There’s no denying that we’re in a golden era of television, and this week’s Femme on Fire is in the thick of it all. Joelle Carter, known for her role as the feisty Ava Crowder on FX’s Justified, left her guns and Southern drawl at the door to discuss this wild season, guest star Patton Oswalt, her army brat days and why her grandmother is the reason she had a Playboy issue when she was younger.
Playboy.com: Your character is going through a lot of stuff this season. Is this only the beginning of the insanity?
Carter: [Laughs] I would say yes; Ava has a full season this year. She gets a lot of journey. She’s entered into a world that she’s not quite familiar with. She’s following a man she’s madly in love with, and I think he’s someone that respects her and she feels like a true partner for once. And I think she wants to do anything she can to protect what she can, but I do feel like she’s going to get in over her head a little bit.
Playboy.com: Your character has a lot of good lines. I especially loved the quote “I saved your soul, remember? Not God or Jesus Christ; me and my shotgun.” What has been your favorite line to date?
Carter:That’s one of my favorites! I think the line that people quote the most is the Lysol one about the best cleaning product you can buy. I’m not sure why everyone loves that, but…[laughs]
Playboy.com: You handle a shotgun like a pro. Did you have to do a lot of training with guns for this role?
Carter: I didn’t! The safety guys and the prop guys really love the character of Ava, and I’d like to think me, so they take a lot of care with me and the guns. I just told them that I want to look like this girl knows what she’s doing. So wherever we’re shooting they’ll sometimes take me to the woods and we’ll shoot some blanks and show me what the reactions to the gun will be. I’ve gone to a few ranges too.
Playboy.com: Do you think Ava is going bad or do you feel that her actions are vindicated?
Carter: Oh, they’re definitely vindicated. One of the main reasons why I love this character and the way they write her is that she doesn’t really have any apologies for herself or what she’s doing. I feel like there is a moral issue that’s come about with Ellen May because it’s the one person that she really took under her wing and tried to care for. So that was a big betrayal for Ava. I think, as you’ve seen in episode four, she tried to do everything she could to not kill her, but Ellen May is a little unpredictable.
Check out tonight's trailer: Justified continues Tuesday on FX with “Outlaw”.
Playboy.com: You sound like you’re really into the show as a whole. Are you able to watch it?
Carter: I do! I usually watch it a day late because sometimes I’m shooting, but there’s so much of it shot that I’m not a part of and because of the nature of the show it’s rewritten a bunch. Every time we get a script it’s another color. [laughs] We have this joke where when we hit the color twice, once they run out of colors, that we might have outdone ourselves. But that’s also the beauty of the show because the writers and producers give us this incredible freedom to really create something great. And the writers listen to us a bit because we’ve lived these characters and have been in their skin for four years now. So they come up with the brilliant ideas and we try to come up with a bit of the finessing.
Playboy.com: And the show is sprinkled with these great guest stars. Were you able to work with Patton Oswalt or get to hang out with him?
Carter:No! I haven’t even met him! I need to meet the man before the end of the season. That was the same with Margo Martindale! I was in a couple of scenes that she was in but never got to actually work with her. We’d sit in our chairs and talk to her all the time. I was really in awe of that lady. And I really want to meet Patton. I think he’s done a brilliant job with his character. It is a comedic role but he plays with such honesty that people will sure fall in love with the constable.
Playboy.com: You grew up as an army brat. Do you think Ava could make it in the army?
Carter: Oh yeah, [laughs] I was kind of in the army growing up as an army brat. My father ran our house with a shower timer and a lot of respect. Lots of “yes, ma’ams” and “no, ma’ams.” I definitely got a taste of the army without the—thank goodness—action of war. I feel like Ava has probably seen more war than I have.
Playboy.com: I was trying to think of another job that would suit Ava and I kept going back to that.
Carter: [Laughs] Schoolteacher!
Playboy.com: I see that the Justified cast is doing a charity day where a bidder can win a day on set. Can you talk a bit about that?
Carter: I just found out about it too! I think they also did it last year but it was just with Timothy [Olyphant]. I think a lucky couple won drinks with him and a trip out to L.A., but I believe that this one has the winner come out to the set. I think it’s brilliant that the show is reaching out and doing that.
Playboy.com:What’s your favorite moment on set?
Carter: Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you because it’s going to be a spoiler! It just happened, but I can say people who are embracing the Ava/Boyd storyline will really embrace them this season if they had their apprehensions. I’ve had people text me and tweet me saying “Get away from this guy! What are you doing?!” But I think they’ll see his true nature later on in the season.
Playboy.com: You have a couple of films in postproduction too! What was it like going from Justified to a horror film?
Carter: It was great. I was nervous, though, leaving Ava. Because you live your character for so long with such intensity. I loved Jessabelle, which I believe is now called Ghost because of the story. It really has a strong storyline so it’s not a regular horror slasher film; it’s got more depth than that. I really could get behind my character thanks to Justified. For lack of a better word, my character’s motive is not necessarily the good guy in the film.
Playboy.com: As a woman I feel obligated to ask about how amazing working on Grey’s Anatomy was.
Carter: I loved it! They treated me like gold! I was privy to work with such a great cast and director. They have quite a family there, they’re just a machine. You know most of them at the show have been there for so long, they have this…village where their trailers are, it’s ridiculous. I was lost in the sea of trailers and finally found a PA where they said, “I know, it’s a little ridiculous.” But it’s a big cast!
Playboy.com: What show would you want to see do a crossover with Justified?
Carter: Archer! We could become animated!
Playboy.com: What’s your favorite:
Food: I love Trader Joe’s Mediterranean hummus. It’s like crack cocaine. Not that I’d know, but…
Secret Talent: Um, well, mine may be sexual so I’ll leave it at that.
Dream Car: I would like to get into a Tesla, that new electric car.
What’s the song you can’t ever get out of your head: Dead or Alive
Embarrassing Moment: Which one…You know, I was auditioning for this very voluptuous character and I was wearing a bra that clipped in the front and I wore some of those little chicken cutlets, and during the scene me and the other actor were going for it and he had wrapped his arms around me to control me—within the characters—and my bra popped, my cutlets sank and I had to grab onto them. I made it through the audition with my arms wrapped around my waist but at the end I had to excuse myself. I’m sure they thought I was the weirdest actress in the world. It’s pretty embarrassing!
Guilty Pleasure: Oh, Icebox Cupcakes from Lark’s Cupcakes. They’re the bomb.
First Playboy:You know what? I had a very wonderful grandma when I was younger and we would go spend time with her, my sister and I. She would always let us do things we weren’t allowed to do, and for some reason when Vanessa Williams was in Playboy she had it so we stole it from my grandma. [Editor's Note: Vanessa Williams was not in Playboy, the photos were offered to Hugh Hefner but he turned them down due to the nature of the photographs. Penthouse eventually published them.]