Q&A: How 'Justified' Star Timothy Olyphant Conquers TV
February 22nd, 2012 1:48pm EST
If there's one film actor who came into television and blew the doors off the medium, it was Justified star Timothy Olyphant.
In three seasons as quick-witted, quick-drawing Kentucky marshal Raylan Givens, the Live Free or Die Hard actor hasn't given a bad performance. In fact, he hasn't given less than a great one. Whether it's his leveling stare or just the way he points his words, Olyphant carries himself with a natural intensity that makes Raylan the infamous character we've been told he is. Simply put, in someone else's hands, this role just wouldn't work.
Off-screen, he's incredibly sweet and pretty funny (even though he still intimidates me). Timothy recently took time out of his busy schedule (while on the road, no less!) to chat with me about what's happened so far in the show's third season and why he loves his job.
Let's be honest: you might have the best job on television. I could go on about why I love this show, but what do you really love about Justified?
There’s not an episode that doesn’t have something that just tickles me, that I couldn’t be more pleased with. You name an episode, I’ll tell you something great in it that I just couldn’t be more happy with or more proud of.
It’s always good for me to actually say that out loud because it’s really easy, no matter how great a job is, to wake up in the morning and say, “Fuck it, I’m not going.” And then you realize you know what, it’s a great fucking job. It’s just awesome.
I don’t know if there’s a real selling, point but I remember being an athlete as a kid. I was a swimmer, I loved it. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t love it. But I remember countless mornings at 5:45 where I said, “This is bullshit. I’m not going. I’m not jumping in that goddamn pool. It’s fucking cold out, I’m tired, no fucking way.” And then you jump in the pool and you start swimming and you’re like, “You know what, I love this sport. It’s just so much fun.”
As we get towards the end of the season you start thinking to yourself, “I just am not getting up tomorrow morning. I don’t know how to figure out one more of these things.” And then you go there and you dive in and you start working with Walt [Goggins] or you start working with Natalie [Zea] or Nick [Searcy] or you start working with the writers and trying to solve the, you know, the episode, the scene, and it becomes such a wonderful fulfilling experience. It’s child’s play but I get a great deal of joy out of it.
You have such a talented cast around you, including the guest actors.
It’s a combination of the fact that we have amazing writers, we have an amazing cast and I want days off. (laughs) And you put it all together and it lends itself nice to allowing everyone to show off a bit.
I thought from the beginning...when I took the job I was pretty clear that a show was about the character I was playing, but I’m less interested in a TV show that just focuses on [one] guy so heavily. I think it’s a tough thing to pull off. I don’t know how you don’t get bored of that as an audience, and to some degree as an actor.
So when you have someone like Damon Herriman [who plays Dewey Crowe], I knock on the writer’s door and say, “Listen, this guy’s great. You know, send me home. He can carry this thing for as long as you want.”
And I, because of my position on the show, quite frankly have been allowed to participate in that process and in the storytelling, so I still get a great deal of satisfaction whether I’m in the scene or not. It’s really one of the great joys of the job for me. I feel like either way it’s a win-win for me.
This season you're working against Neal McDonough, who, quite frankly, is scaring me just a bit. What's it like for you to work opposite him?
He’s been great. He’s been really great. I’ve really enjoyed it. He’s a class [act], and he’s just willing to do and try anything. I feel like as the season’s progressed his character and his work has just gotten better and better and more and more interesting. I just watched episodes nine and ten and he just becomes I think a much more interesting, much more sick, twisted character. Neal’s willingness to just go out on a limb has been wonderful.
You've talked before about how this is a collaborative set, and you have a producer credit on the show. Do you think you'd ever consider moving behind the camera, and directing or even writing?
You know, I really just so enjoy being part of the conversation with the writers and the directors and all that. What’s wonderful about not being a director is that if I’m not in the scene I can leave and golf and watch ESPN. So I appreciate the question, but whenever I consider it I get tired.
Again this season, people have brought up how much violence seems to follow Raylan around. Do you think that's really part of him, or just what he's got to deal with?
They do give you a gun when you take the job, so I suppose there’s a reason for that. He enjoys the job. And every now and then he gets to shoot somebody. It’s a pretty good time, all things considered.
He seemed a little more bothered by his last shooting in episode five. Was that more because he'd never shot a woman before?
I think that definitely played a part. The fact is women aren’t often involved in crimes where they get shot by people in law enforcement, so law enforcement [officers] don’t have too many opportunities to shoot at women. If you talk to cops it’s a big deal to shoot a woman.
It’s essentially the equivalent of imagining ever hitting a woman. I mean, you just don’t do it. And if it happens it’s quite the topic of conversation. You could hit a couple dozen guys, but you hit one woman and you’re going to think about it and everyone’s going to talk about it. And I think it’s kind of in the same ballpark.
Do you think there's a line that Raylan wouldn't cross?
We’re going to try to find out. It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got a lot of people with the capacity for violence and we got a lot of people that have conflicting wants and needs, and they all keep running up against each other.
It’s a violent season and it’s kind of a fun, twisted violent season. And then the key to it is hopefully we can continue to sort of ground these people to make you feel like, “Wow, they’re actually quite interesting, complicated folks.”
It’s been a lovely season. It feels like it’s totally different than the first two, and yet feels very much like our show. I couldn’t be more happy with it.
You’ve gotten to do a lot of really cool things on the show. Last week you got to run somebody over with a car twice. So is there a favorite thing that you’ve gotten to do in this role?
You know what, the show, it’s a blast. It never stops being fun. I’m on that set five days a week and it feels like I’m batting a thousand. When we call wrap, I’m in a pretty good mood. It’s really impressive day in and day out how enjoyable the job is.
The humor is the most fun. It’s a blast being able to do comedy. And Elmore Leonard’s cool, all his characters are cool. It’s fun to pretend to be that cool. It's all pretty fun.
Is there anything you'd like to do with Raylan?
No, you know, I think that my focus is just trying to tell the story you promised the audience. And so far that’s just been a wonderful challenge. I just kind of want to see the thing fulfilled, and reach its full potential.
My thanks to Timothy Olyphant for taking the time for another interview! Justified airs its next new episode Tuesday, February 28 at 10 PM ET/PT on FX. For more, you can also check out my recent interview with Justified star Erica Tazel, and my previous interview with Timothy from season two.
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.
Related: Elmore Leonard, Erica Tazel, Jacob Pitts, Joelle Carter, Justified, Live Free or Die Hard, Natalie Zea, Neal McDonough, Nick Searcy, Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Starpulse Exclusives, Interviews, Television, Drama, Interviews, FX
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