Sons of Anarchy was by all accounts a show that dealt with the exploration of masculine archetypes. So it was a little surprising and sweetly ironic when Venus Van Dam, a transgender character played by actor Walton Goggins, became one of its most endearing characters.
Venus Van Dam first appeared on Sons of Anarchy in its fifth season and returned for the sixth and seventh seasons. Such was her popularity in her first two seasons that when it was announced that Van Dam was going to return for the final season of Sons of Anarchy, Entertainment Weekly had nothing but nice things to say about the unusual character.
“No matter how dark things get on Sons of Anarchy, just remember that Venus Van Dam is on the way.”
— Maureen Fairhurst (@HeyMo517) July 3, 2014
There is an interesting story behind the casting of Walton Goggins as Venus. Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter wanted Walton on his show, primarily because the latter was recognizable to FX audiences due to his involvement with two other shows at the time, The Shield and Justified, both of which were broadcast on FX. Goggins joked at the time that in order to evade the familiarity, he might have to appear as a transgender on Sons of Anarchy. The idea stayed with Sutter. A year later, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, he called Walton Goggins to ask him if he was serious about the suggestion.
“I said about what, and he said about being a transgender. And I said, did you write it? And he said, yeah. And he sent the pages and it was like f***ing, yeah.”
And it was smooth sailing for Goggins ever since. The audience of Sons of Anarchy took to Venus with a lot of warmth, and the actor confesses to have learned valuable life lessons during his stint as a transgender character on screen. He spoke to Entertainment Weekly about it:
“I’ve traveled extensively since doing Venus the first time, and I am amazed at the range of people that come up to me and want to have a conversation about her — from race to income to age. It’s a testament to how big the audience is for Sons of Anarchy, but also to what she’s done for opening that dialogue or allowing certain aspects of our society to understand that community a little better: to not be so scared of people that you really have no reason to be scared of — they’re just people. To find a place in your heart to accept them. That’s been the most rewarding thing of all of this.”
For the most part, Venus will be remembered as a compassionate person who broke down the barriers of gender on Sons of Anarchy, one of the most testosterone-driven TV shows of recent times. Her love story with Tig (Kim Coates) in the last season of Sons of Anarchy was utterly organic and truly inspiring. Venus, who has been loved and cherished by her audiences, has also had a profound effect on Walton Goggins, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“She’s touched a different, a real place in me that I just didn’t know existed. She’s allowed me to see the world through her point of view. It’s forever changed me; I get emotional thinking about it. She is here and present and I think the fact that she’s transgender is just awesome.”
Sons of Anarchy fans will not forget Venus Van Dam anytime soon. Nobody could have summed it up better than Goggins himself.
“I just hope she lives, really. I hope that she lives.”
— Nathalie Ivanes#MEOW (@black_mamba_06) June 29, 2015
[Photo: YouTube, Christopher Polk / Getty Images]