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TCA Press Tour: Timothy Olyphant says 'Justified' is a 'different animal' from 'Deadwood'

January 17, 2010 |  3:17 pm

Don't let the cowboy hats and gunfights fool you: FX's newest drama "Justified" isn't a classic western.

In the crime drama, Timothy Olyphant plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a modern-day lawman with a 19th century-style of justice. The role isn't too much of a stretch for the actor, who portrayed 19th century merchant-turned-sheriff Seth Bullock in HBO's short-lives series 'Deadwood." But this new venture isn't a carbon copy, Olyphant insists.

"Both characters wear hats, but after that they really start to become their own thing," Olyphant said. "['Deadwood'] is over and this one is just beginning. I think anyone that knows Elmore's work ... there's a tone to it that's just so appealing. It's a different animal than what 'Deadwood' was."

"Justified" was developed by Graham Yost (''Speed", "Boomtown") and is based on the popular character featured in several books and short stories by novelist Elmore Leonard, who serves as an "honorary" executive producer.

"I started reading Elmore Leonard's stuff back in the early '80s with 'La Brava,' " said Yost, who also serves as an executive producer. "The thing that's always gotten to me about Elmore's writing ... I loved his sense of character, that things were unpredictable. I thought it would be a change of pace for FX ... Raylan is a hero and he has stuff haunting him and he's a human being. He's a good guy and you like him and you're rooting for him."

While the base of the character and story comes from Leonard's work, the challenge comes in making a whole series out of it.

"That was the thing I was most frightened of," Yost said. "Were we going to be able to deliver? ... We've done a good job. We have every available book by Elmore to get the flavor and style and then we started kicking around story ideas."

The writing team even sports WWED (What Would Elmore Do?) bracelets.

But should they ever run out of ideas, they could just look to the master. Leonard said he planned to write another short story based on the character.

"I don't want to write for, specifically, what they're shooting," Leonard said. "I want to come up with a new idea and give it to them. If they like it, fine. If they don't, don't use it."

The series premieres in March.

-- Yvonne Villarreal

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