“Six seasons and a movie? Is that a thing?” asks Timothy Olyphant, and if you listen closely, you can hear the slightest trace of a Southern drawl on that last word. “Man, I wouldn’t even know how that would work. But I do like the sound of it.” The 46-year-old actor was born in Honolulu, raised in Northern California’s Central Valley and went to college at USC in Los Angeles; it’s the voice of a certain laconic lawman from Kentucky, however, that seems to keep making cameos over the phone line.
For five seasons, Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, the U.S. Marshal at the center of FX’s Justified, has used his lightning-fast draw, his John Wayne-like strut and a certain down-home cockiness to take on white supremacists, corrupt cops, moonshiners, the Dixie mafia and the cunning backwoods con man Boyd Crowder (memorably played by The Shield’s Walton Goggins). At this point, the rangy TV star has contributed as much to the DNA of the character as Elmore Leonard, the famously prolific author who created Givens in 1993 (he appears in the book Pronto) and whose 2001 novella Fire in the Hole formed the overall basis for the series. Now, as the show begins its sixth and final season tomorrow night at 10pm EST, Olyphant is preparing his long goodbye to Raylan. And despite the fact that, as a co-executive producer, he had a hand in pulling the plug on the popular crime drama and claims that he “doesn’t particularly like” the character, the actor is still having a hard time letting go. “I honestly don’t know whose dumb idea it was to end this show,” he jokes. “He should be fucking fired.”
Olyphant took a break from filming the final round of Justified episodes to talk briefly about wrapping things up, getting to know Leonard before the writer’s passing in 2013 and why someone needs to cast Emmy-winner Margo Martindale as a supervillain as soon as possible.
What prompted you and [showrunner] Graham Yost to end the show after six seasons?
It was just a mutual decision to go out now…it seemed like the right time. Although we’re coming down to shooting the final four episodes now, and I’m having a lot of fun. I can’t imagine that I did something as stupid as saying we should stop [laughs].
So are you going to miss Raylan?
I know what you mean by that question, but…no. I mean, I realize this was a great part to play, and I’ll miss working with these guys a lot. But I had some problems with Raylan. I’m not so sure he’s a great guy.
Really? He’s got some baggage, certainly — and he does shoot someone in cold blood in the very first scene of the series…
Yeah, exactly! And the way he presents this situation, Raylan makes it seem on the up and up: “I don’t know what the trouble is here. He had a gun. There was no way he wasn’t gonna have a gun. He wouldn’t have been there if he didn’t want to shoot me. I did warn him.” There’s also a sense that this is no big deal for him, you know…”Why is everyone getting their panties in a bunch about this? The guy was a criminal.” I’ve thought long and hard about this, and that’s not how you want law-enforcement officers to behave. I think people would have thought it was just God-awful and be troubled and offended by it, but people seem to love him. They think he’s awesome.
Why do you think people love him so much? The sort of old-fashioned “yes, ma’am” attitude? The whole Western-hero throwback thing?
Maybe all that. Mostly because he’s just a good, well-written character, which is more because of Elmore Leonard than me. When people tell me they like Raylan, I just say “thank you very much.” I honestly do appreciate the compliment. Just because I think he’s kind of an asshole doesn’t mean they have to think that too [laughs].
What sort of feedback have you had from actual U.S. marshals?
When I started visiting a bunch of U.S. Marshals before the show started in order to get a feel of how a marshal carries themselves, what a regular work day is like for them, etc., I noticed one thing: Every one of their offices had a poster of The Fugitive up on the wall. Every single one. It’s The Fugitive and old Westerns — they love those movies. The last time I was in a Marshals’ office, they had a poster of Justified up. I asked them, “Did you know I was coming by, so you put up a poster of the show?” And they said, “Oh, we all love it…you guys make us look good.” I thought, this is great. If they like, we really did something here. [Pause] Keep in mind I am the star of the show, so people have a tendency to be very polite to me. [Laughs]
You got to know Leonard fairly well before he passed away, right? Do you feel like spending a lot of time with him helped you get a sense of who Raylan was?
All the good things about Raylan — they came directly from Elmore. You mentioned the old-fashioned manners and the stoic hero thing, but the thing about Raylan that people really responded to, if I had to guess, was that he seemed effortlessly cool. And that’s Elmore Leonard to a tee. The guy was genuinely cool. It was never a pose with him. You can go into any party or public gathering, and you’ll see lots of people trying to act cool, and then there’s always one person off in the corner, not doing much, who’s the real deal. That was Elmore.
Read the full interview here: http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/features/timothy-olyphant-end-of-justified-20150119#ixzz3PJUGGpnw