Speakeasy caught up with Olyphant via telephone to discuss the release of “Justified” Season One on Blu-ray. In addition to describing his approach to playing Raylan Givens, he offered some insights into his ongoing creative process, and revealed a few secrets about what’s to come in his career.
After doing “Deadwood,” what trepidations if any did you have about doing a Western?
I feel like it’s just looser hat. There’s very little these two characters have in common. So when this came up, there’s always trepidation to television in general because you’re committing to so many unknowns, as opposed to a film script where you more or less have an understanding what the story is and where it goes and how it ends. So there’s that, but Elmore [Leonard]’s books and his writing in general, I’m such a fan; I always thought, God, if I could get my hands on an Elmore Leonard piece it would just be fun, it would just be a kick to do. And Graham [Yost] was a smart guy and he and I had a lot of conversations, and it just felt like I couldn’t find a reason not to do it.
In the first episode, Natalie’s character says you’re the angriest man she’s ever met. How much can a description by another character help you understand your own?
Well, I believe in the script, so all I take away from that plain and simple is that she thinks he’s the angriest guy in the world. It’s all that moment is, and the end of the day, it’s a great moment, and it was Graham’s idea and I think a wonderful contribution to the beginning of our story and certainly as audience members, it’s intriguing. It’s got a history, but to me all I know is what’s on the page, so we have a great deal of conversation and dialogue and back and forth from that point forward, Graham and I. But as far as that moment, it’s just that – his ex-wife thinks he’s the angriest guy she ever met. But the next moment could be like, she’s crazy. I mean, in episode two we could decide that lady is off her rocker and just move on.
But that’s the fun of the medium. And what I found really compelling and really fun to play with and just keep kind of digging around with is a guy who tells one person you don’t come in unless they invite you, but that same guy will kick down the door, go in there and tell someone he’s got 24 hours to get out of town or he’ll kill him. That to me is interesting. A guy when a gun is pointed at him will say, now, let’s just think this through here – if I pull out my gun I’m going to pull it to kill you. But when that same guy says something rude, he grabs him by the back of the head and puts his face into the steering wheel. That I find endlessly entertaining and fun – it’s just a great starting point.
Because of the time commitment of doing a television series, how difficult then is it to sort of juggle other opportunities? For example, there are rumors online the possibility of you doing this “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” movie.
Oh! I’m so glad you asked about the “Abraham Lincoln” role. I got the part, and now I’m just being fitted for the hat (laughs).
I’m trying to know if I should retract that, or if I should just let you go with it. No, I’m not going to do that movie. But you’ve got to love the internet – it’s got to make your job tough.
Yes it does, quite frankly. But are you interested in continuing to explore other opportunities, or is it better just to focus on the thing that you’re doing right now?
It’s two-fold. I mean, the fact is we’re on Episode eight of 13, and I really can’t find the time to fit anything else in. I find time to fit in my personal life and I still see my share of ESPN, but in terms of the big picture – in terms of the things I like to do and the things I look forward to doing – I love this job.
by Christina Radish.
The popular FX drama Justified, based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard, returns for a second season starting on February 9th. Fresh off the epic gun battle that concluded the first season, Season 2 finds Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey) dead and the Crowder family’s criminal grip on Harlan County broken. Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) must now face off against the criminal organizations that are looking to fill the void, and he finds himself entangled, once again, with Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).
During the FX portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, show star Timothy Olyphant talked about how good it feels to receive the praise of Elmore Leonard, who created this complex character, how much he enjoys everything about his work on Justified, his new title as a producer, and how much he thinks the series has grown in Season 2. He also talked about the experience of working on I Am Number Four, due out in theaters on February 18th, and said that contrary to previously announced reports, he is not testing for the lead role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: There have been a lot of movies based on Elmore Leonard’s work, and he has not been shy talking about the ones that he does not particularly care for. When you know that he thinks you have played the best version of one of his characters ever, that’s nice, but does it also put pressure on you?
TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: It just feels good. He was very generous with his compliments, when we first met. We didn’t meet until after he’d seen our first episode, and he was very gracious and very kind. I was quite tickled by the whole thing. He just couldn’t be cooler. I really enjoyed spending that time with him, and I was thrilled that he was pleased, and I begged him to write more.
Does the character do anything that surprises you, or that you have had to step back and go, “How do I play this”?
OLYPHANT: Yeah. In terms of the character itself, I find Raylan rather complicated and quite surprising. It’s what makes it so fun to do. Having an affair with his ex-wife was surprising. I said to Graham [Yost], “Once we open that can of worms, how is that going to work? If someone comes to dinner and tells me they’re fucking their ex-wife, we might not talk about anything else for the rest the night.”
Q: You were a late addition, how did you get involved in the project and what led you to being back in high school?
Tim Olyphant: The good people, whoever makes these decisions at DreamWorks, offered it to me. I read it and I thought it was a fun part, had a talk with D.J. on the phone and we were off and running.
Q: Obviously D.J. brought you on the project, what was it that drew you to Henri?
Olyphant: There was something fun there, I thought there was something fun to play. I liked the relationship between Henri and John. It seemed like it, I was just very fond of that relationship.
Q: I know that this is based on a soon-to-be-released book and I have not read it and I apologize. Did you read the book?
Q: Have there been any hints from D.J. or the writers about subtleties of your character that may be in the book that may not be obvious in the movie?
Olyphant: Basically, the process was when I read it I had a very specific take on what I would like to do with it. I had that conversation with D.J. and we were on the same page about what I was talking about and we just kept poking around in that area. We talked about the book a little bit in terms of the source material and what was to important to honor, because I am not in the know in terms of the novel on occasion if I have an idea, it occurs to me that we have a source material that I don’t know if I am going in that direction. If I have an idea that goes outside of what’s on the page and I say “you know I know it’s not in the script but here is what I would like to do.” I also need to ask and how does that relate to the book and obviously even though I haven’t read the book, others have and I am in a position to be able to ask the questions.
Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, North Dakota.
Season 4: Delayed due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic.