PASADENA, Calif. — Forgive "Justified" actor Walton Goggins these days. He'll readily admit he's a bit confused.
"Honestly, (2011) was one of the best years of my life," says the star nominated this past year for an Emmy because of his portrayal of weasel Boyd Crowder. "But I also had a baby, this child, (a year ago), and daddy-hood is many things.
"Confusing is one of them."
At 40, it seems, Goggins is easing into a stride, both professionally and personally. At home, he's navigating the tricky path of being a good parent and husband.
When it comes to his career, he's getting a second chance at acclaim with the Tuesday-night FX drama "Justified," having already won over critics and fans for his years as the dirty cop Shane Vendrell on "The Shield" for seven seasons.
"As an artist, I feel like I am coming into my own," he says. "The work is clearer. It's very defined.
"It's like being a father. My work is very defined there, too. Between (personal and work lives), I have a picture of who I am ... It feels really good. One feeds the other."
Goggins is not particularly known for his Southern characters, though he was raised in Alabama, along with the rituals of life in the deep South. He was a champion clogger as a child and hog caller.
At age 12, he declared to an Atlanta casting agent he wanted to be an actor. By 20, he was in Los Angeles seeking roles.
As Boyd, he plays a Southern hick who changes like a chameleon: First he was a shady insider to his small-town community's illegal drug operations, then he reinvented himself as an evangelist before becoming a disillusioned ex-con.
As he talks about his thoughts on fatherhood, Goggins almost sounds like Boyd, who loves waxing philosophically.
"Being a hero is not sustainable," he says. "Being a good person every day is ... I know this could all go away tomorrow, but I have never lived from a fearful point of view."
Boyd is born out of Goggins' style of "living in the moment," though the character is "always thinking about what's coming next."
Goggins has been there in his own life. When he talks to his friends back in the Birmingham area, he hears tales of downsizing and the woes of going into the corporate route for an unsteady career.
Though he has been an actor almost all his life, Goggins can relate to his friends' career worries. As an actor and someone living in Los Angeles for 20 years, he realizes the shakiness of his own career path. This season, he can bring that to Boyd's world as well.
"This season is about Boyd laying the foundation of building his criminal empire and going forward ... In some ways, Boyd Crowder is looking for a corporation," Goggins says.
The difference is that Boyd has yet to find a balance in his life.
"His biggest strength — if we're going to label it that — is something he's never had before in his life," Goggins says. "Right now his biggest strength is developing that capacity to love another person.
"Perhaps Boyd is hampered by his loyalty to other people."
Away from "Justified," the film world is calling out to Goggins, too. He's cast in a new film about the life of Abraham Lincoln, the next G.I. Joe flick and Knoxville native Quentin Tarantino's epic "Django Unchained."
Three years ago, he spent months in Knoxville in the rare position of being an actor and producer for the independent film "That Evening Sun" with Hal Holbrook, giving him a chance to forge his own destiny in that project.
For whatever reason, all the pieces are coming together for Goggins right now — and he realizes that doesn't happen often.
"I don't have the luxury to squander time like I used to," he says. "I take every moment I have and go with it."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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