Why ‘The Unicorn’ star Walton Goggins likes his rare nice-guy role

Walton Goggins knows his way around memorable characters.

CBS sitcom “The Unicorn” sees the prolific actor starring as all-around nice guy Wade Felton, which he says is his biggest risk yet.

“It was scary, really. I’ve never played anyone that’s as close to who I am as Wade,” Goggins, 49, tells The Post.

“And that requires a lot of vulnerability. I like to hide behind things and dig deeper into other people’s lives. This one hits close to home in a number of ways.”

Now in its second season, (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.), “The Unicorn” follows widower and father Wade as he raises his daughters and tries to get back into the dating scene following his wife’s death from cancer (his fundamental decency makes him an unexpected catch — or the “unicorn” of the show’s title).

A regular-Joe sitcom dad is a far cry from most of Goggins’ previous characters, as he’s known for a colorful array of off-the-wall personas such as the scheming Lee Russell (“Vice Principals”), criminal Boyd Crowder (“Justified”) corrupt cop Shane Vendrell (“The Shield”) and soulful sex worker Venus Van Dam (“Sons of Anarchy”).

“At the end of the day, I’m not Machiavellian in the choices that I make,” Goggins says about his differing roles. “It really comes down to, ‘This is what speaks to me now.’ And maybe that’s because of where I am in my life. I felt like we could really make a difference if we get this story [‘The Unicorn’] right, and make people feel a little less lonely. It’s about a guy who lost his wife and he has to learn how to live again. I thought, ‘Man, I’ve had this in my own life; this has happened to a number of friends of mine.’ Loss is something that we all have in common, whether it’s the loss of a job or a pet or anything, really.

“The thing that I love so deeply about ‘The Unicorn’ is that it is unapologetically sentimental, but that sentiment is earned. It’s kind and earnest, at a time when I think we could all use a hug because of what’s going on in our personal lives. That’s what we’re trying to do every week with telling the story of Wade Felton and his family and friends.”

Season 2 picks up with Wade having a potential love interest (Natalie Zea, “Justified”) after the two have a meet-cute in the cemetery. Goggins teases that finding her won’t solve all of Wade’s problems, however.

“I think for all of us, whenever we have found some peace in our life — when one door closes, inevitably right around the corner, another opens that offers new insights and new lessons. And that’s what Wade is headed towards this season with this relationship. Maybe it’s more complicated than how he imagined. It’s about how his daughters and friends deal with that.”

Up next, he’s also appearing in Season 2 of HBO’s televangelist comedy “The Righteous Gemstones,” reuniting with his “Vice Principals” co-star Danny McBride to play oddball preacher Baby Billy Freeman.

“We are so d–n excited, I got off the phone with Danny a couple days ago and they’re back in writing and doing some tweaks. That story just means so much to us and we have so much fun. It’s a big hole in our experience this year. [Filming was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.] We’re ready to get back.”

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