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Walton Goggins Had No Idea If Fallout’s Ghoul Was Going to Work at First


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There’s a lot of really interesting things going on in Fallout’s first season, but few are as immediately fascinating as Walton Goggin’s mysterious hunter—known only to the inhabitants of the Wasteland as “The Ghoul,” but to audiences as the pre-war actor Cooper Howard. It’s a mystery that works thanks to an incredible turn by Goggins… but it’s one the actor initially had no idea he could sell.

“The very first time we did the application [of his mask],” Goggins said of the layers of makeup required to transform Cooper into the irradiated, noseless creature Cooper becomes in Fallout’s post-apocalypse as part of a new cast interview with Deadline. “I asked to be left alone for an hour and a half outside and Jonah [Nolan] came by. I just sat outside by myself and just photographed it like in the sun and in the shade… the very first day of filming, I was extremely insecure. It was extremely uncomfortable. And I didn’t know what the audience was seeing and what they weren’t seeing.”

Goggins constantly gutchecked with Nolan if any of his performance was making it through the Ghoul makeup, and it was only really after that assurance—that his eyes would carry everything he needed to communicate about the character—that Goggins could settle into what was on the page. “You know, Geneva and Graham [Robertson-Dworet and Wagner, Fallout’s writers and showrunners] really knocked these scripts out of the park and for me, it’s no different doing this or anything else I’ve ever done in my career. You read 250 times, and you turn yourself over to an imaginary set of circumstances. I don’t believe in making choices. I don’t believe in playing characters to be quite honest with you. I believe that it is holding up a mirror to nature and it is immersing yourself in the world beyond the words.”

The Ghoul in particular bears the brunt of holding up Fallout’s grim mirror to its world, both in Howard’s story as we see the world’s slow, capitalist-driven descent into total nuclear war, and hundreds of years after the fact, when he proves to be a constant, terrifying thorn in the side of Ella Purnell’s Lucy as she learns the ropes of surviving in the surface world—a mirror raised all the more compellingly by Goggins’ performance. It’s a good job Nolan’s reassurances worked, otherwise we would’ve missed out on one of the best performances of 2024 so far.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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