Justified: City Primeval showrunners explain how the sequel came about

Justified: City Primeval
Timothy Olyphant

Justified: City Primeval showrunners Dave Andron and Michael Dinner were just as surprised as the fans were to learn that Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) would be returning to the world of Justified.

Justified: City Primeval is the much anticipated reboot of the FX two-time Emmy winning Justified which aired from 2010 through 2015. 

The limited series based on Elmore Leonard’s novel City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, stars Olyphant, reprising his role as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. The series, which is set in Detroit, was filmed in Chicago through last August, and also did some location filming in Detroit and will stream sometime in the summer of 2023 on FX. 

It seems that we can thank Quentin Tarantino for bringing back the character and the next chapter in his life. Showrunner Michael Dinner explained to Entertainment Weekly exactly how all the pieces fell into place:

“We thought we ended it well, and we thought we were done. We thought we rode it into the sunset, and some series, you don’t get to do that — they pull a plug and you don’t get to feel a sense of completion and you regret the fact that you couldn’t end it the right way. We thought we did. We never intended to go back into the waters. But there was this book, City Primeval, which is kind of a crown jewel of Elmore Leonard’s work. It was his first Detroit crime novel and that kicked off his becoming the preeminent writer of American crime fiction.”

“A lot of people had wanted to make this book before. It almost got made by [Sam] Peckinpah years ago as a movie, and [Quentin] Tarantino wanted to make it as a movie, and a lot of people wanted to play with it in television, streaming or cable. We had a great experience doing Justified, and some years later Elmore’s son had approached me about doing it as its own thing. I’d always loved the book, we always referenced it when we were in the writers’ room on the original series, and so that was the intention: It was going to be its own thing.”

“And then one day the phone rang and it was Tim Olyphant who said, ‘I’ve been sitting on the set with Quentin, and we were talking about this book, City Primeval. We thought it would make a great year of Justified.’ So we started kicking around the idea, and FX was into it. It was very complicated to put together because the rights situation was a little murky — part of the rights belonged to the estate, part belonged to MGM which was going to make this movie several times, and it took a while to get it going, but then we did.”

“We had a great time for seven years on this show, and so the real intention was what if we did a long movie, a limited series, that’s not really trying to go back for the past with Justified, but to do a mashup between this book and this character that we loved, and not to revisit the past as much as we looked at this character as if he had three chapters in his life, and this is the second chapter. We catapulted him into this story, and Dave and I like to say that the road in front of him is a lot shorter than the road behind. He’s at a state in his life where he is this walking anachronism, and can this guy survive in a world that’s not the same world that he’s used to? And the world’s changed politically, sociologically, and he’s changed as a man, and that’s where we find him.”

Tarantino was originally among the original executive producers on the show and it was even rumored that he would direct an episode but even though he can be partly credited as setting the project in motion, he has since exited the venture. 


The limited series, produced by Sony Pictures Television and FX Productions, is based loosely on the book, described as follows:

Having left the hollers of Kentucky eight years ago, Raylan Givens now lives in Miami, a walking anachronism balancing his life as a U.S. Marshal and part-time father of a 14-year-old girl. His hair is grayer, his hat is dirtier, and the road in front of him is suddenly a lot shorter than the road behind. A chance encounter on a desolate Florida highway sends him to Detroit.

There he crosses paths with Clement Mansell, aka The Oklahoma Wildman, a violent, sociopathic desperado who’s already slipped through the fingers of Detroit’s finest once and aims to do so again.  Mansell’s lawyer, formidable Motor City native Carolyn Wilder, has every intention of representing her client, even as she finds herself caught in between cop and criminal, with her own game afoot as well. These three characters set out on a collision course in classic Elmore Leonard fashion, to see who makes it out of the City Primeval alive.

Olyphant campaigned for his real life daughter Vivian Olyphant to play his on screen daughter Willa Givens and showrunner Dave Andron told Entertainment Weekly that was “pretty fun.”

“We were horrified when Tim was like, “I’m going to put my daughter on tape for the role of my daughter.” And we were like, “This is a no-win. This is brutal. If it’s not good, what are we going to do?” And she was great. They had a ball doing it, and it was a lot of fun. It took about eight minutes on set for her to say, “Dad, stop. Don’t give me notes. Don’t tell me what to do.”

Dinner continued, “They brought their own baggage to it, which was good, and it was interesting to watch. She would take little polls of who was the crew’s favorite Olyphant on the set.”

It should be noted that the results of those polls are “classified.”

Olyphant serves as Executive Producer with Carl Beverly, VJ Boyd, Taylor Elmore, Peter Leonard, Chris Provenzano, Sarah Timberman, and Graham Yost. Producers include Cami Patton, Jim Sodini, Dave Andron, Eisa Davis, and Michael Dinner, who also directs with Jon Avnet.

The FX limited-series spinoff arrives this summer 2023.