Interview Timothy Olyphant

Have you sampled a bit of Justified yet? The drama, based on Elmore Leonard’s novels, follows a US Marshal, Raylan Givens, who is sent home to Kentucky after an unfortunate incident where he happens to shoot a criminal. As the first season continues to gather pace, we gave cowboy-hat-wearing Timothy Olyphant a ring to chat about the show and his role as Raylan.

What attracted you to the role in Justified?
“Why did I want the role? It paid nicely! No, I love Elmore Leonard’s work and when it’s done well it’s just my favourite. And I’ve been such a fan of his. I was just kind of hoping that it would be all those things you hope out of an Elmore Leonard piece, and it was.”

Elmore said you were perfect for the role. How was that for you?
“It was so nice. He’s been really quite generous with his compliments. That means a great deal. He’s been really very available and very generous in terms of allowing us to use stuff from his other Raylan novels. I know he’s writing another Raylan Givens story – he was so sort of taken by the series that he’s writing for the character again, which I’m assuming, God willing, we’ll be able to use. It’s been great.”

Why do you think Justified has been such a critical success?
“I think it’s really well done. Elmore’s books have been really successful so I assume that the show does well for the same reason that his books do so well. I think they’re very subtle in how smart they are and they’re so terrifically entertaining. The characters are so wonderfully drawn and at times they make you laugh. You’ve got comedy and there’s drama and it’s rather simple. It’s mostly characters that are really driving the stories. The performances on the show are fantastic, the writing’s fantastic – all the ingredients for something special.”

We’ve met Raylan’s family now – will we be seeing more of them?
“Oh yeah. As the show goes on, the latter half of the season is much more about those people. My father, Boyd, Boyd’s father, the ex-wife, the girlfriend, the ex-wife’s husband, and Nick. And those stories become the dominating throughline of the season as you get further into it. So the father, he’s a big part of the show. Raymond J. Barry did such a fantastic job.”

How does Raylan’s relationship with Kentucky change? Does he start to want to stay there?
“That’s a curious thing. There’s this wonderful moment in the first episode where Raylan drinks that moonshine and it just kind of knocks him out a bit and Boyd says that I’ve been gone too long. The question it made me ask when I read that was, ‘At what point does that moonshine go down easy?’ What do you do then, when you start feeling comfortable again and you start getting around your old buddies and all those things come back? Those are the kind of things I’m more interested in exploring. Whether that leads to wanting to get out of Kentucky and still having that feeling or not wanting to leave and changing, I’m not sure. I think those questions are good questions. I think that’s where you want to go, you want to poke around in that area.”

Do you enjoy working with Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd?
“He’s fantastic. And he just gets better and better. The story between Boyd and Raylan really becomes the major story of the season. Walt’s performance is just spot on and just so entertaining. I think it was Elmore who said after watching one or two of his episodes, ‘You know what, I don’t think I believe a word of what this guy’s saying but I can’t take my eyes off him’. You know, he’s just so entertaining. A real captivating performance.”

Raylan and Boyd have been reunited after growing up together but have changed a lot in that time, haven’t they?
“What’s great about it is a sense of just because they might kill each other at any moment, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a drink and catch up on old times first. It’s kind of a classic scenario, two guys who grew up together and ended up on different sides of the law, but you get the impression Boyd knows Raylan better than most. And as we go along you realise our daddies know each other well too. It was just a lot of fun.”

What’s your take on the shooting in the first episode which gets Raylan sent to Kentucky. Do you think it was justified?
“We actually get into that too as the show goes along. From Raylan’s point of view he doesn’t understand what the big deal is. He’s like, ‘What? The guy had a gun. He wouldn’t have been there without one and so you know he’s going to have one’. This idea that the guy did have a choice, he could have got up and walked away. But if you’re asking me personally, I’d rather not ever have my law enforcement put me up against a wall and tell me to get a gun or they’re going to shoot me. That’s not the way I’d like it to go down. If there was a cop telling me, ‘Tim you’ve got two minutes or I’m going to shoot you’, I’d be like, ‘Wait a minute, this seems to be a procedural problem’.”

How did you react when you heard you were getting a second season of Justified? Did you expect it?
“I thought we were making something really special. I wasn’t thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God, I hope we can come back’. It confirmed the work that I thought we were doing. Of course, I realise how difficult it is and what an achievement that is in television, so I don’t take it lightly. I feel very blessed that we’ve been given that opportunity. But I also feel like as great as this show is, and I think it’s rare to have this, I feel like this show can get even better and better.”


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