If you’re a fan of The Shield, you’ve known this for years, and if you watch Justified, even moreso: Goggins is just an incredible actor, one able to convey menace, pathos, and even – thanks to Justified‘s amazing dialogue- a whole lot of humor.
The actor also popped up in a couple of small but pivotal movie roles last year- in both “Lincoln” and “Django Unchained,” and while “Machete Kills” was kind of an unmitigated disaster, Goggins showing up as one itineration of the shape-shifting assassin character- also played at different times by Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lady Gaga- was a brief highlight.
Justified returns in January- and Goggins has some intriguing-sounding things to say about where Boyd Crowder’s arc is going- but I want to talk about another recent part by the actor- that of Venus Van Damme, a buxom transgender prostitute, on Sons of Anarchy.
The character first popped up last season on what I assumed was a one-shot guest appearance, just to deliver the sort of extreme shock that ‘Sons’ usually gives its audience roughly three times per episode. Even the name was a joke, as Goggins’ character on The Shield occasionally used the alias “Cletus Van Damme.”
But the Venus Van Damme character returned this year for another arc which, even more shockingly, has been surprisingly moving. On the first episode, Venus was given a long dramatic scene with Katey Segal’s Gemma which made her resemble, in the words of one critic, a Tennessee Williams character.
The following week, the Venus character was given an even wider, more tragic backstory like something out of a J.T. Leroy “memoir”- with everything from child molestation and pornography to a monstrous mother to a long-lost son. And like most Sons plots, this one ended with some out-of-nowhere violence.
Critic Alyssa Rosenberg, rightly, described Sutter and the series as “An Unexpected Advocate For Trans Equality,” and it’s without a doubt the most sympathetic, multifaceted treatment of transgenderism that I’ve ever seen from a prestige cable series.
So if you’re unfamiliar with the Walton Goggins Experience, I recommend that you check these episodes out- and by all means, catch up on The Shield and Justified too.