Croft has also provided the focus for Microgaming’s “Secret of the Sword,” which is ranked as one of the best online slots available. There are multiple comic books that further explore the world of Croft, courtesy of the publishers Top Cow and Dark Horse Comics.

This was much more than a simple movie based on a video game. The size of the franchise meant that Goggins would be under a new level of scrutiny, but he handled the pressure with his performance as the antagonist Mathias Vogel. Goggins came up against Alicia Vikander’s Croft and attracted praise for his performance, with the Birmingham-born star finally given plenty of time to shine in a Hollywood blockbuster. In “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Goggins had the chance to flex his villain muscles again, with his role as Sonny Burch bringing him into the incredibly lucrative and popular Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Goggins may have gone slightly under the radar before 2018, as someone who popped up in small roles and stole a few scenes without getting the A-lister acclaim. His arrival in the “Tomb Raider” and Marvel franchises has solidified Goggins’ fame by bringing his talents to a more mainstream audience. Goggins now stands alongside the likes of Reese Witherspoon as one of the South’s finest acting exports from recent years. 

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