'Justified': Mykelti Williamson on what makes 'a real bad guy'
The scene was actually the second one Williamson ("24," "Boomtown," "Forrest Gump") shot -- you'll see his first, a charged exchange with Walton Goggins, in Tuesday's (Jan. 31) episode. So much for easing into the new role.
"It was a little scary to shoot [the introductory scene] because I was the new guy. The FNG, they call it -- Freakin' New Guy," Williamson tells Zap2it. "So it was a lot to live up to."
Consider the first test passed: Williamson made an indelible impression as Ellstin Limehouse, the man in charge of an African-American hamlet in Harlan County called Noble's Holler. Viewers will find out more about how he fits into the show's world beginning with this week (it has at least something to do with Mags Bennett's money), but it's already clear that you don't really want to cross Mr. Limehouse.
"The best villains don't see themselves as villains -- they think everyone else is the problem," Williamson says. "That's the approach, to not play it like Snidely Whiplash [he does a cartoonish evil laugh]. That's not a real bad guy. A real bad guy, they're motivated by love and fear. So it's a matter of finding out what you're afraid of, your character, and then what you're passionate about and willing to do anything for."
What Limehouse is passionate about, Williamson says, is preserving his home. While the character views his relations with white folks as "cordial," he also doesn't want any outsiders coming in and trying to change things.
"Ellstin Limehouse is a businessman -- he's a banker. He keeps money, illegal money, for the whites in the black holler," Williamson explains. "Because after dark, no one dares come into the black holler, because folks have been known to disappear. You can't find eyes, teeth, nothing -- not even a wristwatch that belongs to a person who dares to come across the bridge without permission."
In terms of his business dealings, Williamson says Limehouse isn't much different from the banker at your local branch, "except he's in the back woods."
"He doesn't charge fees, but there is a cost for doing business," he says. "He just doesn't call it a fee."
"Justified" airs at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday on FX.