Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens' signature Stetson isn't the only hat Timothy Olyphant wears on the Justified set in Santa Clarita, California. He's got his proverbial producer's cap on as he peers at a monitor and shakes his head.
"Shouldn't she drop the bottle?" Olyphant wonders aloud after watching a scene play out live. There's a discussion, and the note gets relayed to the actress in question. Later, in front of his trailer, he says, "We'll see if it works. I came in a little late."
Executive producer Graham Yost laughs after hearing the story. "Oh, yeah, he really earns that producer money," he says, adding that he's yet to hear any complaints about his star's hands-on approach. "Tim's always unfailingly polite. He'll say, 'If I may....' Very respectful."
Unlike the actor, the good deputy is a little less polite in Season 4 of the FX drama, shoving mouthy bail-jumpers into his trunk and knocking down 13-year-old punks dumb enough to point a gun at him — and that's just in the first two episodes. As the season's main storyline unfolds, big players that Raylan's had the displeasure of dealing with — including Detroit mob boss Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin), former friend Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and the FBI — will converge in the deep, dark hills of eastern Kentucky to search for Drew Thompson, a longtime missing person with a mysterious connection to Raylan's imprisoned dad, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry).
Yost explains that the writers based the arc on the true story of Andrew Thornton II, a crooked Kentucky cop whose death blew open a narcotics operation from the 1970s and '80s that came to be known locally as the Bluegrass Conspiracy. "We just put a spin on it," Yost says. On Justified, the perp is still breathing.
The switch to a season-long mystery came from the creative team's desire to get away from such memorable villains as Mags Bennett (Emmy winner Margo Martindale) and Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), a move Olyphant heartily agrees with. "Don't give the people what they want," he says with a wink. "Give the people what they don't know they want."
This season, Raylan's complex relationship with Boyd will undergo a shift from occasionally amiable antagonism to something resembling predator and prey — though Yost isn't telling which of those roles Raylan and Boyd will be playing. Says Olyphant, "You don't want to just keep doing the same scene over and over again just 'cause it works." When people tell him they'd be content simply to watch an hour of Boyd and Raylan jawing at a table, Olyphant quickly points out the flaw in such a concept. "I appreciate the compliment, but that's just not true," he says. "There would come a point, probably sooner than you realize, where you would go, 'This is boring.'"
It doesn't seem much of a leap to assume that Olyphant, 44, would be gunning to add "director" to his list of titles. But it turns out that's the last thing he wants. "Psh," he says mock dismissively, noting he'd miss the collaboration with each episode's director. "And," he adds, "I wouldn't get to go home early."
That's important to the married father of three. Raylan is headed toward fatherhood, too, but don't expect the littlest Givens to pop out anytime soon, since the actress who plays mother-to-be Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) is busy with Fox's The Following.
Though Raylan was originally conceived by author Elmore Leonard as a divorced father of two, the producers decided early on against bringing in kids. "Nobody likes kids around the set," Olyphant says. "People ask, 'When's the show gonna end?' When the kids come in." In that case, here's hoping for a record-long pregnancy.
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.