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Justified's Walton Goggins Was Seriously Dedicated To Getting Into Character For The Pilot

Like many enduring television shows, the 2010 – 2015 run of "Justified" kept viewers engaged by allowing its characters room to grow and change over its six seasons. While core aspects remained important elements of characters like Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), meaningful changes helped evolve the characters significantly as time went on.

But perhaps no one went through as much change as Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Beginning the series as a manipulative preacher and hateful racist, Boyd would eventually become a decent enough man that Raylan ultimately decided in the series finale to spare his life. To begin that character journey, Coggins had to go to a dark place — and a hateful symbol emblazoned on his arm played a part.

As Goggins would tell NPR in 2011, he didn't take Boyd's despicable ideology lightly when he signed on to play the white supremacist. "It's difficult, and it's difficult to have a swastika on your arm," Goggins explained. "I actually wore it home. I didn't let them take it off. I kept it with me during the process of filming the pilot episode."

Goggins wore the anti-Semitic tattoo out to see how people reacted

While wearing a symbol of hate might sound like a pretty extreme length to go to in order to get into character, Goggins thought it was important to see how regular people would react to someone like his "Justified" character — and how those reactions would make a man feel. "You're certainly affected by ink on your body," the actor mused. "And something as powerful as a swastika and the negative connotations that come along with that."

"I definitely wanted to feel that," he continued. "I was out at dinner [and] I would roll up my t-shirt, and I would leave the swastika there, just to see people's reactions."

Nevertheless, the actor was always clear that he in no way identified with Boyd's hateful views, finding the character detestable. "Honestly, it was awful," Goggins recalled. "We did a table reading of this script, and immediately after, I felt like I had to say 'I'm sorry. I don't believe any of this.' A lot of my best friends are Jewish.'"

Olyphant almost ditched him because of the tattoo

There were moments when Goggins' ink drew a bit too much attention, and the actor was nearly forced to stand alone. 

"There was one time when I was with Tim [Olyphant] when I had rolled my shirt up just to see what would happen," the actor recalled. "Tim didn't notice it for about five minutes, until there were tourists walking through the lobby of the hotel who almost gasped."

"Like, you could hear it, you could hear them step back with their Starbucks coffee in their hands," Goggins said of the reaction to his swastika tattoo. "And Tim said, 'Please, please roll down your shirt. Please. Or I'm gonna have to leave you here alone.'"

Ultimately, the Boyd character would outgrow his hateful ideology in Season 2, explaining that it had been an easy way to control other criminals. As such, the charming but morally bankrupt career criminal eventually grew to become something of an anti-hero; "Justified" shifted with the character, re-casting him as a much-needed foil to Raylan Givens — and the result would yield some of the best scenes in the series.