TV's 'Justified' might not film in Kentucky, but its stories are firmly rooted in state

Timothy Olyphant plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on Justified.
Timothy Olyphant plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on Justified.

If Justified star and co-executive producer Timothy Olyphant had his way, the Kentucky-based series actually would film some in the Bluegrass State.

"I would love to do it, if it were up to me. I would be there," said Olyphant, right, who talked to the Herald-Leader on Thursday and acknowledged the beige, non-Bluegrass hills that often appear out car windows on the show.

"We could do better driving scenes. We could save a lot of money in post (production) because we wouldn't have to get rid of the palm trees," he said.

Whether or not the fictionalized version of Harlan County continues to look like Southern California, Olyphant is bringing U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens back to the smoldering small screen Tuesday for a fourth season of Justified on FX. Raylan is known for his quick gun, big hat, tight pants and never-ending itch for trouble and troubled women. The Elmore Leonard character was born and raised in Kentucky and came home after his shoot-from-the-hip style got him in trouble with his superiors in Miami one time too many. His home-base is Lexington, with occasional references to real streets like Tates Creek Road.

Olyphant said show runners have found some inspiration from Kentucky-centric stories and from folks they have been in touch with in the Bluegrass since the series began. "We steal from whoever and wherever we can to try put the best story out there," he said. And, he said, Leonard's work continues to be a source of plot and character development.

So where is Raylan heading next?

The Justified website offers this glimpse into the coming season: "Raylan unravels a 30-year old cold case and a riddle that echoes all the way back to his boyhood and his father."

The video trailer for the fourth season is all dark and atmospheric, with plenty of shootings, yet another investigation into Raylan's rogue behavior, a tent revival, talk of false prophets and the continued interplay between Raylan and childhood-friend-turned-nemisis Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Olyphant was tight-lipped when talking about how the two would cross paths this season.

"You are not going to get through the season without them hooking up," he said, adding, "We didn't want to have the same scene over and over.

"When we sit down and try to concoct these things, we are looking for the unexpected."

With the death of mountain matriarch Mags Bennett (played in an Emmy-winning performance by Margo Martindale) at the end of the second season, last season saw new villains came to Harlan from Detroit to try, with mixed results, to make inroads in the hills and hollers.

There was also Limehouse, (Mykelti Williamson) a steely-souled protector of a holler where black families have made their homes for generations. Williamson, unrecognizable from his best-known role as Bubba in Forrest Gump, will be a factor in the fourth season, Olyphant said

This year, he said, the villains will be mostly home-grown.

"We really made a choice to stick with what we had in the bullpen this year," he said. "We will be seeing more of Boyd Crowder and his crew.

"We made a decision not to bring too many people in. We just had so many people at our disposal."

There is a stable of quality guest stars coming through this season, he said, but actor-comedian Patton Oswalt as Constable Bob stands out among the talented crowd, he said.

There might be a softer side shown with Raylan becoming a baby daddy with ex-wife and sometime girlfriend Winona (Natalie Zea). But, Olyphant said, don't expect any kind of extended Beaver Cleaver moments. Olyphant said that in his experience, the trouble of dealing with a young child on the set generally outweighs the benefits.

And, he said, he doesn't expect Raylan's impending fatherhood to make him nostalgic and reflective about his own twisted relationship with his currently incarcerated father, Arlo.

"I think Raylan makes an effort not to deal with those kind of things," said Olyphant. "That's what makes Raylan, Raylan."

Still, he said, he knows that Justified offers him a chance to shine before the camera and help shape what happens behind it.

And, for that, he's grateful.

"This is as about as good as it gets in show business."

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