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Season 3 of Justified has been a tornado of arrogant carpetbaggers peddling OxyContin, secret spies, a hidden treasure, and a complex campaign for Sheriff’s office. Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has been roughed up in the office, dumped by his pregnant girlfriend, been labeled as a crooked marshal and now moonlights as a bouncer for the local watering hole. Season 3 is sounding like a classic country song.
I did some marshal work of my own, tracking down Erica Tazel who plays U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks on the hit-FX drama. Erica is featured in tonight’s episode, “Measures,” and we talked about defining Tazel’s supporting character, Rachel’s work relationships, and those fascinating villains of Season 3. Before we closed we discussed Tazel’s contributions to Get on The Bus, a charity to help unite children with their imprisoned parents. Even though this has been a relatively quiet season for Rachel, Erica Tazel shows it’s not so bad riding shotgun.
Before every season of Justified I compile our Do’s and Don’ts of Justified and for two straight seasons “Do Give Us More U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks” continues to make the list.
Erica Tazel: Oh that was you! First of all thank you for saying that and being that person in the army that’s soldiering and championing more Rachel; I appreciate that and would encourage you to keep printing that. [Laughs]
What’s your take on how little we’ve seen her this season?
ET: At the end of the day we have a huge problem on the show and it’s called an embarrassment of riches, from casting to writing, to all of the designers. We had this amazing short story turn into this great opportunity to play and create characters that we haven’t seen on television in before in a place we haven’t seen as well. It’s taken a life of its own. Harlan is a great piece of that, a character in and of itself.
Rachel is a part of the Lexington story. So far, structurally, we have the main and recurring guest cast, and the writers have this great responsibility of introducing us to these new characters, getting them developed and pushing the storyline that they play a pivotal part in. I don’t want to make this sound worse than what it really is, but there’s collateral damage to that. Rachel’s been a part of that.
That being said, the showrunners and producers are extremely aware of that and they have spoken to me about it and expressed respect, love and generosity, and it’s their desire to correct that in some way, to make her more a part of what it is that we’re doing as a television series. Hopefully we get to more seasons and get to explore some of these other great characters. That’s my non-ego answer. [Laughs]
It’s tough, because it Raylan’s story from the get-go, and in building this world around him; we’ve become attached to everything in it.
ET: All of those relationships from Raylan’s childhood make him very effective as a marshal in that part of town, it makes sense from a historical point of view. I don’t know if part of the solution is to veer away from that, which then begs the question, will it still be Justified if we did that? I don’t know what the solution is, and I think that’s what happened, and it’s not intentional in any way. Things happen organically and (Showrunner/Co-Executive Producer) Graham (Yost) always tells his writers to write what you love. How could you not write those characters and how could you not have Harlan as a playground?
Something we have seen more of is Tim Gutterson’s and his relationship or his do-si-do he does with Raylan. Have you and Jacob Pitts developed a sibling relationship, given that you two are separated from the action in Harlan?
ET: Me and Jacob are developing a good friendship, in fact, I was with he and Nick (Searcy) two days ago, we hung out together and he definitely keeps me laughing on set. It’s always a joy when we are on set together. In terms of the characters, in tonight’s episode, “Measures” you get to see Tim and Rachel kind of work together, which we’ve never seen that before. They’re either all working as a team; it’s Rachel and Raylan; it’s Tim and Raylan, or Art and Raylan. We had an opportunity where the team has to split up because time is running out and we’re trying to find someone. Gutterson and Rachel have an opportunity to enter a situation and work together. So that’s nice because it cracks the office out more and it allows you to see what they were doing, and the kind of work they were doing before Raylan came from Miami.
ET: Mm-hmm. It’ll be a nice little teaser for doing possibly more with those two characters as partners possibly.
To me the Marshal office is a metaphor for the good old dysfunctional family. You have the good kid with Rachel who is the model child to the father, Art, Tim is the quiet sibling, and in comes the reckless child, Raylan who gets into trouble and gets all of the unneeded attention from Art, as well as other authorities.
ET: That’s a great analogy.
Do you think based off of the actual broken family Raylan has with his father that maybe the writers are saying that this structure in the office is his surrogate family?
ET: That’s something to think about, I don’t know if it’s that conscious or not. Certainly Raylan’s relationship with Art is a healthier father-son relationship than what he has with his biological father (Raymond J. Barry). I think one could definitely argue with that. Raylan’s an only child, at least I think he is, I’m sure he’s used to working independently, doing things his way and on his own time, working as a part of a team might be a challenge for him because he’s never really had to do it in his life. He just wasn’t brought up that way. Hopefully we’re more functional than dysfunctional, but that would make some great drama and some interesting dynamics in the office if that’s intentionally explored. I like that, I’m going to steal it.
Take it to the writers’ room, let me know what they think. [Laughs]
ET: I might steal that one; I have to say, Ernie. That’s good.
Have you spoken to Elmore about your portrayal of Rachel, and her path on the show and whether or not we’ll see Rachel more into the novels.
ET: I haven’t spoken to him directly about Rachel but what I think is cool is that she was not in the original Fire in the Hole short story, however she is in his new novel, Raylan in one of the short stories. That’s a huge compliment given the amount of time we’ve seen her on camera that he’s seen enough of Rachel to want to write about her. A lot of the things we’ve heard from her on camera, for example, when Raylan and Rachel go see Limehouse, the story about me cleaning houses with my mom, that was all Elmore Leonard. A lot of those car scenes are taken from short stories that Elmore wrote that haven’t been published and some of that is from Raylan.
I love the fact that she cleaned houses with her mom because you don’t think that still happens in the modern world. It’s nice, it’s a different take, she didn’t have a traditional route and I love that detail that he’s given her. Elmore is very vocal about what he likes and doesn’t like, I think by including Rachel in his newest work, it certainly makes me feel good about what we have been able to discover and explore about her. It gives me a boost of confidence to continue to work on the way that I’m working on her.
We’ve seen Rachel and Raylan’s relationship slowly evolve, usually in those long car rides to Harlan. How much do you work on those scenes because they are so important in getting these tidbits of Rachel, as well as Raylan, and there’s this slow dance you do with Tim (Olyphant) through your lines, a specific pace that these two characters share.
ET: That musicality and tone is dictated by what Elmore Leonard established in his short story, Fire in the Hole. I can say with confidence that the writers, “Do What Elmore Would Do”–they even have bracelets that say that–it takes care of itself in the writing. When we have our rehearsal, we have a conversation between the two of us and the director about what we’re going after, and if there are some pacing issues we might re-tweak some things. As we get deeper into the series, as we have more experience doing those car scenes, they’re becoming much easier and more organic, and easy to play because he knows what instrument he is, and she knows what instrument she is and how those two musically play together. It’s great!
Will we ever let you see you let your hair down?
ET: I’d love that. [Laughs] I literally let it down a little bit earlier this season. I thought I’d cheat and see if anyone notices. But I think that would be a great piece of her evolution. One of the things she can learn from Raylan and Gutterson is that there is an ease with which they do their jobs and they have a good time doing it. Part of it is lightening up a bit. Not that I think that Rachel is uptight, I just think she takes her presence in the office and her presence in this part of the country very seriously. She recognizes, that there may be some things she can’t do. She’s a small woman, she’s a minority woman, and as in my real life, when people think I’m younger than what I really am, there’s sort of that extra effort to prove that I’m an adult. In Rachel’s case, I think there’s something extra to prove that she’s actually a good marshal. Physically, on site you may not get that until she opens her mouth or you see her in the work, so once she becomes more secure and confident in her gifts as a marshal… she might let her hair down–a little bit. [Laughs]
Staying within the office dynamic, one of the underrated relationships in the show is the one between Art and Rachel. Could you talk about that bond between those characters and what you and Nick work on?
ET: My fantasy about that relationship and in a place from which I work from, is that Rachel sees herself as Art’s protégé. So the way she carries herself, and that she appreciates she probably wears a “What Would Art Do” bracelet. She has her own father-daughter relationship with him for someone whose father is no longer living, and I think there’s definitely an aspect of her that really wants to make him proud, do good work and represent him well. She’s a product of his management and leadership skills. If there were a want list that I have, it would be to explore that relationship on camera. We’ve heard the things they’ve said about each other it would be nice to have that play out in some way on the series because I think there’s a lot of juice there. I feel it would also give great insight into why she is the way she is when she’s at work. Art is a very pivotal piece to that puzzle.
That would be a nice thread to play out, Nick Searcy’s always so great.
ET: He’s amazing and he’s a lot of fun to work with. Nick and I have a great relationship and it’d be nice to use some of that in our time in front of the camera…