‘Justified’ Star Timothy Olyphant: There Is a Line Raylan Won’t Cross

by | February 21, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Interview, Justified

Timothy Olyphant on Justified (FX)

Now in its third season, “Justified,” just keeps getting more intense. Two new big bads have been added for Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) to try to get the goods on — Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), who moved down from Detroit, and Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), a local boy gone astray. But it is not just his work that is challenging him this season, his personal life is also a bit of a mess: Winona (Natalie Zea) is pregnant with his child and she has just left him with a note!

“This year is wonderful so far,” Olyphant says. ‘There are a lot of balls in the air. There is this plethora of wonderful characters who walk the line between good and evil. Bad guys who seem great; good guys who seem bad. There are so many of them. I am just really enjoying the tone of it all. What can I tell you?”

What he tells us in this interview is what we can look forward to for the rest of the season, what kind of dad he thinks Raylan will be, how despicable Quarles gets and much more.

There is an air of violence that always seems to be around Raylan. Is that something he carries with him, or is it something he stumbles into considering the nature of his work?
They do give you a gun when you take the job, so I suppose there is a reason for that. He does enjoy the job and every once in a while he gets to shoot somebody.

Can you discuss in broad terms how the pieces we have seen so far are going to come together in future episodes?
It doesn’t get any easier. We have a lot of people with the capacity for violence. We have a lot of people with conflicting needs and wants. It all keeps running up against each other. It is a fun, twisted, violent season. The key to it is, hopefully, we can continue to ground these people so you continue to think these are interesting folks.  It feels very different than the first two [seasons], but it still feels like our show. I have been happy with it.

Watch Olyphant on a Recent Episode of “The Tonight Show”:

This season because the other characters are more developed, it seems as if the show is able to spend more time away from Raylan and focus on the other folks.
It is some combination of the fact that we have amazing writers, an amazing cast and I want days off. You put that all together and it lends itself to everyone being able to show off a bit. I thought from the beginning that the show was about the character I was playing, but I am less interested in a TV show that focuses on that guy so heavily. I think it is a tough thing to pull off. I don’t know how you don’t get bored of that as an audience. When you have somebody like Damon Herriman [Dewey Crowe], I knock on the writers door and say, “This guy is great. Send me home. He can carry this thing for as long as you want.” Because of my position on the show, I have been allowed to participate in that process and in the storytelling, so I get a great satisfaction whether I am in the scene or not. It is one of the great joys for me. I feel like either way, it is a win-win for me.

In the last episode, there was the very sad moment where Raylan comes home and opens up that letter, are we going to learn what is in it?
Wouldn’t it be sad if we just dropped it and next day it was the case of the week. My gut is — and I say this with some insider information — that he is not going to let that rest. I think that we are going to get to the bottom of that.
With the season as violent as it has been, it was nice for Raylan to have a quiet place to come home to and the relationship between Raylan and Winona was a good one. Is Raylan going to try to get that quiet place again?
I can’t promise you that everything works out rosy. I can tell you that one of the many things I like about the show and the story is that relationship feels real and it is complicated and because of that, it will continue to exist in some capacity. She is a woman who has great meaning to him and she is pregnant with his child. In some way that will always play a part in who he is. Besides, Natalie is awesome. I don’t see us getting rid of her.

What kind of father will Raylan make?
I don’t know. You meet men that you have a soft spot for: “I think that guy is great; I would love to have a drink with him, but thank God he is not my father.” Sometimes I think this character may fall into that category.

What do you enjoy most about playing Raylan?
The humor is the most fun. It is a blast being able to do comedy. At the end of the day, I feel as if we are doing a comedy show. All of Elmore Leonard’s characters are cool. It is fun to pretend to be that cool.

How is it to work with Neal McDonough this season?
He has been great. I have really enjoyed it. He is a classy guy. He is willing to do and try anything. I feel as the season has progressed that his character and his work has gotten better and more interesting. I just watched episodes nine and ten and he becomes a much more interesting, twisted character. Neal’s willingness to go out on a limb is wonderful. His character is a problem. Quarles’ moral compass is a little off. He is from out of town and as the season progresses, you get the feeling that there are bad guys in Harlan county and that there are bad guys that are not one of us. I think more and more it becomes these people from the north are more and more the enemy within the crime-syndicate community. The Detroit people seem to be the most disliked.

Raylan recently shot a nurse. He seemed to be surprised. Is that because he never shot a woman before? How will it affect him going forward?
Not to spoil upcoming episodes, but the fact is that women aren’t often involved in crimes where they get shot at by law enforcement personnel. When you talk to cops, it is a big deal to shoot a woman. It is essentially the equivalent of hitting a woman. Guys just don’t do it. If it happens, it is quite the topic of conversation. You can hit a dozen guys, but if you hit a woman, people are going to talk about it and you are going to think about it. I think it is in the same ballpark.

This season is about crossing lines. Is there a line Raylan won’t cross?
We are going to find out.

You told a story a while back when you were doing “Deadwood” about how your mother called people in church and warned them not to watch because of the bad language. Did she feel compelled to do that again for “Justified”?
Elmore gets away with stuff. There is a lot more charm and a lot more humor to it and easy going-ness to it and my mom’s getting used to it. I haven’t heard of any call. I think it is easier for her to swallow this one.

What reaction do you get when you meet a real-life marshal. Do they dig Raylan’s style?
I got a call from Elmore’s guy the other day. Elmore is working on a new novel and thinking of putting Raylan into it. His guy was calling the Washington bureau and he was worried he was going to have to go through a bunch of red tape. He sent me an e-mail and said, “They have ‘Justified’ posters in the office. They were more than happy to talk to us.” I appreciated him passing it on to me.

Because Raylan is always getting beaten up or shot, what are the hardest scenes for you to film?
It is not a lot of heavy lifting. The nature and the tone of the show the way we shoot it, it is not a lot of bumps and bruises. It is pretty cool and pretty clean. We do a lot more talking than we do fighting. Physically, it is not a tremendous challenge at all. The challenge is week-to-week trying to maintain the standard. Elmore Leonard set a high bar and the challenge is to meet that day in and day out.

“Justified” airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c on FX.