Joelle Carter and Natalie Zea
As if Justified's Raylan Givens doesn't have enough to worry about. In addition to trying to defend some pesky on-the-job shootings, he's also up to his knees in trouble with the ladies.
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Ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) has recruited Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) to look into her new husband's shady business dealings, and he's sure to dig up some old feelings as well as secrets. But what does that mean for his brewing romance with Ava (Joelle Carter)?
"This certainly is not a traditional triangle," Zea tells TVGuide.com. "I think the writers have been really smart about how to handle these particular characters and how they relate to each other. I think to make Winona the jealous ex-wife would be diminishing the depth and the layers that they're giving her. I enjoy the lack of animosity between these two girls."
The ladies, who crossed paths briefly a few episodes back, have another chance meeting in Tuesday's episode (10/9c on FX), which finds Raylan on the hunt for someone he believes is targeting Ava. The women exchange a few words about Raylan's past.
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"They both share a past with Raylan, but they're different pasts," Carter says. "Winona probably knows a more grown-up side of Raylan, but she doesn't know his history as a child and what makes him the man that he is. There's a mystery that hasn't been revealed to Winona yet, and I think that's one of the reasons they broke up. I believe Ava has more of a sense of where some of Raylan's demons come from because she grew up in the same area. They share a similar bond."
Adds Zea: "I think each woman is struggling to know what the other one knows. I think that it's cache for both of them; each one of them has a currency the other one doesn't have."
What both women offer Raylan is an escape from his high-stress job. "The women in his life expose a vulnerability that you don't see in the rest of the show," Carter says. "It lets him relax. What makes Raylan a great Marshal is that by nature he's a great protector. This is really attractive to Ava. She's comfortable with him and lets him be comfortable with her."
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"When Raylan and Winona get together even as ex-spouses, I think there's a lightness to the scenes and to the relationship that gives Raylan a moment to let his guard down," Zea says. "She calls him on his bulls--t when no one else will. She knows it all, there's nothing to hide from her. So, he realizes it's wasted energy to put on the swagger and the look."
Who will he end up with? Zea says it's out of his hands. "I think the conflict with Winona is less about dealing with her and more about the balance of wanting to be with her but wanting to respect the idea that she doesn't want to be with him," Zea says. "I don't know that he can even consciously do that, but I think he's trying to walk the line. He's not denying the fact that he's still in love with her. But he also realizes that is not where she's at."