Based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard and developed for television by showrunner Graham Yost, the FX drama series Justified is back for Season 4. This time around, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) will start to unravel the mystery of a more than 30-year-old cold case that connects back to his criminal father’s (Raymond J. Barry) bad dealings. The show also stars Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel and Joelle Carter.
During this recent interview to discuss what to expect from the show this season, actor/producer Timothy Olyphant talked about how involved he is in the development of each season, how much it means to him that they have Elmore Leonard’s approval, that Raylan is bound to cross paths with Boyd Crowder again, how each of these characters has their own moral code, what a joy it is to be able to deliver such great dialogue, what keeps Raylan from becoming as crooked as all the criminals in Harlan, what viewers can expect from the addition of Patton Oswalt this season, balancing the tone of the subject matter, and whether he’d ever consider directing an episode of the series. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: Well, I am very thankful for the opportunity, and it’s made the job just thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly challenging. It really has been a pleasure to be able to have permission to work with the writers and the directors, week in and week out, in that capacity. In my mind, I’m doing everything, but in reality, I’m doing very, very little. You come up with one idea, one moment, one line that leads to something and you feel like it’s easy. And then, you sit back and think there would be no show without that. But, the writers on this show are amazing. They sit down in front of a blank page, and the fact that they come up with what they come up with, week in and week out, is some kind of miracle. Basically, my job is to just keep poking at it and keep asking questions. Because I’m not a writer it gives me a certain vantage point. That sometimes can be helpful, when I engage with the writers and collaborate with them. That collaboration has been really fulfilling.
Prior to the upcoming season, how much of Elmore Leonard’s new book about Raylan was a consideration?
OLYPHANT: We used that book in Season 2, 3 and 4. We steal from Elmore Leonard, every chance we get.
OLYPHANT: It means a great deal to me. Elmore doesn’t have to say that, and there’s a chance he’s only saying it to sell some books. But, I’m going to take him at his word, and I appreciate it greatly. We work really hard at trying to honor the man, as best we can, and it means a great deal to me that he seems to be happy with it.
Are there any surprises or plot twists that fans can expect this season?
OLYPHANT: The short answer is yes, but we don’t want to spoil anything. We do our best to keep people leaning forward.
After the revelation about Arlo, at the end of last season, how does Raylan deal with that, heading into this season?
OLYPHANT: That’s a good question. Raylan’s not really dealing with it. I think that Raylan does his best to try not to deal with those kind of things. That’s what makes him Raylan.
OLYPHANT: Stay tuned. You’re not going to get through the season without them hooking up. What we didn’t want to do is just keep it on the same scene, over and over. We’re doing our best to try to keep the story both familiar, but yet unexpected. And, when we sit down and try to concoct these things, we’re looking for the unexpected. Hopefully, we’ve got that this year.
A lot of the characters on the show have their own moral code. What do you think about that?
OLYPHANT: Well, we’re trying to do Elmore Leonard right, and Elmore Leonard is always about some sort of moral code amongst cops and thieves, and they define one another, not necessarily by good guys and bad guys, but just which ones are the assholes and which ones aren’t. We’re always looking for that moral code that each one of them has, that separates them from one another. You can’t pick up an Elmore novel and not find that, chapter to chapter, in all of his books.
How much fun is it for you to deliver this kind of dialogue?
OLYPHANT: It’s a joy and a pleasure to be able to speak these lines. This show has such good dialogue. It’s hard to get your hands on that, and I feel like I get to do it, week in and week out. It’s not lost on me, what an opportunity it is, and I’m enjoying every second of it.
OLYPHANT: Well, that’s a good question. The answer is that I don’t know, but so far, so good, you know? He seems to be walking right up to the edge now. It’s fun, watching how close he can get to that without crossing. There’s a fun game that happens in the writers’ room now, where others try to pen down who he is and what his intentions are, or what would’ve happened, had it not gone exactly the way it did. Raylan refuses to get pinned like that.
Will viewers get a chance to see Raylan as a dad? Given his relationship with his own father, how will that affect how he is, as a father?
OLYPHANT: That’s a good question, and I think that depends on a couple of things, like how long they’ll let us stay on the air. The longer we’re on the air, there’s a good chance we’ll see Raylan as a father. Little kids on the set tend to be a pain, and if they’re not, their parents are, so I don’t see us having a kid on the show too much. But, I like the idea, creatively, as far as the storytelling is concerned, of Raylan being a father. One of the things that really appealed to me about the Elmore Leonard books was that he was a father of two in all the books. I thought that was one of the ways in which Elmore differentiates Raylan.
OLYPHANT: There’s a good chance.
How would you describe Raylan’s friendship with Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt) and what viewers can expect from that?
OLYPHANT: I wouldn’t call it a friendship. I’d call it a working relationship. I can tell you that Patton Oswalt is money. That guy is so good. He makes it a little tough for me to get through a scene with a straight face, and yet he’s so serious and fantastic. It’s just been a pleasure working with him.
With such great adversaries on this show, what can viewers expect from Season 4, in that regard?
OLYPHANT: There are a few, here or there, but we really made a choice to stick with what we had in the bullpen this year. The good news is that you get a lot more of Boyd Crowder, played by the great Walt Goggins, and you get more of his crew. Ron Eldard plays a guy named Colt, who comes in and works with Boyd. He’s just fantastic. What a wonderful actor. And we’ve got more of Jere Burns. We had so many people at our disposal that we made a decision not to bring in too many new people. But, at the same time, week in and week out, we have great new guest stars and great new characters. Patton is fantastic on the show. He’s not playing a bad guy, but he’s fantastic. And Jenn Lyon, who plays the bartender, is just fantastic. There are so many good actors that come and go throughout the season, and so many good performances this year.
OLYPHANT: Well, whenever there’s a scene that’s really funny, we try to figure out how serious it can be, and whenever we’ve got a scene that’s really serious, we try to figure out how funny it can be. That’s the game we play.
Are you interested in doing more comedy, in the future?
OLYPHANT: In my mind, I’m hilarious, so I would love to do some comedy. But, I’m not exactly sure my perspective is a healthy one.
Would you like to direct an episode of Justified, in the future?
OLYPHANT: No, I don’t see that happening. If I were to direct an episode, then there would be no one for me to blame, and that’s not any fun. It’s more about sitting in the back seat and trying to drive.
OLYPHANT: I like my job. That’s become very clear to me. I know how to pretend to do things that I otherwise didn’t know how to do. I know a few facts and things about law enforcement that I was unaware of. I have a better sense of the U.S. Marshals and what kind of people sign up for that job. And I have a very healthy understanding of how good a gig this is. You’re never quite sure, when you first get something if you really have a sense of what an opportunity it is. I think I’ve learned, over the years, that this is about as good as it gets, as far as working in show business.
How long do you see the show going for?
OLYPHANT: A couple more weeks, at least.
JUSTIFIED returns for Season 4 on FX on Tuesday, January 8th