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Much has been made about the strength of the women on the show, is it a surprise given that there is so few women on the staff? This is no slight on Graham Yost or the good men on staff who regularly knock it out of the park, but drama series that tend to feature women prominently with authentic voices typically have a strong female voice near or at the head of the staff (for example Michelle King on The Good Wife, Veena Sud in The Killing, Julie Plec on The Vampire Diaries). Wendy Calhoun, Ingrid Escajeda, and Nichelle D. Tramble are the women on Justified’s staff. Even though women fill the supporting roles, I’d say that they have been given equal playing field and an authentic voice.
ET: Given the circumstances I think they have to be. Take Rachel for example, she’s a U.S. Marshal in Kentucky. She could be marshal in Texas or California, but the given circumstances of her job dictate that she has to have some backbone and thickness to her skin just to get through the workday. Ava and all that she’s been through and now the things she’s involved in, the given circumstances are that she can’t be a wuss. And then Winona, who’s the ex-wife of a U.S. Marshal, who was married to and separated from a guy like Gary, the given circumstances she has to navigate through are that she has to have a backbone to make that believable. Whether you have women writers in the room or not, the circumstances take care of that for you and you can’t ignore that if they’re going to be believable and stand next to these incredible male characters. I think the scenario and environment take care of a lot of that for us and then you take the actors fulfilling the roles and it’s a good marriage.
Something that’s been brought up a few times this season is Raylan shooting a woman dead (Maggie Lawson as the bad nurse Layla in episode 305: “Thick as Mud”). With Ava (Joelle Carter) getting deeper entrenched in Boyd’s (Walton Goggins) activities, will we see Rachel get involved and maybe deal some woman-to-woman justice?
ET: That would be a good use of the character. I don’t know that Raylan thought about that when he went to the nurse’s house. I think he really did go to have a conversation. If he had done things by the book then he would have had backup and quite possibly he would have had Rachel with him, being a gentleman going into a woman’s house that time of night. [Pauses] I love that idea and I’ve often contemplated, ‘Was this an opportunity where a female touch could be added to a case or interrogation,’ especially since most of the bad guys have been male. But when we have the nurse or the pregnant prisoner, even something that Ava got mixed up in last season, and Mags Bennett obviously, were there or will there be opportunities in the future that we can take advantage of having this female marshal on the team? That is my hope, that we’ll be able to see Rachel do what only a woman can do and see another way that she can give value to her team.
I pay so much attention to what’s being said on the show–you have to–and each mention of Layla’s death is like an alarm.
ET: Mm-hm. It’s a big one because it’s a woman. The violence on the show can be extreme. Even though it was a good shooting, to have a male officer or male in general exact any kind of violence on a female, that’s something we wanted to be delicate about but it’s also nice to see that there are some consequences to killing another human being on our show. This is a great way to do it. Not only because she was a woman, but Raylan killed her. It’s the first time we are actually seeing him deal with the consequences of that and what that can do to a person. I think that’s great.
I hadn’t thought about Raylan having regret or even remorse.
ET: We haven’t really seen that, we just keep going. [Laughs]
Could you talk about Timothy Olyphant as a producer on the show?
Tim at the end of the day wants to make good TV. That’s what he brings to the show. He comes with ideas to the set if it hasn’t been fleshed out before the day we shoot down to the smallest of details. Just to circle back to what you said earlier about the musicality, he tries to honor that in every single scene. Even if it’s a short exchange with a clerk at a gas station. Does it have that ‘coolness,’ to use Tim’s words. ‘Does it have Elmore’s cool?’ We’re calling it music in this interview but does it have the “Elmore Cool”? He’s very protective of that. As an actor on the show, one has to arrive on the set extremely flexible because it may change.
Let’s move to the… antagonists is probably a better word because it’s so hard to define villains on this show. We’ve seen a complete deconstruction of Robert Quarles who was built up in the front half of the season and is being stripped down (literally). Could you talk about Neal McDonough stirring the pot this season?
ET: His presence alone is stirring the pot. The residents of Harlan don’t take too kindly when city folk come in, thinking they can take over and run what they’re running. ‘You can’t come in and piss on my territory, this is my territory.’ By coming in with the arrogance that Quarles does, it’s like dropping a bomb and then flying off. Immediately a war is incited even though the terms of the war are not known at the time.
What’s interesting about this particular villain this year as I’m watching the show is he’s making a lot of missteps. When he popped a pill while he was driving. It’s almost as if they just left him alone he’ll destroy himself. If Boyd and his crew, Limehouse or Raylan or whoever doesn’t take him out, he’s going to do it himself, just give him time. I like the aspect of self-destructive villain that he’s making mistakes that could get him killed; he doesn’t have as much power and we’ll see what eventually happens with that.
It’s the first time since Boyd got his commandos killed in Season 1 do we see a villain look this frail or vulnerable.
ET: Mm-Hmm. I thought it was brilliant that we see Quarles take these phone calls from his kids, but to put the photograph on his phone. He has that moment where he’s not sure he’s going to succeed at what he wants to do. Maybe this is all happening because the family needs money and this is the only way he knows how to get it. So it’s not just greed for greed’s sake or mean for mean’s sake. There are two kids and a wife that have to be fed, and who need a roof over their head. It’s a different dynamic. In a weird way it mirrors that maternity that Mags had for Loretta. It humanizes the evil; I guess is what I’m trying to say.
Now that we’ve humanized the evil, let’s go the other way. What do we think happened to that guy he tied up on the bed?
ET: You know what, I don’t even know. It’s disturbing, whatever it is. I always come back to it and think, ‘What is happening behind that closed door?’ I can’t remember from reading just the scripts, but I feel like, and I could be just making this up, that we’ll find out. It’s more sinister that we didn’t see it and the writers allowed our imagination to run wild of what that could have been. What speaks to the unpredictability of Quarles is setting up something we’re going to see later. I know reading the scripts, that I didn’t see THAT coming. Some things are premeditated and other things are in the moment.
We can assume that guy tied up was the old owner of that home, right?
ET: I don’t know. I have that question as well. Was he there before or is this someone who made the trip down from Detroit too? Or did Quarles just pick him up on his way into town? I like that it’s vague and honestly I don’t know.
It’s good that you have questions too.
ET: And it could be that I just forgot a detail in the scripts, and I like it when I forget some things because when I watch it on television with the rest of the world then I can go, ‘Oh I forgot about that!’ or I have a real experience as a fan. It’s killing me because I’ve read the scripts but I’m not going to go back, I’m going to wait to see it. [Laughs]
It’s a rare moment in television where you turn to who you’re watching with and say, ‘What the hell are we watching?!’
ET: Or when the door closes and what are those noises coming from that room? It’s very disturbing. [Laughs]
Editor’s Note: This interview took place prior to episode 309, and we have since gotten a more insidious idea of what happened to that poor sap tied up because of what Quarles did at the end of episode 310 “Guy Walks Into A Bar.”
Let’s get some BBQ and visit Noble’s Holler. The introduction of Limehouse was a fascinating entrance. As viewers we tend to hold our breath whenever minorities show up (to use Limehouse’s words) where white supremacy is rampant. What’s your take on Mykelti Williamson’s entrance and how he complicates the fabric of Season 3?
ET: I was over the moon about the introduction of the character and the community. I had read about this community and a couple of other pockets that are similar with different backgrounds, obviously, in that part of the world. I was super-thrilled that they decided to incorporate that community. Limehouse is this great figure. He’s not what you expect and he’s certainly not what I expected if you know the history of Noble’s Holler. In Boyd and Limehouse, two people that historically would never work together or be in cahoots about anything, try to figure out how to deal with this carpetbagger, Quarles. It’s nice to see those characters work through their issues about each other to accomplish the common goal, which is to clean up the town and get this guy out of there. There’s a loyalty to the community at large as opposed to a loyalty just to our own individual communities. I like that very much. I like seeing those actors and characters consciously work through the challenge of that, to obtain the bigger goal to get that guy out of there.
There’s this added detail of Noble’s Holler where it houses these abused white women from their husbands. They can seek refuge and Limehouse uses that by employing them as spies. It just fleshes out that world even more.
ET: Exactly. And it also informs us of how deeply protected those women must have felt to go back to their communities and kind of… betray the community in many ways, to give him information that he needs to proceed for whatever intentions and goals he’s set out.
Seeing Limehouse work both sides was a comfort because this character has never devolved into a one-dimensional element, a pure racial element or black-white conflict.
ET: I don’t think the community would have lasted all of those years if there wasn’t a great politician there. Limehouse is a great politician. He’s smart and sees all the players and how he can benefit from the players. His ultimate goal is to keep his holler safe and keep it off the map. I think he accomplished that because he’s a great diplomat and a great politician in his own way.
Do you think Rachel believes that?
ET: She’s only been up there once. We can assume she’s hearing information about it through the office as this case continues to unfold. She probably has a great respect for what he’s been able to do. Will she have an opportunity to tell him that or see that, we’ll see. But I don’t think she has the ability to separate the marshal from non-marshal Rachel and look at that situation and that man with some admiration.
Let’s talk about your charity, Get on The Bus, which echoes episode 204 “For Blood or For Money,” where you were featured in, which was about Rachel’s nephew being able to see his father who was incarcerated. Get on The Bus helps real kids see their parents who are serving time in jail?
ET: Get on The Bus very close to my heart, it’s an organization where we unite children with their incarcerated mother or father for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and I work with families whose fathers are in the Correctional Training Facility and Salinas Valley State Prison, which are both in Soledad, California. I feel–like the organization feels–that every kid has a right to their parent, regardless of what happened or what circumstances, and it’s a lot of work; six months of planning and we’re doing home visits as we speak, being a small team of people for our particular bus and we try to treat the kids like rock stars that day. This is the only time of the year these kids get to see their dad because it’s six hours away from Los Angeles, which means gas money, hotel room, food and many of them just can’t afford it. So for this one day they get a free trip on a really nice bus with gifts, food, and a great four-hour visit with their dads. They get letters and teddy bears and all sorts of goodies. They get to feel special and they get to be with other kids who are like them for that 18-hour period or however long it takes for them to get there and back. I feel very fortunate to be a part of that team who brings all of these kids from the Southern California.
What is it about charity work that is important for you?
ET: It rounds you out as a human being. It’s something I need personally to make it through and navigate what we do for a living. So much of what we do feels very self-centered and about us, especially when we go to work, there’s nothing we can’t ask for that won’t get or can’t get. In many ways the work that I do on Get on the Bus and the work I do in South Africa or Haiti are ways to keep me grounded. It allows me to give back as opposed to constantly taking which I feel like we do at work because that’s the way it’s constructed. It’s what the actors’ need, but that’s not how the real world works. To take the generosity we get on a daily basis and to give it back in a way that it’s not about me, that it’s about enriching someone else’s life, is hugely rewarding and extremely grounding.
Are there other future projects that you can speak about?
ET: None that I can speak about. [Laughs]
Okay, so that’s a tease.
ET: Yes. [Laughs]
I’m glad to hear we do get more Rachel tonight but am I right to guess that the rest of the season, not so much?
ET: I show up in the season finale. A definite quiet season for her but I hope I make your Do list again. [Laughs]
We’ll keep posting it until we see a trend in your favor. I think we want more of Rachel because we see the potential in what she can be.
ET: That’s the word: potential. There’s so much potential to evolve and revolve and get her involved in what we’re doing.
So were we excited when we heard the news that Justified was picked up for a fourth season?
ET: Yes! Another opportunity! You know, I think about the strike team in The Shield and it took up until season four where they dug into the other half of the team and they really became an instrumental part of those final seasons. It’s that part of me that remains optimistic and hopelessly romantic. I think about those guys showed up and did their work for those first seasons in the capacity they were asked to and the story evolved and became a pivotal part of the major story. I remain hopeful. It’s the heart’s desire for Graham and team to get the Marshal’s office and Rachel more involved in the series.
We thank you for speaking with us, and wish you much luck in the remainder of Justified Season 3, Season 4 and Get on the Bus as well.
ET: Thank you, I appreciate it!
Catch tonight’s episode of Justified on FX at 10pm ET/PT where we will see Rachel working with Gutterson on a case. There are just three more episodes left, so keep it tuned to Buzz Focus for continuing coverage of the best season of Justified. Below is a preview of tonight’s episode.
Pictures courtesy of FX.
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