Justified: City Primeval showrunners say Olyphant’s character could die

Timothy Olyphant (Chuck Hodes/FX )

After Justified concluded 7 years ago, showrunners Dave Andron and Michael Dinner were under the impression the show had reached its conclusion, but after star of the series Timothy Olyphant happened to chat with Quentin Tarantino about the book City Primeval, the new limited series Justified: City Primeval brought back Olyphant’s character for the next chapter in his life.

“You’re not going to recognize anyone — the world, the relationships,” Olyphant told Entertainment Weekly. “I just don’t think you’re going to see what’s coming. On one hand, I really missed the cast from the original series, and on the other hand, I was so in awe and honored to work with the cast on this one.”

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 July on FX. 

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.

“For all intents and purposes, as far as I’m concerned, we are doing a new show,” Andron told Entertainment Weekly. “Sure, we have Raylan — we knew that was money in the bank — and we have [author] Elmore’s book, but we had to create this whole new world for him to be in, this whole new cast of characters.” He added, “I was just trying to make sure we didn’t f**k it up. We understood that we ended the show really well the first time around, so we didn’t take the plane back up lightly.”

Dinner explained how much they enjoyed the book, “It’s kind of a gem in Elmore Leonard’s collection. This is kind of the granddaddy for Raylan’s character, in a way,” Dinner said. “We didn’t intend to reboot Justified, we didn’t intend to pick up where we left off, but we thought it would be interesting to, what I call, ‘do a mashup.’ What if we took our character and dropped him into the middle of this story, and yet pay homage to a character that was in the book and also do service to the book? It wasn’t so much trying to recapture the past, but to recapture the feeling that we had working together in the past, so we took Raylan and put him into this story.”

Olyphant explained that a lot has changed since the original series, “He’s older. That’s the thing I notice most often,” Olyphant told Entertainment Weekly, “There’s less desire to run.”

“He’s older and wiser, but he’s still got it,” Dinner explained. “He has about five years before there’s a mandatory retirement in the Marshal service, so he’s coming to the end of that life. The road in front of this guy is a lot shorter than the road behind. We’re dealing with this next chapter of his life — we did Justified for six or seven years, and that was kind of like Act 1. This is Act 2 of his life, and it’s an existential story.”

“His parenting is not one of his strong suits,” Olyphant said. “Now my kids might tell you, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly the same as in real life.’ But I’d like to think I have a slight edge. This kid is, like Raylan, getting older, and how many chances is he going to get to be able to be in her life as she gets older? And at what point do you not drop everything to put the thrill of going to hunt somebody down and realize what’s in front of you is pretty great? That gets tough.”

Olyphant’s real life daughter Vivian Olyphant plays his on screen daughter Willa Givens.

“A lot of the themes of Justified were about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the generational curse that gets handed down with violent tendencies, or tendencies towards anger,” Dinner added. “Those things only really start to emerge when your kid ends up in their teen years, and that is when you really start to realize what’s been passed on. I think that was interesting to us, the notion of how much of this is being passed on to Willa.”

Olyphant touched on how it was working with his daughter, “This opportunity came up to audition and she didn’t have any plans for the summer — she was looking for a summer job, so this seemed like it was one of the better options for her,” Olyphant said, “She won the lottery on that one. But as soon as she got the job, I was concerned we’d all made a terrible mistake. I’d raised her and I thought this hopefully will be easier than that — the time commitment was shorter, so that I thought was an upside. But quite honestly, it was wonderful, better than I could have expected. I loved working with her.”

Vivian was too young to have watched the original series and still hasn’t. “My dad never really wanted us to watch the stuff that he was in,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I did go to set — I remember the last day when they were ending the series and there was a sundae ice cream situation going on. I remember the ice cream!”

When she heard about the revival from her father and that they were looking to cast someone to play his daughter, she was very excited to get the chance to audition. “I was in my freshman year of college, my parents came in to visit me, and we worked on the audition together which was really fun. We ran the lines so many times that I was sleeping in my dorm and my roommate told me that I was sleep-talking my lines.”

Olyphant expressed how proud he is of his daughter. “I mean, people roll their eyes when you hear that, but I saw her work really hard, and I was impressed,” he said. “I don’t think anyone was a fan of the idea when it first came up. I think everybody thought, ‘Oh, Jesus.’ But she made quite an impression.”

Willa Givens isn’t the only new character to come into the Justified universe. Boyd Holbrook joined the Justified world as Clement Mansell, City Primeval’s villain. “Well, we went and got another Boyd, so that helped us,” Timothy says. “I love that dude. It’s definitely a different vibe.”

Holbrook actually comes from “the hollers of Kentucky” himself, much like Raylan and Boyd, the villain from the original Justified who was played by Walton Goggins. “I was very reluctant to ever see [Justified] because I didn’t know if it’s just another Beverly Hillbillies sort of thing, but my mom was such a huge fan so I ended up watching the show and I loved it, man,” he said. “It is totally not what I expected. Tim does a great job keeping everything real and legit. The show’s calling card is ‘f**ked up and funny,’ and Kentucky is littered with wild characters. The fact that it wasn’t poking fun or making fun of something, but it was actually just showing culture authentically, and from that there’s truth in comedy — I just think the authenticity of it all won me over.”

Holbrook explained the difference between the shows’ villains, “Boyd Crowder kind of supported Raylan, really; they needed each other,” Holbrook said. “But these guys, Raylan and Clement, they’re trying to get away from each other. Clement is kind of a walking calamity, way in over his head. He’s a thief, but not really a great thief. This guy sucks the life out of every moment as if it’s going to be his last. He’s really unstoppable in his own way. He also thinks he’s such hot s**t. His ego is just out of control. He’s a sociopath. There are no F’s given with him.”

“This character is one of the best bad guys Elmore ever created,” Dinner elaborated. “He’s just a really dangerous, cool, bad motherf**ker. Now, Boyd was those things too, but Boyd and Raylan were cut from the same cloth. Clement, he’s really unpredictable.”

The showrunners believe that it’s really important to raise the stakes with the new villain. “If you’re bringing Raylan back, you put him up against a really, really bad guy who doesn’t have any problem killing people, because Raylan could die,” Andron explained. “This is a limited [series] and Raylan could very well not make it out of this. Every season we ended the show with ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,’ but then he does. Right up until the end of the show, you know Raylan’s not going to die, and obviously he did not at the end. But I think, at this point, all bets are off.”

Dinner elaborated, “When American crime fiction is working on all cylinders, you have a feeling that cosmic forces are maneuvering people together and that one, if not all, of them will not be standing at the end. Raylan’s made it this far, but will he survive this? He very well might not.”

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.

Justified: City Primeval was filmed on location in Chicago and on the stages of Chicago Studio City. The eight episode FX limited-series spinoff arrives this July.

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