Earlier today, FX announced that their Western drama Justified will conclude next year, ending the series’ run at six seasons. But for lead actor Timothy Olyphant, this was already in the works. “I imagine we’ll wrap it up soon,” he told Rolling Stone last week. “Whenever it ends, I’ll just count my lucky stars. Good gig. It’s hard to get your hands on this kind of character and this kind of writing.”
Still, the news is bittersweet. Justified has gained a substantial audience over the last four years, a remarkable feat considering that the show is based on a lone Elmore Leonard short story (“Fire in the Hole”). For Olyphant, 45, the series has afforded him the opportunity to carry a series as Raylan Givens, a Kentucky-based U.S. Marshal with a knack for witty comebacks and a desire to set things right – even if it means pulling the occasional trigger. Olyphant spoke to Rolling Stone about racism, the modern west and replica Stetson hats from his home in Los Angeles.
When you were first thinking about Raylan, what was critical to get across to the viewer?
I sound like an idiot. I start there. Then after that, the job is always the same. You’ve got to be funny, but you can’t acknowledge it. Elmore is a delicate dance. It tends to be light on its feet and every now and then, you go a little deeper and look for the unexpected.
Plots have changed, but Raylan continues to be a man who’s comfortable in his own skin.
That’s the trick of the show: How do you keep this character relevant and interesting? And at the same time not blow it up in the process. The world in which Raylan lives – he’s not going to move that much. The nature of that character is pretty much going to be Raylan. Last year we did a great jobs in taking some risks with the death of Arlo [Givens’ father, played by Raymond J. Barry]. And this year we’re doing interesting things with Raylan and Art [Givens’ boss, played by Nick Searcy]. One of the things about Elmore’s world is that there’s always a theme of professionalism that runs through it. His characters are defined by it, they’re good at what they do and they take their jobs seriously.
Is Raylan an anti-hero or just a hero-hero?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a little bit of a grey area. He seems to be happy at his job, he enjoys his work, and every now and then he gets to kill someone.
It’s part of the job description.
Talk to a lot of Marshals and a lot of them tell you the way they came to the job is that they didn’t know the Marshals existed. But they told me “they’d give me a gun, a badge and the pay was pretty good – I’d give it a shot.” Raylan seems to be all into that.
He presents himself as a major badass. Do other Marshals say that this is accurate?
There’s some acknowledgement that they’re a bunch of cowboys out there chasing people down. I’ve met my fair share and there’s a number of them out there that seem to be. . . I don’t know if thrill-seekers is the word, but they enjoy the chase. I can say that some of that dialogue we’ve used over the years came out of some Marshals’ mouths. Things like, “Waking up everyday and looking forward to fucking someone’s day up.” [Laughs] I didn’t made that up! I heard that!
Have you been a gun person your whole life?
No, not really. I shot my brother with a BB gun and I’ve killed my fair share of gophers with a .22. But not beyond that.
When you’re working on a show like Justified, do actors keep gun choreographers?
Some of the guys on the set are pretty good with a gun. We got a camera operator who’s in that. . . what’s that badass little group over there in Israel? He was one of those guys. And every now and then he gives me some tips. Oh, and our prop guys are great. They know how to handle a guy.
Is Justified an accurate portrayal of modern rural America?
Lots of the stuff we’ve got going on is going on. There’s crime and shit-kickers and backward-ass white trash. I hate to tell you, but racism is alive and well in a lot of parts of the world. I’m guilty of when I first read this five years ago, I remember asking myself, “God, is this going to feel dated?” But between that and shooting the pilot, I realized there is nothing dated about this at all. That was right at the height of Congressmen accusing each other of being racist; people were talking about a “Black president.” Racism was a big topic then. We were outside Pittsburgh and people would tell me that the Klan was alive and well in those parts. I don’t know if we’ve tackled that issue as of late, but I know when we started, it was big.
Raylan seems to get women with ease. Do guys ever ask your advice?
No! [Laughs.] I’m happy to help out whenever I can, but I’ve been married 23 years. I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask.
At any given moment, how many Stetsons are on set?
No, I take that back. We have two.
I was worried. If someone spilled tomato juice on it you’d be screwed.
Over the holidays, our costumer took the hat and asked if it was okay to have it refit. “It’s taking a heck of a beating.” So I said, “Of course,” and she said, “God, I had the hat at my house and I was constantly locking the doors. . . I can’t be the person who loses that hat.”
Did you know they sell a replica hat on FX’s website?
They sell a replica?
I’ll tell you two things about the hat. One, it costs $144.95.
Oh no. . .
Two, the opening description of it says “experience the animal magnetism.”
Do you anything lined up for 2014?
No. I need to get a job. I think its time.
Has Justified led to any bigger auditions?
No, and I think that’s what I’m getting at. What its led to is me spending summers sitting by the pool, walking the dog and driving the kids around. It’s really an unacceptable way to continue. [Laughs] I need to go get some other kind of work.
Timothy starts with a full list of resolutions but then whittles it down to the two fundamentals by the New Year.
Timothy’s version of James Bond is going to be less shaken-not-stirred martinis, and more burbling bongs.
Which do you think this USC undergrad looks more like: a stoner or a lady golf pro?
Mindy Kaling is ready to be romanced by Timothy Olyphant on this season of “The Mindy Project.” And, really, who could blame her?
The “Justified” star is slated to play an upcoming love interest for Dr. Mindy Lahiri on the Fox sitcom, once her pastor beau, Casey, makes his exit. And, from the sound of it, Timothy will be bringing the funny to the sitcom. He’s slated to play a middle-aged skateboarder who woos the good doctor later this season.
We got all the details on his appearance from Mindy herself when we chatted with her earlier this month.
“Well, Tim is like so funny. He came up doing standup, so no one knows how funny he is ‘cause he plays essentially modern day cowboys in a lot of the stuff he does. Or, actual cowboys like in ‘Deadwood.’ But he’s in all these excellent dramas and he’s so good at them and gets awards for them,” she told MTV News. “But he’s also just like a super-funny dude. So we have him playing this part. He’s basically our take on a Tony Hawk-type skateboarder, like a middle-aged skateboarder, we decided was like a funny [role].”
And Tim’s real-life skating skills helped him really get into character. “He is actually, kind of coincidentally, good at skateboarding. He went to USC [University of Southern California], and he would skate to class,” she said, recalling his on-set skills.
“And, of course, he did it effortlessly, which is so irritating when you’re already that good-looking,” she added. “But, yeah, so he was so good and so funny.”
The Huffington Post caught up with Olyphant back in January to discuss the trajectory of the season and his experience filming the critically acclaimed series, which was recently renewed for a fifth season. There are no spoilers below, but Olyphant, who is also an executive producer on “Justified,” shared some fascinating insight into both the production of the show, Raylan’s dynamic with his longtime rival, the inimitable Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), and what about the show keeps challenging him, even after four years.
You’re an executive producer on “Justified,” and I feel like it varies from show to show in terms of how much input actors who are also executive producers actually have. Can you talk a little about your experience in that capacity?
They make me feel like I have a lot — whether I do or not is probably up for debate. First of all, I’m very thankful for the opportunity to engage and collaborate with Graham [Yost] and the other writers the way that made me feel like I’m doing it. I’m there a lot. I’m at the writer’s room. A couple of months before we started shooting, Graham and I started talking immediately after the last season, as we always have done. I think I started coming into the writer’s room on and off sometimes back in July, August, and we engage in a constant dialogue. Before we start shooting, I’m in there a lot, and when we are shooting, I get in there whenever I can.
It seems like a very collaborative process and obviously, you have a very different perspective as an actor than the writers in terms of how a scene might work in practice and how you can add depth in unexpected ways.
It’s where all the fun is. Honestly, it’s been the greatest thing about this job … I love my job as an actor, and obviously that’s what I’m getting paid to do, but I feel that the real treat on this show is engaging and collaborating with Graham and the rest of them. It’s very rare that you can be in a career for as long as I have, and still feel like you’re constantly learning and coming at it from an almost childlike perspective. This show has afforded me that experience. I think that always as an actor, I don’t want to overstep or pretend that I’m doing anything more than I’m doing. I ask a lot of questions. I’m somewhere between a big pain in the ass and a cheerleader. I push and I ask questions, and I think, and then I cheer them on, and I say, “Come on, guys. We can do it. Let’s go.”
What were you hoping to achieve or explore this season that you haven’t in previous seasons?
Well, it starts with a very basic idea for me which is, “How do I still enjoy going to work?” … If a movie is a marathon, television is a race to the death. If you’re successful, there’s a good chance they’re just going to squeeze it dry. Everybody wants to be liked, and everybody therefore just does what works.
I think the challenge is to say, “Fuck that. Let’s go where these characters want to go, and let’s trust that no matter what story we tell, it’s going to still feel like the world in which we created and started with.” I think that the challenge is to say, “What story do we want to tell? We already did that, let’s do something else.” The challenge with a character like Raylan is he’s so laconic, he’s sort of deflecting, or not allowing others to pin him down. How do you keep that character interesting? He’s not going to give you much. If he gives you too much, then you’ve betrayed the show, so you put him up a tree, and you throw rocks at him. I’m incredibly impressed that the show, for me anyway, continually makes that character of interest.
Timothy Olyphant stopped by Conan Monday night to have a chat about parenting. And a light-hearted chat it was not. The Justified star tried to joke about the fact that he lets his son play violent video games just because he has done voice-over work in the genre — Olyphant is the voice of Grinch in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.”
Sheila and Joel, a married couple, are real estate agents in Santa Clarita, California. When Sheila dies, their lives take a dark turn.
Season 3: March 29, 2019.
Missing Link (2019)
Release Date: April 12, 2019 (USA)
Role: Stenk (voice)
IMDB | Photos | Trailer
Deadwood: The Movie (HBO) (2019)
Release Date: May 31, 2019
Role: Seth Bullock
IMDB | Photos | Trailer
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Release Date: July 16, 2019 (USA)
Role: James Stacy
IMDB | Photos | Trailer
Role: FBI handler
IMDB | Photos | Trailer
Role: Brian Gill
IMDB | Photos | Trailer
Behold My Heart (2018)
Role: Steven Lang
IMDB | Photos | Trailer