The buzz about this week’s mystery guest star on Sons of Anarchy was deafening: Someone presumably with a connection to series creator Kurt Sutter was poised to turn up on the FX smash in a surprising way. But even with that heads-up, it’s safe to say no one was prepared for the sight of Walton Goggins sporting double Ds. But there he was, the Emmy nominated star of such gritty, hyper-masculine dramas as The Shield and Justified playing — no, embodying — a sassy, quick-witted and altogether fabulous transgendered woman named Venus who was hired by SAMCRO to headline a faux sex scandal/blackmail scheme.
Here, the fearless Goggins recalls how the gender-bending surprise came about, what it was like simulating a series of graphic sexual acts (in nothing but assless chaps!) in front of Sons‘ male ensemble, and why he decided to go off script and kiss leading man Charlie Hunnam.
TVLINE | So, how did this come about? I assume you got a call from Kurt…
About a year-and-a-half ago Kurt did an interview about Shield actors appearing on Sons of Anarchy. He said he could never have Michael Chiklis or Walton Goggins on the show because they’re too closely identified with their characters on The Shield. And I read this interview and I sent it to him and I said, “This is bulls–t.” [Laughs] I said, “What if I played a transgendered character?” And literally a year and a half later, Kurt texted me, “Remember that conversation we had about you playing a transgendered character? Well, I’ve written something — and I’m not going to do it unless you do it.” So he sent me the script pages and I fell in love with her. And this happened while I was in the middle of filming [the upcoming Quentin Tarantino western] Django Unchained and I was in the [depth] of my masculinity. I had a full beard, and a f–king gun and my cowboy gear on; I was kicking ass. I went to work every day on Quentin’s movie ready to kick some ass. So initially didn’t know how to respond to it because I was so not there physically. But Kurt knocked it out of the park [with the script]. She was all the things I wanted her to be. So I said yes… I’ve always wanted to play a woman. I’ve always wanted to have that experience as an actor, and do it in a way that is very respectful and empowering to the [transgendered] community.
TVLINE | How soon after did you shoot the episode?
I literally wrapped Django at 9 am on July 4, and on July 5 I flew back home and went to the wig shop, on July 6 I shaved my entire body, on July 7 I went with my wife to get a mani-pedi, on July 8 I soaked in the tub, on July 9 I did the makeup test and on the 10th we were filming.
TVLINE | You looked great overall, but your breasts stole the show.
First and foremost, I have to say how unbelievably talented the special effects people are at Sons of Anarchy. And the hair and makeup department. Because it wasn’t just the breasts. It’s transforming the face and the hair. It was all about the hair. I went back and forth on the hair. I considered using my own hair and keeping it short and sort of pixie-ish, but they talked me into wearing it long and [going with a] Farrah Fawcett kind of feminine look. The first time I saw [myself] I didn’t really know who I was looking at. So it became so easy to turn yourself over to your imagination and let it run wild. The process took the better part of four-and-a-half hours. It came in four parts: Makeup, breasts, makeup again and then hair.
TVLINE | Sons is a super-masculine show — even more so than The Shield. What was the atmosphere like on the set while shooting those scenes?
I have known Charlie and Kim [Coates] and those guys for a long time. I was so afraid that we would digress into a [typical] conversation like, “Hey man, what’s going on? How are you?” So I was very careful not to see those guys [until I was in character as Venus] — out of respect for them. And they out of respect for me didn’t want to see me until the transformation happened. And then I came out and it was as if they had never met me before and I had never met them. Literally the conversations were like, “Where are you from?” It was as if we had no history together whatsoever.
TVLINE | That’s freaky.
It was freaky! And so important. Everyone wanted to go there. And it was so easy to go there because she was so beautiful. And so f–king funny and smart and in her power. She knew who she was and she knew the reaction she elicited in people. It was as if she always existed in the world and we were all experiencing her at the same time.
TVLINE | I loved that Tig couldn’t fight his attraction to her.
He was right up against his own curiosity. He’s a maverick by nature. He’s not dissimilar to Shane from The Shield. He’s his own person and would try anything. And in that moment, he’s extremely attracted to her.
TVLINE | Was the kiss you planted on Jax scripted?
No. That was improvised. He didn’t know it was coming. I leaned up to Charlie and in the voice of Venus I said, “When [the director] says action, trust me.” And then Venus did what she would have done to the person in charge, which is flirt in a very harmless, very sweet way. It was not overtly sexual. It was just a kiss. It was tender. And the look on Jax’s face was not repulsion, not revulsion… it was just like a child. It was like a sensation Jax had never felt before. It was a life experience that Charlie’s character had never had before.
TVLINE | There was some graphic sexuality in the scene. Did you have a moment where you were like, “What the hell am I… “
What the f–k am I doing? Yes. Every part of me was, “What the f–k am I doing?!” That internal conversation happened in the trailer when they were putting the breasts on me. I had to put that voice way out of my head and I couldn’t be concerned with people’s reaction to it. We were trying to do something different and I wanted to do a character that was so far outside of my comfort zone. So in those moments, like [climbing onto] the gentleman on the table or walking around in assless chaps… which if you’re aware that you’re walking around in assless chaps then you’re done. There’s no coming back from that. So none of it entered my mind. I said to myself, “I am doing this in the service of art and of this show and storytelling in general, and I’m just going to have fun.” And everybody felt that way. Everybody had so much fun.