To act in ‘Justified,’ Timothy Olyphant climbs inside Elmore Leonard’s head
For Timothy Olyphant, who plays U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, hearing talk of award nominations — for him and for “Justified” — is welcome news. “The show continues to be a pleasure, and I like the idea that it’s finding an audience,” he says. “You hear the echo back, so that means a great deal. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t.” The former “Damages” actor shared other thoughts on the series, based on the works of Elmore Leonard.
As an actor, is there a particular challenge to playing a character that’s established in the minds of readers?
Well, there’s the usual challenge, but more than anything, I find it’s such a blessing to have all that material as a resource, especially for a series, which is an ongoing story. It’s a help to have such a wealth of information to better understand the character and themes and patterns of Elmore’s world.
Were you familiar with his world prior to this?
I’m a big fan, but I hadn’t read these novels or the short. I’ve read them many times since, and they keep providing a great deal of inspiration.
Elmore was effusive about your portrayal, and especially how you understood his dialogue. What do you think is the key to his dialogue?
It means the world to me that he’s so pleased with the work, and the feeling is mutual. In terms of understanding his dialogue, I thought I got the joke, and I thought I could retell it.
So in regard to Elmore, what’s the joke?
You hope that because you enjoy it so much, you have a feel for it. When I read it, I get it for all it’s worth, and that doesn’t always translate. Every sportswriter in the world will probably tell you that because they understand the game, it doesn’t mean that they can swing a bat.
But when I read his work, I imagine that he’s sitting at his typewriter with a twinkle in his eye, and that’s something you want to keep in mind when you’re bringing it to life. He likes comedy in his drama and a little drama in his comedy, and I approach every scene with that in mind. I don’t think I’ve worked harder on anything prior to this, but I also don’t think it’s been so easy to work so hard on a project.