[This Post Contains Mild Justified season 2 SPOILERS]
We had the chance walk amongst the dusted back roads and wooded hills of the Justified set at the Disney ranch in Santa Clarita, California, and speak with the stars and creators about the development of this innovative, and highly entertaining show.
If you've been watching FX's original concrete Cowboy series, then you will be aware that the writers have been laying the groundwork for an explosive reckoning in the simmering feud between the Givens, Bennett and Crowder families.
If you are unfamiliar with the show, allow us to encourage you to to catch up with this creative and engaging series. With outstanding performances, complex storylines and healthy doses of old-school (yes) justice, Justified will not disappoint.
Take a look at the synopsis below:
"U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is a modern day 19th century-style lawman, enforcing his brand of justice in a way that puts a target on his back with criminals and places him at odds with his bosses in the Marshal service. That conflict results in a reassignment for Givens to the U.S. District covering the town where he grew up. He is an anachronism - a tough, soft spoken gentleman who finds his quarry fascinating, but never gives an inch. Dig under his placid skin and you'll find an angry man who grew up hard in rural Kentucky, with an outlaw father, who knows a lot more about who he doesn't want to be than who he really is. Developed by Graham Yost ("Boomtown," "Speed") and starring Timothy Olyphant ("Damages," "Deadwood"), "Justified" is based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard, including Leonard's short story "Fire in the Hole.""
In between strolls through the back woods of "Harlan County" and lounging in Ava Crowder's front yard as the cast and crew approached the close of production, we had the chance to speak with several of the shows stars, including: Walton Goggins (Boyd Crowder), Jeremy Davies (Dickie Bennett), Margo Martindale (Mags Bennett), Joseph Lyle Taylor (Doyle Bennett), Joelle Carter (Ava Crowder), and the recently-returned-from-the-grave David Meunier (Johnny Crowder).
The bulk of the first season of Justified focused on Raylan adjusting to his exile back home in Kentucky, the friction between the Crowders and the Givens, the power plays within the Crowder clan, and the lifelong resentment between Raylan Givens and his father, Arlo.
The second season introduced a new clan, the Bennett's, into the mix and has seeded a whole new set of external and inter-clan conflicts with this violent and volatile bunch. The show now seems as though it is setting the viewer up for an updated Justified version of the Hatfields vs. The McCoys in which, not two, but three families battle for dominance and seek to balance the blood depts between them.
David Meunier (Johnny Crowder) feels that there is a "good chance" that the show is headed in that direction. "There's still the Bennetts" the actor explained, "and the Givens, and now I come back and so there is that third party that sort of rejuvenates because of what Boyd's done, so it's going to sort of be sort of a three-way."
The introduction of the Bennett clan infused the show with a host of new, dynamic talent. Jeremy Davies (Dickie Bennett) was coming off his time on Lost as the brilliant, vulnerable, and ultimately doomed Daniel Faraday when he sent word to Justified executive producer Graham Yost that he loved the show, and would be thrilled to be a part of it. Yost, as Davies told us, "remembered that, and six months later…"
A large portion of the draw of the series for Davies was the tie to author Elmore Leonard. The actor has been a self-described Leonard fan "since birth." Davies elaborated by saying, "I feel like he’s DNA deep for me. I grew up without television - I guess that’s blasphemous to say now - so I read far too much, and certainly revered Leonard for a long time." The actor went on to say that the respect and admiration for the author goes so deep for the shows creator that "the writers were given bracelets by Graham that say 'What Would Elmore Do?'"
Margo Martindale, who plays Davies' fearsome and powerful mother, Mags Bennett, on the show, also takes her cue from Leonard saying:
"He’s hilarious, because he’s so mean. That’s what I took as my inspiration, the meaner the funnier. I think mean is really funny."
If Mags represents the dualisticly nurturing yet devouring mother, and calculating clan leader, then Joelle Carter's Ava Crowder is the strait shooting, in-the-moment survivor of the show. Carter explained that she adores that her character is designed that way, saying:
"Eva is a survivor of the moment, that beating or that day, it's kind of like that’s how it happens for her. [For her it's] 'I’m in love right now, I just am. I’m not going to analyze it, I’m not going to think about it, I’m just going to be in love.' So she really lives life with her heart on her sleeve."
Though Justified has a wealth of rich characters, the heart of the series for many rests in the relationship between Walton Goggins' Boyd Crowder and Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens. The two are two sides of a (deadly) coin, or oddly-shaped puzzle pieces that inexplicably fit together. Certainly within the world of the show, these two characters need one another. As Goggins theorized:
Ambiguity, is in fact "Boyd's weapon of choice" as Goggins told us. Boyd's character arc and storylines are among the most engaging on this, or any other series currently on television. As a southerner who had grown tired of the constant stereotyping of those from the south as racist and/or stupid, it was important to Goggins that his character be smart. Far more than just smart, Boyd is complex, layered and fascinating to watch. One is really never certain if he is sincere or simply playing a mind game on Raylan, the world, and perhaps even himself. "Well I mean he's a Svengali, you know," Goggins explains.
"He's a showman, and Boyd, the old Boyd, needed a stage on which to perform. The marquee changed, but the show didn't. It was a different message, but 'hey look at me, look at me,' you know? And now the man - that hopefully we're trying to architect - is not saying 'look at me, because I want to be seen,' but [rather] 'listen to me, because I have something worth saying,' and that's a big difference. It's a really big difference. It's going to be about sort of integrating those two sides and coming to grips with who he is and not looking at his faults as demons, but rather as assets. And I don't think that he will be a man on either end of the spectrum anymore, but he will be a man in balance, in the center."
As Boyd becomes a man at his center, he will reengage in the fight for supremacy between the criminal under-lords of this little corner of Kentucky, and once again face off against Raylan on opposite sides of the law. As far as the confrontation between the three clans goes, as Margo Martindale (Mags Bennett) tells us, the bloodshed between the Givins and the Bennetts has a long and storied history.
"Originally, there was something in there that when I was young I ran moonshine for Raylan’s grandfather, so we made a lot of money, I’d go over to another county, outside of Lexington, and we made money doing that so we were chums. The feud came back into big play when Arlo (Givins, Raylan's father) killed my husband."
When a blood feud and history of violence combines with the wanton ambition of Mag's mercurial and...intellectually-challenged sons, a recipe for a collision of magnificent force is primed.
"The whole thing is about to blow up right now," Joseph Lyle Taylor (Doyle Bennett) relayed. "You know, we're down to it as it were. Yeah, it's getting ugly," the actor continued, laughingly, "It's pretty big. But you'll have to tune in. I can't tell you."
We certainly will.
Justified airs Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.
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