'Justified': Timothy Olyphant Is a Man With a Gun ... Again

As a "Deadwood" fan, I was happy to just see Tim Olyphant working on a TV series and doubly happy to head back to Santa Clarita to watch him do it. The first time I went to the "Deadwood" set, I saw the scene in the first-season finale where Olyphant's Seth Bullock gets his sheriff's badge. This time, he was just having a conversation, albeit one that might endanger his current U.S. Marshals badge.

The more things change ...

'Justified' finds its old Kentucky home ... in California

Justified_Timothy_Olyphant.jpgSet in an 1870s mining camp in the Dakotas - but shot on a ranch in Santa Clarita, Calif., about 30 miles north of Los Angeles - "Deadwood" starred Timothy Olyphant as a Stetson- and gun-belt-wearing marshal with a big mustache, a short fuse and a propensity for killing people in the first episode.


In FX's "Justified," premiering Tuesday, March 16, Olyphant plays a Stetson- and gun-holster-wearing 21st-century U.S. marshal with sort of a goatee, a short fuse and a propensity for killing people in the first episode.


Oh, and it films in studios perched on top of a hill in ... Santa Clarita , Calif. (except for the pilot, which shot in western Pennsylvania ).


To be fair, except for the whole hat, marshal, gun and Santa Clarita thing, Olyphant is the main element the shows have in common. Well, there are also appearances by "Deadwood" alumni Ray McKinnon and Brent Sexton and, on this particular day on the set, resplendent in an orange jumpsuit, fellow alumnus W. Earl Brown.


Based on a short story called "Fire in the Hole" by novelist Elmore Leonard ("Hombre," "Get Shorty," "3:10 to Yuma"), and adapted by head writer Graham Yost ("Boomtown," "Band of Brothers," "The Pacific"), "Justified" casts Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a man whose "shoot to kill" philosophy had landed him in hot water and back home in Harlan, Ky.


"I'm a big fan of Elmore for years and years," Olyphant says. "I always thought it would be great to get my hands on those stories. I was very hopeful that the show was going to be as special as it sounded. I knew a little bit about Graham. I knew his work. I was very excited about that ingredient as well."


In the scene at hand, Givens and his boss, Chief Deputy Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), are answering for some questionable things in Givens' personal life. As with many things in Givens' personal life, the incidents eventually link back to local bad boy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins, "The Shield").


See, although Boyd is a bank robber, a white supremacist and a general ne'er-do-well, he and Givens have a history, having grown up and dug coal together. The two clash in the pilot, and Givens draws his gun, but since Goggins is doing nine of the 13 first-season episodes, the "shoot to kill" edict seems more optional than Givens originally admits.


"He's amazing," says Yost about Goggins, "and he's just a great guy. There had to be charm in Boyd. We knew with Boyd, going in, that who we cast was critical for the success of the pilot, therefore getting it to become a series. So his casting was really instrumental.


"To that extent, we owed him to keep him around, because without him, we wouldn't be on the air."


"What's so interesting about the pilot for me," Goggins says, "and one of the reasons I wantedJustified_Walton_Goggins.jpg to get involved, I think these two men are cut from the same piece of cloth. They're two acorns that fell from the same tree, but one went in one direction, and the other went in the other direction.

"They're not dissimilar. They're both running from things in their past."


You might think that, having been shot by Raylan, Boyd might be angry and bitter, might want revenge. You might think that, if you've only seen the pilot.


"You have no idea what you're in for," Goggins says. "This is really interesting. The Boyd Crowder that you meet in the pilot will not be the Boyd Crowder that you meet in episode two.


"There is a massive transformation in this person's life based on the events in the pilot, because he got shot. That humbles a man, absolutely. I think you will see a new type of man that is the man of God.


"Boyd Crowder, he exists in extremes. This is not a gray man by any stretch of the imagination. The pendulum will definitely swing in the other direction. It's going to be a wild ride for fans of 'The Shield' and also for fans of this show, to see what Boyd does."


On a practical level, Yost faces the challenge of making Santa Clarita - a land of tan rolling hills dotted with scrub and live oaks on the edge of the high desert - believable as Kentucky .


As to how he's going to match the lush green look of the pilot, Yost says, "We don't. I'll just tell you, we don't. What we do, hopefully, is match the character and the writing and the style."


Reminded that Kentucky is horse country, Yost says, "We got this place for one episode, this fabulous estate in Malibu that looks Kentucky-ish ... no, it doesn't. But it has the riding ring and the horses. People just go with the story."