Driving Mr. Olyphant . . . crazy!

An overseas phone interview between Asian journalists and a Hollywood star who’s oceans and time zones away can be tricky –especially if, like this one, actor Timothy Olyphant, the subject is driving during the entire process.

Luckily, he gets stuck in traffic somewhere in Los Angeles, California, at dusk (the morning after in Manila). “Should anything happen, I just hope you appreciate all my sacrifices for the show,” he quipped.

Answering questions thrown his way from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines, the lead star of AXN’s new noir Western series, “Justified” (which debuts tonight and airs Thursdays) was alternately curt and circuitous.

Whenever talk turned to the private realm, he turned on the charm machine with cryptic quips.

What’s an ordinary day like for you?
“Uneventful. I’m like everyone else … make breakfast in the morning … take the kids to school.”

What do you have in common with his “Justified” character Raylan Givens, a gruff and tough US marshal?
“I look at a lot like him. I also love wearing hats.”

(Raylan is a creation of US novelist Elmore Leonard, famous for quirky big-screen gems “Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown” and “Out of Sight.”)

What makes your character so angry?
“I’m pissed off right now! I find him so easy-going and charming, that the anger comes across as surprising … and appealing.”

Why do you like playing cops?
“At home, I’m the law. When my kids make trouble, I lock them up.”

What five words best describe Hollywood?
“I have no f****** clue!”

What’s your next big project?
“Gardening at home. The weeds are out of control.”

How do you feel about being regarded as sexy?
“It’s better than being boring and unattractive.”

(One intrepid reporter dared ask how the actor has eschewed rumors about his love life. The AXN moderator promptly quashed the query: “Let’s focus on the show.” Fortunately, just like Raylan Givens, Olyphant has charisma to spare – the potentially awkward moment was quickly swept under the rug. Very well…)

What was it like working with US marshals in Southern California?
“Enlightening and helpful. At the start, I knew nothing about them. As we joke on the show, a lot of people don’t even know they still exist. Some of them signed up for the job because they’d get paid well to flash a gun and a badge.”

Did you read up to prepare for the show?
“The show is a lovely excuse to read Elmore Leonard’s books. I’m a big fan. I also talked a lot with the show’s creator, a talented writer himself, Graham Yost.”

What’s your take on Leonard’s books?
“They’re so cool, they crack me up. The characters are well-drawn and vivid. His books are, by turns, unpredictable, funny, dramatic, smart and insightful [like] he wrote it with a twinkle in his eye. At the same time, he’s very subtle; he doesn’t hit you over the head with it.”

What do you find fascinating about dark and conflicted characters on either side of the law – murderers (“Hitman,” “Scream 2”) and sheriffs (“Deadwood”)?
“I don’t care whether it’s light or dark … I am fascinated by surprising and complex characters. It makes my job more fun and fulfilling.


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