When FX’s Justified first hit the schedule, people quickly took to the character of Boyd Crowder, who lit up the series like a bat outta hell—or else an enterprising former coal miner who engaged in various criminal pursuits during the show’s run. While Boyd Crowder was always a careful speaker, early on in the series, he was basically a staunch racist, an outlook that Walton Goggins wasn’t too fond of. In fact, he turned down the gig twice before the character was reworked to be a whole lot more intelligent and all-knowing. Here’s what Walton Goggins had to say in a recent interview:
I turned down Justified twice. It was only because I was a big fan of Tim Olyphant and Graham Yost's work that I said, ‘Look, I'll say the things you want me to say in the pilot, because this is Elmore Leonard's world. But in order for me to do this, I need Raylan Givens to acknowledge that Boyd does not believe a word he's saying.’ Because you add that factor, and suddenly, he becomes a much more interesting, more complex character.
That little tweak changed the way Walton Goggins, but also the rest of Justified’s audience, viewed the character of Boyd Crowder and was enough to convince Walton Goggins to stick around for the series. But it may have never happened if the Justified team wasn’t so keen to make Boyd as important of a character as he eventually became. Walton Goggins also explained to Rolling Stone that the team allowed him a lot of input when it came to the FX series.
And God bless them, they gave me autonomy over Boyd. After the pilot, the character never says the word "nigger" again. Over the course of the six years on the show, I was only asked once more to say it in a line of dialogue, and I said, ‘No.’ It wasn't right. I wasn't going to go near that storyline.
So, basically, Boyd Crowder was initially conceived as a racist asshole, but Walton Goggins is enough of a badass that he fought for the character to go in a totally different direction, and it worked out. If you know anything about Justified, you probably already know that Goggins initially only signed on for a guest stint on the series and that his character was initially going to be killed off in the pilot. As it turns out, though, people really responded well to Goggins’ portrayal of Boyd Crowder, and over time the character became not only a key antagonist on the series but also a lead character on the series. Justified eventually became about Boyd and Raylan’s relationship rather than simply Raylan trying to capture Boyd. They dug coal together, you know.
Justified’s now over, and Goggins has moved on to other big roles, including a large role in Quentin Tarantino’s recent movie The Hateful Eight and an upcoming gig in HBO's Vice Principals comedy. But we’re still fascinated to hear how his role on the FX series came about... and how it almost didn't.