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Justified – Timothy Olyphant gets to feel authentic

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Justified Season 1 - Timothy Olyphant
Raylon Givens (Timothy Olyphant) © FX

Although Timothy Olyphant has had a successful career starting in 1996’s The First Wives Club, it was his performance as Sheriff Seth Bullock in HBO’s Deadwood that made him a star.

His new role as Marshall Raylan Givens in F/X’s action drama Justified, which is based on Elmore Leonard’s short story Fire in the Hole, could be compared to his part on Deadwood. Despite the fact that it’s set in modern day Kentucky, Marshall Givens wears a Stetson hat and metes out justice like a western lawman.

Were you familiar with Elmore Leonard’s works before? And what is it like to get to say the quick, sharp Elmore Leonard-type dialogue?

Justified Season 1 - Timothy Olyphant
Raylon Givens (Timothy Olyphant) © FX

Yes, I was familiar with his work. I was a huge Elmore fan, and when I got an e mail from John Landgraf, God bless him, telling me that they were going to adapt one of Elmore’s pieces for a possible series and asked if I would be interested, I said yes.

I remember thinking finally someone in Hollywood is going to give Elmore Leonard a shot. It feels like he’s just been ignored by the community. And I was just so excited right from the start. I thought, wow, this could be great. I was a huge fan of his work, a huge fan of the books and the movies, and it’s been a joy to be able to say those words.

But Elmore Leonard is not writing the series.

It’s been lovely from my end, because I get to say the words, to be able to tell you that I haven’t been able to feel the difference between where Elmore left off and (executive producer/writer) Graham Yost picked up. It just has been this lovely, flawless transition.

And it has really been a joy because like you, that was one of my first questions, ‘If the pilot is based off of Elmore’s story, what’s the second episode based off of?’  And it’s been really fantastic, now that we are past the halfway point, to feel like we’ve really taken it and run with it, and it feels quite authentic.

Coming off of playing the sheriff in Deadwood and now being a lawman in Justified, was there ever a concern when you were thinking about taking the role that people are going to only see you as this now?

Justified Season 1 - Timothy Olyphant
Raylon Givens (Timothy Olyphant) © FX

There was no concern at all. Both characters wear (cowboy) hats, but after that they really start to become their own thing. There’s a big difference between the shows. That show is over, and this one is just beginning. And that’s also very appealing. And I think that anyone who knows Elmore’s work, there is a delicateness to it and a tone to it that is just so appealing to me. It’s so fun, and it’s really quite a different animal than what Deadwood was.

There’s a very specific visual style and tone to it, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but there seems to be a sound quality of the gunshots that I haven’t heard on television before.

(That’s because) we actually shot at the other actors. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know why anyone hadn’t thought of it before! You know how some actors, they go to driving school for a role, I went to sniper school. (I’m so good) I can just miss, no one is concerned, and it really creates an authenticity that is missing in television (he laughs).