Interview: Timothy Olyphant, Still ‘Justified’

Returning for a second season is Justified, arguably the most well received new show of last year. Film School Rejects had the opportunity to sit down with series star Timothy Olyphant and got the skinny on what is to be expected of the new season.

First, Olyphant touched on the challenges he faces while playing the series’ lead, Raylan Givens:

Well, it’s really more about – the character is just a joy to play. It’s more just about the beast of television production and just trying to keep your head above water and stay in front of it, and just remember how much fun it is.

He immediately followed that up with why he thinks the show has received such a positive response:

If they are like me, they think it’s really good. I’m proud of the show, you know? I think it’s good story telling, you know? It starts first and foremost with Elmore and I’m a big fan of his. And I think Graham and the rest of the writers have just really kind of sunk their teeth into it and just done a wonderful job. So, it’s good stuff, you know? It’s hard to find good stuff.

Olyphant then addressed the question of, if there are any influences he draws from for Raylan:

I really didn’t look past the books. After that, I tend to draw inspiration from whatever just kind of floats my boat for the moment. But, I really spend a lot of time with the source material and I read those books constantly, and spent time with Elmore. And then, it was conversations with Graham. And it was some conversations with U.S. Marshals; things like that.

He the proceeded to address his now official title as series producer:

Last year I just pretended to be a producer and I rather enjoyed it, so I thought, might as well get the credit. It was – it’s really one of the great joys of the job and one of the real challenges of the job is kind of being a part of the whole thing.

Following that, Olyphant addressed whether or not he enjoys playing a cowboys:

It’s all cowboys and Indians when it comes down to it. It’s kind of the fun of the job, it’s child’s play, and I get a great deal of fulfillment out it. It just so happens every now and then you actually put on an actual cowboy hat and it kind of brings it all home, but you know this one’s fun. It’s always fun to – you know, cops and robbers and in this case it’s kind of more like cops and hillbillies, and this one’s a blast. The tone of the show, the tone – you know, Elmore’s cool, and Elmore’s funny. And it’s a kick to be able to play what, I guess they call a drama, but day in and day out I think we’re making a comedy, so it’s a lot of fun.

Olyphant then followed that up with the difference between building a character on television as opposed to film:

In a film you more or less know the beginning, middle, or an end and you might have some wiggle room in there, but this really is a journey and I’ve been very fortunate to be kind of allowed in on a part of that process. So, that is one of the real challenge here for me that I’ve really enjoyed. I don’t think of it as building a character. We’re just telling a story and I don’t know how it’s going to end, and that’s kind of the fun of it.

But for me, at the end of the day the same things apply. I’m still trying to scene to scene figure out what it is I’m doing and basic rules still apply. I think the tremendous upside here is that it’s such a great character, and it’s really tough to get your hands on a great character.

The actor then addressed the changes that will becoming this season between Boyd and Raylan:

Well, Walt’s fantastic, you know? I mean, anytime he’s on the call sheet I know it’s going to be an easy day for me, because I just sit back and let him do all the work. When you’ve got someone who’s going to take the take, moment to moment, keep you on your toes, it just … I remember years ago your acting my acting teachers saying, “Just work off the other person.” Well, when you’ve got someone like Walt it makes it real easy to do it.

As far as his character, it’s really great. We had a lot of fun with him this year. Aas Elmore said, he’s one of these guys where I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth, but I can’t stop listening to him. He’s one of those guys who just seems like he could be whoever and whatever he needs to be, given the situation.

And Walt can speak more eloquently about the character than I can, but we really had a lot of fun watching him sort of start out with him sort of lost in the woods, and kind of regain his footing and find his way and come back to life. And he’s in a completely more kind of dangerous and compelling way this year than last year.

Olyphant then talked about his personal thoughts on the shows drama:

I’m not a huge fan of every episode, but there’s not an episode that goes by without me finding – there’s something – there’s always something and I’m like, “That’s just – that’s good drama, it’s good storytelling.”

The examples are, I think countless. This season, I mean, God, where do you start. It’s everything from something small. It’s Art telling me I should get an Uzi and it’s walking into Mags store and asking her, “How’s business.” For me, from an acting standpoint, it’s fun to be in a scene where me asking Mags, “How’s business,” is both so conversational small talk, and yet feels so loaded. And I think that’s part of the brilliance of Elmore Leonard, and it’s very difficult to kind of replicate week after week. And I think our writers just do a fantastic job, which is he seems so – it seems like small talk. It seems like he’s just kind of meandering, but really everything is kind of like a bullet headed towards a very – something very specific. And those moments are a blast.

I could just go on forever. I mean honestly, it’s – the job is just a joy, day in and day out it is. I’ve never left that set and didn’t think to myself, “That was great. That was just a great scene. It was a great moment. It was a great performance.” Not mine, I mean I’m just talking about the ones around me. I put in these long hours on this puppy, but it’s – at the end of the day you just always walk away going, “God, there’s something to be proud of. It was pretty cool.”

Finally, Olyphant talked about the response Raylan has received by the general TV viewing public:

I knew when I read the thing I was like, just close the deal before somebody else gets a whiff of this thing. Because I trust I know a good part when I see one, and usually when is see one I have to wait for like seven people to pass in order for it to come – for me to get to it. It’s really – and they’re not going to because it’s just good. It’s – so, I mean I knew it was a good part. I knew it was good writing. I knew it was – I knew Elmore, when done right, is – I just – I love it.

So, beyond that I can tell you, when I run into people on the street and I try to remove myself from the general public as much as possible with – I have an elevator that goes straight to my room in the building, so I don’t have to see people. But, I – no, I’m just kidding, I can’t even tell if anyone’s listening anymore.

People have been very generous. People have been very complimentary. And I know the difference between someone coming up to you on the street and saying, “Hey, you’re that dude, right. Yes, that’s what I thought.” And I know the difference between that and somebody coming up and saying, “Big fan of the show. Big fan of that character.”

And that’s nice? You’re out there telling stories, you’re hoping to find an audience, and it’s very appreciated.

Clearly Justified is just one of those shows that clicked universally with those that make it, those that watch it and those that review it. At the end of the day, no one can deny that is just one of the most well crafted shows on television.

Be sure not to miss any of the adventures of Raylan Givens every Wednesday at 10pm on FX.

You can also now pick up The Complete First Season of Justified now on DVD and Blu Ray.

From a young age, TV guru Merrill Barr has been obsessed with the small screen. And one day he decided to put that obsession to good use.

Read More from Merrill Barr
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