It's just another day on the sets of FX's "Justified," currently filming its third season -- airing Tuesdays -- in studios perched on top of a hill in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles.
In the eighth episode being filmed, Harlan, Ky., U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is suspected of some misdoing; his ex-wife (but not necessarily entirely ex-love) Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) is tangled up in the situation; and his long-suffering boss, Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), is not sure he wants to know all that much about it.
(In truth, with some level of variation, that could be almost any episode of "Justified" thus far.)
"Well," says Searcy, lounging in a director's chair outside the doors to the U.S. marshals' office, where all the extras have gathered, "Art has a job to do and an office to run. He has more than one employee. I try to know what I'm supposed to know in order to conduct marshals business and not get into too much beyond that, because that would get into an area where I'm getting into somebody's personal life."
And besides, Art has kind of a soft spot for Raylan.
"He's a pain in the butt," says Searcy. "But also, I see a lot of myself in him. I was a lot like him when I was younger. Some of the things he does, I understand maybe more than somebody else would. There's a certain point you realize that it's not really the way to live a long and happy life. That's my biggest concern for Raylan."
While Raylan continues to get himself into one scrape after another with the boss, Olyphant is continuing to be one of the bosses. In Season 2, he added a producer's hat to the white Stetson Raylan wears on the show, and in Season 3, both of them seem well broken in and comfortable on his head.
"First of all," he says, leaning on a car outside after using a hot towel to scrub off his makeup at the end of his workday, "it's one of the great mysteries in life, what a producer does. No one knows. But to me, it's just been a green light to completely overstep my job responsibilities and boundaries and get into everyone's business. And I, for one, enjoy it thoroughly.
"How everyone else feels about it, I'm not sure. I certainly didn't need much of an invitation. It's been a wonderful challenge, participating in the ins and outs of a TV show."
New to the show this year is a pair of troublemakers: bloodthirsty Detroit mobster Quarles (Neal McDonough) and local strongman Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson). Both are veterans of the short-lived NBC series "Boomtown," from "Justified" executive producer Graham Yost, but that doesn't mean the two of have been in each other's faces the whole season.
Calling in the morning after the filming day referenced above, McDonough is finishing up father-of-four and dog-walking duties in preparation for finally squaring off with Williamson.
"Today is the first scene I have all season with Mykelti," he says, "going nose to nose in the scene, which is awesome. I'm having an absolute blast. Graham's writing for me, and Fred Golan, who is one of the great writers on 'Boomtown' -- to have those guys writing for me again is awesome.
"They're coming up with some seriously twisted things. I never in a billion years thought I would be cast as the villain guy in a TV series or in films, too. I came out to L.A. to be a comic. With Quarles, I'm putting in as much bizarre comedy as possible within the confines of playing a truly despicable character."
Although he doesn't get to be funny on camera very often, McDonough is plenty funny in life, and he thinks that could be a problem on set.
"This scene today, this short scene," he says, "it's all of five lines, six lines -- it'll probably take five hours to get through, because we'll probably laugh and laugh and laugh."
When Olyphant is asked about specific contributions he's made to a scene, he gives an "Aw, shucks" grin and says, "I hit my marks and say my lines."
Told that, McDonough laughs and says, "No, he doesn't. ... I don't want to make huge comparisons, but Tim's going to be like Clint Eastwood at some point, because you can see his mind already as a director. He's got that confidence on set and that swagger that everyone loves to be around.
"It gets infectious, just like Clint is, when I did 'Flags of Our Fathers' with him. Most actors, they don't care that much about anything except themselves. Tim cares about the whole product. It's great. Tim's amazing. He's just scratching at what he's going to be doing for the rest of his life."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times