November 10, 1971
Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Leanne Goggins, Nadia Conners
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An intense method actor who spent many years struggling in supporting roles as good-natured Southerners, Walton Goggins emerged as a star by portraying the corrupt and erratic Detective Shane Vendrell on the gritty cop drama, "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). For seven seasons, Goggin's Vendrell amassed a laundry list of sins, not the least of which was the murder of a fellow cop out of fear he might reveal the misdeeds of the notorious Strike Team, a four-man crime fighting force led by the implacable Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). Prior to his star-making turn on "The Shield," Goggins logged numerous guest spots on television series, including "In the Heat of the Night" (CBS, 1988-1994) and "JAG" (NBC, 1995-2005), while he landed his first breakout role opposite Robert Duvall in "The Apostle" (1997). In 2001, he won an Academy Award as one of the producers of the acclaimed short film, "The Accountant," which he made with fellow actors Ray McKinnon and Lisa Blount. Though he made career strides with big-budget features like "Shanghai Noon" (2000) and "The Bourne Identity" (2002), Goggins would be forever identified with loose-cannon Vendrell. He did manage, however, to branch out after "The Shield" ended with another career-defining role on the hit series "Justified" (FX, 2010- ), all of which proved Goggins' ability to wow audiences was limitless, regardless of what role he tackled.
Born on Nov. 10, 1971 in Birmingham, AL, Goggins was raised in Lithia Springs, GA, by his father, Walton, Sr., and his mother, Janet. Goggins was exposed to show business at an early age through his family - an aunt and uncle were both theater actors, while another aunt was a publicist for B.B. King and Phyllis Diller. In 1980, he entered and won a hog-calling competition when he was eight years old - the youngest competitor in the contest. A few years later, he and his mother were statewide champion cloggers - a form of mountain dancing - which led to opening for B.B. King at Atlanta's Fulton County Prison. When he was 12 or 13, Goggins became interested in acting when he walked into the office of casting agent Shay Griffin and declared his intentions. They remained friends for years. Meanwhile, after graduating from Lithia Springs High School, Goggins began landing small roles on film and in television projects being shot in his native Georgia, including the made-for-television movie "Murder in Mississippi" (NBC, 1990), a drama based on the true-to-life murders of three Civil Rights workers (Blair Underwood, Tom Hulce and Josh Charles) in 1964.
It was on "Murder in Mississippi" that Goggins met fellow actor and Georgian, Ray McKinnon, with whom he formed a friendship and later a professional collaboration. On the small screen, he made several appearances as different characters on the Georgia-based drama, "In the Heat of the Night" (CBS, 1988-1994). When he was 19 years old, Goggins packed up and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, though he traveled back to Georgia on occasion to continue appearing on "In the Heat of the Night." His move to L.A. proved fruitful when he began landing guest spots on series like the anthologized drama, "The Watcher" (UPN, 1995) and the long-running military courtroom drama, "JAG" (NBC, 1995-2005). After playing Jim Bob in the comedic western, "The Cherokee Kid" (HBO, 1996), Goggins returned to guest-starring with episodes of "The Sentinel" (UPN, 1996-99) and "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). But he had his first breakthrough on the feature side with a prominent supporting role in Robert Duvall's critically acclaimed drama, "The Apostle" (1997). Goggins played Sam, friend and confidant to a charismatic Pentecostal minister (Duvall) who starts a new church after going on the lam for beating his wife's lover (Todd Allen) into a coma.
Back on the small screen, he logged in an episode of "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002) and a starring role in "Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder" (CBS, 2000), playing Almanzo Wilder, the faithful husband of Laura Ingalls (Meredith Monroe). Also that year, Goggins landed roles in the high-profile comedy "Shanghai Noon" (2000); part three in the supernatural series, "The Crow: Salvation" (2000); and the independent drama, "Red Dirt" (2000). Meanwhile, in 2001, he formed the production company, Ginny Mule Pictures, with old friend Ray McKinnon and his wife, actress Lisa Blount. The trio produced "The Accountant" (2000), a 38-minute comedy short about two desperate brothers (Goggins and Eddie King) who hire a mysterious money man (McKinnon) to solve all their woes. The film won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2001. Returning to acting, Goggins had a small role in the made-for-television mystery, "Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man" (CBS, 2001).
Nothing that Goggins had previously done prepared him for the role with which he became synonymous, playing corrupt detective and Strike Team member Shane Vendrell on "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). Inspired by the real-life events surrounding the notorious Rampart division of the Los Angeles Police Department, "The Shield" focused on Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), a morally-compromised cop who bends one law after another in order to catch the bad guys, but who crosses the line when he kills Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond), a cop-turned-undercover informant. Reckless, racist and prone to shooting from the hip, Vendrell starts as Mackey's best friend and right-hand-man on the Strike Team - as well as, unfortunately for both men - the only witness to Crowley's murder. But as the series progresses through a series of criminal misdeeds by the Strike Team - which includes running afoul of the Armenian mob after robbing them of their drug money - Vendrell and Mackey begin to split, which culminated in the murder of fellow Strike Team member Curtis "Lem" Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) by Vendrell's hand, thanks to the prying of an obsessive internal affairs officer (Forest Whitaker). Ultimately, Vendrell - who had only a few lines in the pilot written by show creator and executive producer Shawn Ryan, but had blossomed into a deeply resonant character by series' end.
While on "The Shield," Goggins had little time to appear in much of anything else. Prior to the show's debut, he had a small role in the hit spy actioner, "The Bourne Identity" (2002). During the show's run, he appeared in "House of 1,000 Corpses" (2003), as well as episodes of "Hawaii" (NBC, 2004) and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000- ). While his career was rapidly on the rise, Goggins suffered personal tragedy in late 2004 when his wife, Leanne Goggins, committed suicide by jumping off a Los Angeles skyscraper just days after filing for divorce. Though devastated by her death, Goggins remained focused on his work, turning in one riveting, high-caliber performance after another on "The Shield." Meanwhile, he made first feature film as a producer, "Chrystal" (2005), starring Billy Bob Thornton as an ex-con who seeks redemption from his wife (Lisa Blount) for his responsibility for her permanent injuries, as well as the death of their son after he caused a car accident while fleeing the police.
Goggins continued appearing in low-budget indies like "The Architect" (2006) and "Ray and the Mob" (2007), while joining forces with Spike Lee on "Miracle at St. Anna" (2009). As "The Shield" wound down its final episodes in 2009, Goggins amplified his game, delivering some of the finest performances as Shane Vendrell that he ever had over the course of the show's long run - enough that he was finally recognized with a Television Critics Association nomination for Best Individual Achievement in Drama. After episodes of "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 2005- ) and "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002- ), his time on "The Shield" ended with a literal bang when Vendrell shoots himself to death after poisoning his wife and son while on the run after it was discovered that he killed Lem - something that angered "Shield" fans to the point of harassing the actor on the streets. Later that year, he reunited with season five guest star Forest Whitaker in "Fragments" (2009), a crime drama about a group of people who struggle to recover from a random act of violence at a Los Angeles diner. Back on series television, he co-starred on the critically acclaimed hit, "Justified" (FX, 2010- ), playing a racist Kentucky outlaw who battles his old friend-turned-U.S. Marshal (Timothy Olyphant). A recurring character during the first season, Goggins returned for season two as a regular member of the cast and was frequently singled out by critics, eventually earning an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Meanwhile, he had supporting roles in major studio films like the sequel "Predators" (2010), the sci-fi Western hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens" (2011) and Quentin Tarantino's highly anticipated "Django Unchained" (2012).
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