Timothy Olyphant on playing Raylan Givens

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First aired on Q (13/03/2013)


With his deadpan wit, sharpshooting skills, and his trademark cowboy hat, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is without doubt one of the most popular characters ever created by legendary crime writer Elmore Leonard.

The Kentucky lawman first appeared in Leonard's 1993 novel Pronto, which was adapted as a TV movie in 1997, and then the books Riding the Rap and Fire in the Hole. But the smooth-talking, righteous hero really became famous when California-raised actor Timothy Olyphant brought him to life on the hit TV series Justified. The show has been critically lauded since its debut and has lasted for four seasons, with Leonard credited as an executive producer.

Olyphant, whose career includes stints in off-Broadway productions, romantic comedy films and roles in TV shows as diverse as The Office and HBO's gritty western Deadwood, said he had a gut feeling the show had a chance of being a success when he read the first script.

"The characters are fantastic," he told Q during a recent interview. "It's just very entertaining. It's Elmore Leonard, you know...and it just kind of tickles you as you read it."

Olyphant said he's enjoyed playing the Givens character so much that being typecast as him -- something most actors dread -- wouldn't actually be that bad for him.

"If you're going to typecast me as Raylan Givens...what's the problem? I mean, I don't see that not working out. He's cool, and funny and charming."
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Coolness, fun, and charm aren't qualities that you would normally associate with situations where a character has to contend with violent white supremacists, crooked cops, drug-dealing gangs and organ harvesters. But it's typical of Leonard's writing that levity is mixed in with the darkness and grit. The humour is something that Olyphant admires about the novelist's work and something he tries to bring out of the script as an actor.

"Elmore's funny," he said. "You pick up the book, you pick up almost any Elmore Leonard book, you give me four pages and I'll find you something hilarious. He's funny. I'm really just servicing the part...[As an actor] I'm always looking for the funny. And then once you get that, you're looking for the heart underneath it."




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