‘Unicorn’ is a rare opportunity for Walton Goggins
Walton Goggins has distinguished himself during his acting career taking on edgy roles in television series such as “Justified,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Shield.” He’s been a perfect fit for characters who come across as being fiercely loyal but also not afraid to cross moral lines if necessary.
Roles on the dark comedy “Vice Principals” and “The Righteous Gemstones” have given Goggins a chance to show he could also handle lighter roles. But even he was a little surprised when the offer came to star in the new CBS comedy “The Unicorn," airing at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays.
Goggins plays Wade, the recently widowed father of two girls who finally — at the urging of friends and family — agrees to return to the world of dating. What Wade didn’t realize was that he’s the perfect single guy — employed, attractive and with a proven track record of commitment. In dating circles, this is as rare a find as a horse with a horn in the middle of its head.
The role is at the other end of the acting spectrum from the typical Goggins role, but the Alabama native wasn’t looking for a project this radical. His philosophy of acting has been to just go with the best written material he could find, and that has included roles in the feature films “The Hateful Eight,” “Django Unchained,” “Lincoln,” “Ant-Man and The Wasp” and “Mazerunner: The Death Cure.”
“When this came along, I just I fell deeply in love with him and with his struggles and I fell in love with his daughters and I fell in love with his friends and this community,” Goggins says. “For me, I’m a little tired of irony and I’m at a place in my life at 48 years old where kindness and sentimentality and being earnest are things that are very important to me.
“And this show kind of spoke to all of that. It just touched me in a way that was deep and meaningful.”
The project was strong enough for Goggins to get past the nervousness he felt taking on a character who’s closer to who he really is than any of the tough guy parts he’s played in his past. He felt a lot of insecurity stepping into this role and kept asking himself if he believed he could play such a character. Once he got past those initial fears, Goggins realized this was a role that deep down inside he knew he always wanted to play.
Executive producer Bill Martin and Mike Schiff didn’t share Goggins doubts and were certain he was the right actor. The biggest debate they had regarding the series was whether or not it was proper for Wade to start dating a year after the death of his wife. The pair based the comedy on a friend whose wife had died and he waited two years before going on his first date.
Martin admits there were a lot of different opinions about what would be the proper time frame. Some argued a year can seem to pass so quickly while others say dealing with such a tragic loss can make 12 months come across more like an eternity.
The decision to go with a year was set once it was established that “The Unicorn” will not be the date-of-the-week show.
Schiff says, “The show is about him basically giving himself permission to live again after a year where he sort of in a, I don’t want to say a coma, (but) a funk certainly. And it’s about him in all aspects of his life sort of tuning back into his life. So dating is a part of it, yes, but he’s also a father. He’s also a friend. It’s all elements of his life.
“And because, again, so much of it is coming from our friend Grady, whose story this is and from other friends of ours who have lost spouses and we speak with all of them about what are the challenges moving forward.”
The most telling comment from a friend was that others didn’t have the right to tell her how long he could be unhappy.
“The Unicorn” deals with a very specific loss, but Goggins is certain the series is relatable to a large audience because so many have lost a person — parent, child, partner — in their life. The series shows how it is easier to deal with that loss when there are people offering support. And in this case, those supporting players are played by Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Omar Benson Miller, Maya Lynne Robinson, Ruby Jay, Makenzie Moss and Devin Bright.
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