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‘Fallout’ Star Walton Goggins On Long MNakeup Sessions For His Role As The Ghoul

Walton Goggins, in a gruesome starring role in Amazon Prime’s apocalyptic sci-fi series Fallout, said he knew he knew he was in for “an intense experience” having to transform every day on set into The Ghoul, a post-human character with melting flesh, a cowboy persona and some semblance of his humanity still left.

But at Saturday’s Deadline Contenders Television panel, the perennial character actor — beaming in from overseas where he is shooting White Lotus — said the task of transformation proved to be “extremely anxiety provoking” at first. He had to figure out how to express himself under a thin layer of sweat-inducing facial prosthesis designed to make him look almost skeletal, and how to be a walking, wisecracking horror show with a retainer in his mouth to simulate the absence of teeth.

“When I put in the retainers, these things that kind of covered these pearly white teeth, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t get the words out,” Goggins said on the Fallout panel with co-stars Ella Purnell and Aaron Moten, show runners Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner, and production designer Howard Cummings. “I couldn’t get the words out.”

But he and prosthetics designer Vincent Van Dyke developed a rhythm, Goggins said, and what began with five-hour ordeals for a trio of screen tests turned into two-hour turnarounds, and Goggins found his voice as the character in this well-received adaptation of the hit video game franchise. “So we got over all of that,” Goggins said.

The series from Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and their Kilter films joins HBO’s The Last of Us in migrating from consoles to prestige television. Like The Last of Us, Fallout also takes place in the ruins of a civilization that has dropped off a post-apocalyptic cliff. But Fallout differs by having gleeful fun with its premise. From its opening scene in a future Los Angeles where culture looks stuck in the 1950s to the post-nuclear underground vault life 200 years later that labors to simulate the lost world’s cheery abundance, Fallout has a comic streak running through its irradiated “Wasteland” tableau.

Purnell as heroine Lucy MacLean retains her blithe spirit even outside the posh bunker she leaves for the first time in her life to search for her kidnapped father (Kyle MacLachlan). “What I liked the most about her is her, just, relentless optimism,” Purnell said, “which could get annoying, but somehow because of these amazing writers, the way they fleshed out the character, it doesn’t — I hope. Yet.”

Wagner interjected that it was the “other way around: The script was annoying and Ella made it not annoying.”

Purnell said that in her first meeting with Wagner, he described her character as “Ned Flanders in the apocalypse,” as in the irritatingly chipper next-door neighbor of The Simpsons.

Robertson-Dworet credited Wagner with giving the script its appropriately dark comic touch. “Geneva’s idea to bring me aboard as the writer of celery sketch for Portlandia is not the most logical thing,” Wagner said. Robertson-Dworet countered “there were no fights” when she opted to hire Wagner. 

In its portrayal of class divisions between vault dwellers and surface dwellers, Fallout recalls the opposing races of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel, The Time Machine: the gentle, pastoral Eloi who live above ground and serve as prey for the ghastly, subterranean Morlocks.

But Fallout makes it harder than Wells did in his narrative to pick sides, since there are protagonists, evildoers and everything in between all across and under the Wasteland. Alliances, even at their buddy-movie funniest in Fallout, are unstable.

The quasi-religious Brotherhood of Steel, a self-styled knighthood of warriors in Transformer-like armor, live by an honor code and want to bring “order to the Wasteland.” But their ranks are as riddled with intrigue and sabotage as any subset of this universe. The politics of the Brotherhood land one flailing trainee, Aaron Moten as Maximus, in an unexpectedly important assignment and put him on a path to meeting and teaming up with Purnell’s Lucy.

“I was happy to get the opportunity to play a person who’s just as afraid as he is brave, just as truly a hero as he’s pretending to be one,” Moten said, 

Reviews for the eight-episode first season — which got a surprise early premiere date — have been strong. Gamers, too, are crediting the series with getting the details right.  

Besides living up to its considerable advance buzz, Fallout also looks poised to return for a second season. 

Production designer Cummings, admitting he’s “not a gamer,” said he got his ideas for the look of the show by watching YouTube fan videos devoted to Fallout. “And the more I looked at it, the more I began to like the game,” he said.

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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