In an extensive interview with Vanity Fair, the creators of Amazon’s upcoming Fallout series revealed some of the first substantial details about the show. While that Vanity Fair story is filled with fascinating tidbits, some of the most interesting new details concern Walton Goggins’ suddenly much more interesting role in the project.
Previously, it was revealed that Goggins will play a Ghoul in Amazon’s Fallout series. For those who don’t know, Ghouls in the Fallout universe are essentially humans who have been physically and mentally mutated by prolonged exposure to radiation. Though some Ghouls are little more than aggressive zombies meant to be destroyed by the player’s character, other Ghouls have actually formed their own societies removed from the rest of the (post-apocalyptic) world. They’re outcasts, but they’re not necessarily more hostile than the average human.
Though Ghouls are often more complex than they may initially appear to be, the decision to cast Goggins as a Ghoul struck some fans as an odd choice. While it was easy to assume that Goggins would be cast as a non-feral Ghoul with dialog and a personality, that casting decision still presented several logistical hurdles. Not only would Goggins seemingly need to be removed from so much of the rest of the action (Ghouls are often portrayed as outcasts after all) but playing a Ghoul seemingly meant that Goggins would need to be completely transformed by makeup. Put it all together, and some simply wondered why such a big name was being cast in a role that felt like it may exist on the margins.
However, it turns out that there is much more to the Goggins’ role than meets the eye. In that Vanity Fair interview, showrunner Jonathan Nolan explains that Goggins’ Ghoul is actually a kind of roaming bounty hunter/outlaw who has been alive for hundreds of years. While some of the bigger details about his background remain a mystery, we do know that The Ghoul (as he is formally known) used to be a man named Cooper Howard who seemingly lived a normal life with his wife and kids. However, the events of the Great War, Howard’s eventual mutation, and hundreds of years of apocalyptic existence clearly changed Howard in some profound ways. Indeed, Nolan explains that The Ghoul has become a kind of antihero who offers a different perspective on the world that was and the one that is.
“He becomes our guide and our protagonist in that [older] world, even as we understand him to be the antagonist at the end of the world,” Nolan explains.
Not only does that set-up mean that Goggins’ character will be able to more easily interact with the show’s other major characters (and explore more than just the typical Ghoul spaces of society), but it confirms that Goggins’ Ghoul will be so much more than just a feral monster. Perhaps more importantly, though, Nolan also revealed that they intentionally dialed back on The Ghoul’s prosthetics in order to ensure that Goggins’ performance comes through all that makeup. As Nolan explains, the team didn’t want to hinder the reasons they cast Goggins in the first place by burying him in makeup.
“You have to be extremely careful with it when you’re putting a full appliance on someone’s face, because you hired that actor for a reason,” said Nolan. “Their face is their instrument. [You want] the tiny little expressions and changes that they make.”
Given that The Ghoul is described as the show’s third lead character (alongside Ella Purnell’s former vault dweller, Lucy, and Aaron Moten’s Brotherhood of Steel member, Maximus), it seems that the Fallout showrunners have no intentions of denying us the full Goggins experience. If you are like me and are seemingly always waiting for more writers, directors, and casting coordinators to realize that Goggins is one of the most unique and compelling actors working today…well, you are also probably excited about the prospect of Goggins playing a wandering bounty hunter in the compelling Fallout universe. It certainly seems like the perfect role for his many talents.
Interestingly, The Ghoul’s presence also confirms something that Bethesda’s Todd Howard directly states elsewhere in the interview: the Fallout TV series isn’t a direct adaptation of any of the Fallout games. While the show is obviously drawing heavily from numerous elements of those games (and certainly seems to be pulling quite a few visuals and narrative ideas from Fallout 3), it is described as a “unique Fallout story” set within the Fallout universe and canon. While that means that it’s theoretically possible we will see some familiar faces from the Fallout games, the fact that the show is set in LA (a location that has rarely been shown and is often just referenced in the Fallout games) suggests that the show is trying to be very much its own thing. We’ll see how it all works out, but given the exciting early details about The Ghoul, things certainly seem to be trending in the right direction.
Amazon’s Fallout series is currently set to start streaming via Amazon Prime Video on April 12, 2024.