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Q&A: How 'Justified' Star Timothy Olyphant Conquers TV

Brittany Frederick Brittany Frederick
February 22nd, 2012 1:48pm EST
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If there's one film actor who came into television and blew the doors off the medium, it was Justified star Timothy Olyphant.

Justified

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.

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