It can be hard, when talking to Timothy Olyphant, to separate the actor from perhaps his most well-known character (with apologies to Deadwood’s Seth Bullock): Raylan Givens, the lawman who plays by his own rules on FX’s Justified. Much like Raylan, Olyphant is a man of few words. He has an uncanny knack for getting at the heart of a conversation while infusing it with self-deprecation, sarcasm, and maybe a bit of impatience. There’s no dancing around a subject, contemplating all the different angles and perspectives. Olyphant shoots straight and keeps things simple. While Olyphant was finishing producing and starring in the final season of FX’s Justified, Playboy had the chance to ask him about shooting final seasons, the strange prospect of unemployment, and what the final showdown between Boyd Crowder and Raylan Givens might look like.
Has the filming for the final season wrapped yet?
No, we’re still working. We probably won’t be wrapped until sometime at the end of February.
Is it starting to sink in that this is the final season, or are you too busy with the work to even think about that?
I’m very aware that I will be unemployed soon. It’s a harsh reality.
Considering that Deadwood was cancelled too soon, how is it different filming the final season of a show knowing that it will be the final season? Do you approach the work differently?
Yeah, usually when a show’s over, I’m not the first to know about it. I find out when I read about it in the paper. It definitely gives it a…when we say we have four more episodes, it gives it a little more meaning. We used to say, “Jesus, we still have four more episodes.” Now we say, “shit, we only have four more episodes.” We essentially replaced the word “still” with the word “only.”
It’s got to be a bit emotional, knowing that this could be the last time you work with a lot of these people.
Well when you put it that way, yeah, it’s very sad. It’s something I’ve tried not to think too much about, but I appreciate you reminding me.
Maybe we should have started on a lighter note.
Yeah. “Oh, by the way, if you hadn’t thought about it, the people you’re working with that you’ve enjoyed so much, you may never work with them again. How does that feel?” [Laughs]. You know, I’m a glass half full kind of dude, and I’m very thankful for the times I’ve had with everybody. It’s been a good one.
Let’s focus on the show then; perhaps that’s a little less depressing. Despite all the other plots, this has always been a show about Raylan and Boyd and the way they intersect. Is season six going to mainly focus on those two characters? Did the show always need to come back to those two, or did that kind of organically happen as the season went on?
That seems to be the main focus, and I think it’s the latter. When I took the job, Boyd’s character was going to be dead after the first hour. So I don’t think they had planned a series finale with the two of them in its early inception. It’s something that happened over the course of the show.
What’s contributed to that?
I mean, Boyd has been such a beloved character, and the two of them just keep butting heads. It just seemed like the logical place to go.
Walton Goggins really brought the character to life. What’s it been like working with him? You two seem to have this natural chemistry on screen; you play off one another really well.
Well, I appreciate you saying so. You know, he’s one of the good ones. He knows what he’s doing. We were, to say the least, lucky to get him. It’s been fun working with him; he’s a pro. Take to take, you don’t know what he’s going to do next, and it just works.
Did Walton’s approach to Boyd, and the character’s continued presence, change how you approached the characterization of Raylan at all?
No, I mean…the only thing that really changes is that he went from being such a perverse, racist character when the show started, and I guess he’s less so as we’ve gone along. He’s in this big love story now, and that changes things a little bit in terms of how you tell the story.
What initially drew you to Justified?
Oh, well, it’s an Elmore Leonard character. It’s hard to get your hands on anything that good.
You’ve been a producer on Justified throughout the show’s run. What was it like taking on that kind of role? Had you done much producing elsewhere?
No, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing in that position. It’s a ton of fun though.
Would you take on a producing role on future projects?
Oh yeah. You get to stick your nose in everybody’s business. It’s allowed me to…my job is somewhere between being a big pain in the ass and a glorified cheerleader. It lets me hang out in the kitchen and throw a little salt on the dish. It’s been a lot of fun to see how everything gets made.
Do you think Justified has been unfairly ignored when awards season rolls around? The only Emmy wins the show has under its belt are for two guest stars, the very deserving Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies.
No, I don’t think so. I don’t now, but I think there’s just a bunch of shows out there that are really fucking good. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. What did we get nominated for?
You’ve personally been nominated a couple of times, and so has the show, in terms of the Emmys at least. Martindale and Davies were both amazing, but it’s interesting that the only wins the show has came from guest stars.
I’ll say it’s nice to be part of the conversation from people that feel like we’ve been snubbed. It’s better than the conversation where people feel like we haven’t been snubbed. Sometimes being snubbed is enough, you know what I mean? You know that old saying that it’s just nice to be nominated? Well, I’m going to add to that. It’s just nice to be snubbed. It’s really just an honor to be snubbed.
I wonder if it’s just due to the fact that Justified is so low-key. It doesn’t have that flashy hook, like a high school chemistry teacher cooking meth, or dragons. This show is a little more classic in its tone.
I’ll take your word for it, because I don’t know those shows. But I hear they’re great.
I would imagine you don’t have a ton of time to watch TV.
No. I don’t know whose idea it was, but I’ve got three kids, and that’s way too many. And I don’t know if you know this about children, but they’re very demanding. It’s awful.
Getting back to last season, it was interesting the way the show positioned Art as a more prominent foil to Raylan, keeping an eye on him. Will that be explored further in the final season?
All I could think of at that moment, when they put Art in the story more, is that I love working with Nick Searcy. I am going to miss him, but don’t tell him. This is between us, because he’s a giant pain in the ass, and if he finds out that I feel this way about him, it’ll just make it worse.
But this is it. You’re going to have to think about these feelings and maybe tell these people. It’s all going to be out there.
Well if I keep talking to people like you who make me think about it, then yeah. Maybe this should be my last interview. If everyone’s going to ask me about how I feel about this coming to an end, it’s going to be very, very depressing.
At least do a few more. I can’t handle being the guy who finally pushed Timothy Olyphant over the edge.
I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but I’d say getting the one and only exclusive of anything is quite the scoop. You might want to encourage me to not talk to anyone else.
So what’s coming next for you?
I’m going to be unemployed. That’s what’s coming up next.
Kyle Fowle is a writer based out of Toronto whose writing has appeared at The A.V. Club, Esquire, Maxim, and others.