Fans and FX might not be ready for Justified to go, but the cast and crew are.
The network confirmed Tuesday at the Television Critics Association winter previews that the drama, based on Elmore Leonard's "Fire in the Hole" short story, will end after its sixth season next year — a decision creator and executive producer Graham Yost and star Timothy Olyphant came to after a "long conversation."
FX TCA news: Michael Cera cast in Charlie Kaufman comedy pilot
"A lot of it was just figuring out how much story we have left," Yost told reporters. "Our biggest concern telling these stories is that we don't run out of stories and start repeating ourselves. We found doing this season — you might think it's easier with four seasons behind us ... but the thing is we learn more about what we don't do too so we're not going back on story. ... It just sort of felt as we talked it out — this was a long conversation ... there were financial incentives to keep going , but it really felt, in terms of the story of Raylan Givens in Kentucky, six years felt about right."
Justified will of course have to cross the finish line without Leonard, who died in August as the show was prepping the current fifth season, which centers around the Crowes, one of the author's favorite families, and takes place in two of his favorite settings, Florida and Detroit. "Every episode we try to do is a tribute to Elmore Leonard," Yost said. "We were thinking 'This is going to be fun. Elmore's going to get a big kick out of that.' And then he died."
Justified: 6 things to know about Season 5
The loss hit Walton Goggins particularly hard one day when was having trouble with a scene and saw Leonard's chair, which is kept in front of the monitor in tribute. "There was one scene I couldn't get it right. I was really tired and I said, 'F--- it! I'm gonna sit down in your chair, Elmore,'" he said. "It was for a lack of a better word ... it was very special and very comforting. When it's all said and done, we will be a small piece of cloth in Elmore's coat. ... It's a big deal at the end of your life to say you were part of a literary giant's career."
Still, Olyphant doesn't feel his death "hanging" over the show. "I loved the man. He's going to be greatly missed," he said. "I feel blessed to be able to do the show and that he got a kicked out of it. I feel lucky to have known the man."
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.