Walton Goggins Is Excited for Russell’s Journey

by Ashley Morton

Since both seasons were shot simultaneously, did you have a sense of Lee’s backstory when working on Season 1?

For me, Season 1 was so well-written that I was just responsible for filling that in. What these guys [creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill] accomplished on paper allowed me to imagine who Lee was and why he was in that much pain. I didn’t really know until later about some of the things that are explored in Season 2.

Is there any relationship in Season 2 that you’re excited for the audience develop more?

I’m excited for people to see the journey of the relationship between Neal Gamby and Lee Russell. There are so many other relationships that are just as important and just as valid, but I suppose for me, selfishly, I’m so proud of the journey that these two particular people. Beyond that, the relationship that Lee Russell and Neal Gamby have with Ms. Snodgrass.

What does his relationship with Gamby mean to Russell?

When they pick up in Season 2, people will see the depth of their relationship; and just how important they are to one another. That’s really refreshing. There comes a point in their relationship where Lee Russell has assumed this position of power and reminds Neal Gamby his position on the totem pole and that’s really uncomfortable, and Lee isn’t ready to relinquish that for anybody. Their boundaries are confused in Season 2: They vacillate between being friends, and being a boss and an employee, which will ultimately lead to the greatest revelation/conflict in the story.

Does the tone of Season 2 feel different than the first season?

It does feel different. Jody Hill directed the first season and David Gordon Green directed the second season. I think they wisely set it up that way, so Jody would introduce this whole world and be able to explore who these people are, and then David -- I think it’s a little closer to who he is as a filmmaker -- is responsible for telling the audience why [these characters] are who they are. Episode 4 in particular revolves around Lee Russell and his remaining family, and you really understand the environment he was raised in and why he so desperately wants to be loved and accepted. It’s heartbreaking.

Do you have any tricks or methods to get into character?

No. I believe it’s very simple. It’s a child’s game, storytelling. It comes out of your imagination. My child is 6 years old and he’s as good as [iconic actor] Laurence Olivier: He’s a master storyteller.

The one thing I do, that a lot of people I look up to do, is I just stay in it. When I’m at work, I’m there to work. It’s not a social hour for me. Obviously, you make friends as a byproduct of your close working relationship but, I’m there to play. I’m pretty quiet; I stay to myself. Danny and those guys really saw that early on and respected that. I want to feel it, and I get great joy from that feeling.

What do you think makes Vice Principals’ brand of dark comedy unique?

These guys [Danny McBride and Jody Hill] are capable of sharing their voice in a very specific way. I don’t think of it as a dark comedy, actually, I think of it as a rough-house comedy. [The creators] have their own brand of storytelling and things that make them laugh and motivate them. They’re influenced by a number of different styles of filmmaking, but what comes out of that is their own thing.