In the Pilot episode of Justified, we were introduced to Ava (Joelle Carter), a sultry survivor who was swept up by the lead character, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). After having her heart broken, Ava found an unlikely romance with baddie Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Their romance prospered in Season 3 and Ava continued to raise eyebrows, proving she is no longer playing the victim and is a force to be reckon with by supporting Boyd with unconditional love and faith while exhibiting a penchant for criminal activity. Before the season’s penultimate episode “Coalition” aired, BuzzFocus spoke with Joelle about her character’s development, the maelstrom of Season 3, and what the future holds for the actress and Ava Crowder. We also found out that it’s Joelle’s real charm that comes through, that she is having a blast playing her, and she is slowly but surely working on mastering the art of frying chicken like Ava.
This season Ava has gotten more mobile carrying out Boyd’s orders and is a different set of eyes and negotiator. When she has come face-to-face with Raylan it’s been mostly on her terms as opposed to him dropping by all of the time. How pleased are you in not only how much her character has changed since the pilot, but the pacing at which it was done?
Joelle Carter: While in it at first, I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m not getting enough to do and my character is not developing enough.” When I look back at it, the slow progressive character arc build was really earned. People really embraced it because of the journey she’s taken has been so slow. They’ve been able to take it with her. I kind of appreciate it now.
I’ve noticed a change in the wardrobe for Ava too, lots of leather this season. Was there some thought behind this or was it simply to show that the seasons have changed.
JC: Some of the episodes they put me in an outfit and it wasn’t decided if the next two episodes were going to be continuations of that day and I was stuck [Laughs] I was stuck in my coat for I think three episodes. [Laughs]
I think we wanted to start seeing her evolve in wardrobe also. I think it’s important she pulled some of this stuff from her wardrobe but stepping up to be a businesswoman in a sense with Boyd and not just a love partner.
I believe that there was fine line between Helen Givens and Mags Bennet, When I watch the show with my wife she calls you the new Mags.
JC:She’s hot! I like that!
I tend to see Ava more like Helen because you’re more of an accomplice than an organizer of crime. As the story progresses do you feel like Ava is headed one way or the other?
JC:I would say she’s more of a mix but probably more towards Mags. Although I do think that Ava is a product of her company and environment, I think Helen only took being a part of the business when she needed the money. I don’t think she really took part of the activities with Arlo; she just reaped the benefits.
How many takes did you get to swing that frying pan at Kevin Rankin (who plays Devil)?
JC:[Snickering] I hit poor Kevin in the nose. [Laughs] I hit him, I just nicked him in the nose. There were a couple of different frying pans. There was a real one that I carried around doing the scene. When I did the actual swing or they were shooting me swinging it was a rubber pan, and I hit him with the rubber pan. [Sounding very apologetic] And they do this all the time but they kept telling me, ‘You can get closer.’ Then Kevin was like, she really hit me–she’s pretty close. [Laughs] But how many takes? Each angle probably two or three takes.
That’s funny because I was going to ask next if you made contact.
JC:I did, I nicked his nose and then I buried myself in him and hugged him and said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.” [Laughs]
It seems like bad things happen whenever Ava cooks, why is that?
JC:Cause she’s such a good cook, it’s a way to camouflage her violent nature [Laughs]
That’s part of her method, right?
JC:Her charm. [Laughs]
Now, do you actually make great fried chicken?
JC:Great? I love eating great fried chicken, but I haven’t quite mastered making it. My friend taught me a method where you fry it really quick and then bake it so you don’t quite deep-fry it, so it’s not so bad for you, although I think people in the south will crucify me for saying that.
I had to wonder because Ava boasts about her killer fried chicken.
JC:I have some great southerner recipes but I haven’t mastered the frying stuff yet. I always try fried okra and burn it. It’s so embarrassing because my grandma is a great fried okra cooker.
One of the surprises this season is that Ava takes over the prostitutes from Delroy. She flat out murders him and then lets Boyd figure out how to cover it up. Nothing is ever just swept under the rug, we can assume this is going to haunt Ava.
JC:The Delroy stuff? I think it might come back to haunt all of them. [Laughs] It was such a big part of Boyd’s business because he was one of the people he took money from for protection and everything else so I think it weighs heavy on the other customers a little bit.
Is there a reason that Ava hasn’t let the girls go because she was so against being a part of prostitution, or does Boyd basically tell her that they need the money?
JC:I think it’s a good money source for them but Ava told Boyd that “Someone else is going to come in, so why not us?” It’s a great source to launder other business ventures.
For all of the shippers out, you’ve been able to play out a romance in each of the seasons of Justified, can you talk about how that has played out and maybe your favorite Ava-Boyd moment of Season 3?
JC:I guess when Raylan met Ava she was a victim and she was kind of in shock. She ran into these perfectly wonderful arms and what looked like a great picture. All she wanted was out of Kentucky. She went on and he broke her heart and was forced to go back to her home to Harlan and she realized that “I’m becoming a part of this land. This is where I belong. This is where I’m going to prevail.” When she stood up and started becoming a woman, I was really inside of her. She realizes that, ‘This is my place, this is my place in life right now and I need to stand on my own two feet and make something of it.’ Her and Boyd have that slow progression, a sort of rekindling in Season 2. I always say that Boyd was probably in love with Ava when she was with his brother and never spoke up. They got to reunite with each other as different people. They were both growing, and entered new bodies and identities and they did it together which was really nice. Their love story to me–it makes me gush. Two people from the wrong side of the tracks find new love and onscreen it’s all I could want and I love being a part of it.
And my favorite scene of this season between them is when Ava has to tell Boyd about Delroy [Laughs] because we (Walton and I) were both talking about wanting this to be a conversation between Boyd and Ava like,
Boyd: We need to figure out where Delroy fits this in our goals.
Ava: Oh yeah, I murdered this guy and buried him. [Laughs]
JC:I love how proud Walton (was in that scene), how he played it, kind of surprised, “This girl is even more than I realized.” I like that they keep shocking each other. They keep learning about themselves and in the meantime about each other.
How much do you and Walton prepare on your scenes together, have the two of you talked amongst yourselves at what has brought these two characters so close?
JC:Sometimes we’ll randomly discuss our storyline and talk about a scene we’ve seen in the beginning stages of writing and what we hope for, but mostly the set is where stuff come alive in the moment for us.
Has this relationship some new opportunities to really explore a character?
JC:Oh yes, definitely. In the beginning of season 2 when they told me that Boyd is going to be staying with Ava, I was like, wait, what happened? [Laughs] As the writers don’t really know what’s going to happen and where it’s going to go, you have to go with it and justify it (for the lack of a better term) along the way. It has shown me how if you go with these sharp turns great things can happen. You can really find some great character building points.
Boyd has been incredibly protective of Ava, In this week’s episode 312 “Coalition” Ava volunteers to do a recon job for him and asks her if she’s okay with this. Then he pulls her back from the mission. Then he suspects something went wrong with Arlo, it was surprising that Boyd abandoned the heist and runs to Ava first, to see if she’s okay. Maybe this is a love story first than it is Boyd trying to figure out his path in life.
JC:You know what I like about what’s been happening is that I feel like they shove Ava out of the way for protection a little bit but he does come back to her and it’s showing who these two characters can really trust in life. And it’s come down to just the two of them. Everyone else is either gone away in the back or has done them wrong in some way. These two aren’t going to falter in that category. They’re going to be there for each other no matter what.
I really love the scene when I come into the bar to show my scar mostly because it was about Ava just saying, “I believe in you in this moment more than you do.” And it’s the only moment that Boyd really shows his fear or his weakness and it was just to Ava and nobody else.
That was one of the stronger moments of the season; it was such a powerful moment. How much went into that scene and how much were you looking forward to performing that scene?
JC:We really did. They added it in after they shot the episode and I called (writer) Fred (Golan) and said thank you so much because it was so important for my character’s arc and for their storyline. It shows Ava going “Look, Boyd. I know what I’m getting in to. Don’t try to protect me from being a part of this. I already am a part of this,” and his acceptance of that moment was… sweet.
I spoke with Erica Tazel a few weeks ago and she spoke about being able to get background on her character from the book Raylan. How much do you get to interact with the writers because that has to be tough when you’re trying to define and shape your performance only knowing so much?
JC:It is. I think because they work out in the beginning (of each season), the skeleton of how the whole show is going to be, they know it’s going to change drastically. The whole process is that. It’s what helps develop a show; you’re open to any ideas that come into the whim or in the moment or a dream, wherever they come from. [Laughs] They try to help you out as much as they can with them and you knowing it’s potentially going to change. For the pilot, I read the short story by Elmore Leonard and it helped me immensely. It’s right after the fact that she murdered her husband. This is Ava, and I had to be alive in her right after she met Raylan, know their history, who she is now and what she had gone through. So it helped a lot.
With every conversation between Ava and Raylan, she seems more confident. Do you think that Ava believes she’s good enough to manipulate Raylan?
JC:I think Ava thinks she’s good enough to manipulate anyone. [Laughs] Even before Ava found her newfound strength, I knew they’re always going to have a thing and I think he really does care about her and doesn’t like to see her going to the dark side so to speak. But she knows he’s not all innocent either.
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