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Things TV Goodness Learned from the Justified Event at the Paley Center 

Photo Credit: Mark Seliger/ FX

On Jan. 17th I had the pleasure of attending a Writers Bloc event featuring Elmore Leonard, Graham Yost, and Timothy Olyphant. Thank the heavens they showed us the season 3 premiere before the guys sat down for the Q&A. I mean, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had to wait to get home before watching “The Gunfighter,” but the episode was that much better seen on a really big screen and with a group of people who love and appreciate Justified just as much as I do. I don’t have any real spoilers to share, but it was a lively night in the company of these great men and moderator Andrea Grossman.

There’s really no rhyme or reason to the order below, I’m just going by how the conversation flowed naturally.

What attracted Graham Yost to Fire in the Hole and Raylan Givens? The story focused on a part of our country that wasn’t portrayed much and he wanted to focus on the journey of a hero and that’s what Raylan is. There had been (and still are) so many anti-heroes on television but Yost wanted to be involved with something different.

Why is Elmore Leonard fascinated with US Marshals? Leonard says marshals are the closest law enforcement officials to cops and he likes cops. His researcher showed him a picture of a female marshal with a shotgun on her hip and that’s how Karen Sisco was born.

Are Deadwood‘s Seth Bullock and Justified’s Raylan Givens similiar? Olyphant says they may look alike but that’s where the similarity ends. Bullock needed law and order in his life to keep his nature (and temper) in check. Raylan’s happy to go to work every day. Maybe he doesn’t get along with a lot of people, but Olyphant likes that he’s funny

What made FX the right place for Justified? John Landgraf was part of the team working on Karen Sisco for ABC so Yost thought getting his support was first and foremost in making Justified a success. Beyond that, FX is a place where the writers/producers are allowed to spend time with the bad guys. It creates a richer world and FX encouraged them to have season long arcs.

How do they come up with the great dialogue? They think about what Leonard would have Raylan say and sometimes they use the exact same words from the book Raylan or the short stories Raylan Givens appears in. I think it was Olyphant who said, “You’re not stealing when you’re paying for it.” Then they had a great back and forth about Carla Gugino and how she’s not playing a character named Karen Sisco in “Cut Ties.” Or how some of the scenes from previous seasons mays seem similar to some of the things in Leonard’s stories. Olyphant also said that slipping into Raylan’s cadence and accent of was just like having a great wardrobe. It helps you get into character.

What’s it like for Olyphant to play Raylan? There’s something interesting about playing a character who feels like he’s been born 100 years too late and throwing him into the mix. What’s unique about Raylan is he looks at situations differently than so many other people. Olyphant also talked about the danger of playing a lead character. Often they’re the most boring person on the screen but he hasn’t found that to be the case here.

What changes changes have been made in translating Raylan Givens and Harlan County to the small screen? Arlo was dead in the book. Yost wanted to give Raylan some interesting family ties to create conflict. They talked about giving Raylan a friend this season but as soon as they started talking about it they knew it was the wrong thing to do.

Do actors approach Yost about being on the show? All the time. Jeremy Davies expressed interest in being on the show and when they started writing the parts of the Bennett boys, Yost thought he’d be great for one of them. They can’t always accommodate everyone who’s interested though. They’ve got to make sure they’re right for the show.


  • Yost didn’t want Desmond Harrington‘s Fletcher Nix to kill the pizza guy in “The Gunfighter,” but knew how important it was to show just how bad his character was.
  • Leonard has started working on another Raylan story and it’s set in Palm Springs. Make of that what you will.

Justified airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.

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