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Production Blog

Get the latest word from the set of Justified with interviews, recaps, behind-the-scenes stories, videos and more.

Fellow fans, we’ve reached the end of another road. It wasn’t so long ago that Raylan went tromping into Florida and the Ballad of the Crowes began. But in the last thirteen episodes, Boyd and the rest of Harlan’s finest have tangled with cartels, grifters, fugitives, prison gangs, funeral directors, exploding cigarettes, and – most formidable of all – Wynn Duffy and his eyebrows.

Now we’ve come to my least favorite time of year, when we say goodbye… for now. But there’s some solace because you can bet Graham Yost and his writers, actors, and crew will be hard at work for the next eight months to bring you the final chapters.

If you’re not ready to leave Kentucky yet, every episode of Justified is on Amazon, and if you’re a Prime subscriber, you can stream the first four seasons for free. DVDs and Blu-rays of Seasons 1-4 are also available at numerous retailers, while official merchandise is just a few clicks away at FX Shop.

You can also scroll down to see a collection of Justified-related articles, interviews and links from various corners of the Internet.

I want to thank you, fellow fans, for always checking back here to share the love for this incredible show. My gratitude and appreciation go out to FX for letting me be your blogger two years in a row. It’s been an absolute honor.

Best,

Jeff

LINKS

An Evening with Justified

Timothy Olyphant on Late Night with Seth Meyers

“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” by the Ruby Friedman Orchestra

“7 Focus Points on the Justified Season 5 Finale” –Ernie Estrella, Buzz Focus

CAST INTERVIEWS

“Erica Tazel on Rachel’s Approach to Running the Office” –Alan Danzis, Buddy TV

 “Justified Star Erica Tazel Loved Putting Walton Goggins in His Place Last Night” –Matt Barone, Complex

“Does Joelle Carter Think Ava Will Get Out of Harlan Alive?” –Mandi Bierly, Entertainment Weekly

“On a Wynn Fall with Jere Burns” –Ernie Estrella, Buzz Focus

GRAHAM YOST INTERVIEWS

“I Am Graham Yost, Showrunner of Justified, and You Can AMA (Ask Me Anything)”

“EP Graham Yost Dissects ‘Restitution,’ Looks Ahead to Final Year” –Mandi Bierly, Entertainment Weekly

Justified Creator Graham Yost on How to Create a Faithful Adaptation That Transcends the Source Material” –Joe Berkowitz, Co.Create

Justified Producer Graham Yost Post-Mortems Season 5” –Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

Justified’s Graham Yost Talks the Season 5 Finale” –Abbie Bernstein, Assignment X

Justified Producer Graham Yost on the Shakeup of Tonight’s Season Finale” –Kiel Phegley, Comic Book Resources

CRITICS’ REVIEWS

“I’ll never understand why more people aren’t completely fanatical about this smart and darkly hilarious series, as it features some of the most richly drawn characters on TV, and is set in a world where everyone and everything has a distinct personality.” –Nick Venable, Cinema Blend

“Something like a consensus seems to have developed among fans of the excellent Justified that the show’s 5th season… has been the show’s best since the sainted second.” –David Chute, Indiewire

Justified has always been a slow burn. The week-to-week excitement is amplified by your willingness to pay attention to detail or, as in last night’s season finale, to watch the dynamics of each character subtly shift over a period of a few weeks as decisions are made and fates are sealed.” –Danielle Henderson, The Guardian

“I’ve been a fan of Justified from the first scene of the show. Over five years, it has maintained a consistent high quality, if not raising the bar from time to time. This inspires confidence that season six will be quite memorable, and with the stellar fifth year finale, it’s already on the right track.” –Jerome Wetzel, Blog Critics

Justified ended its 5th season with an enjoyable bang, neatly tying up most of the plotlines from this season and more importantly, setting the stage for some spectacular conflict next year. “ –Mike Oleiros, Broke Bored and Lazy

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And just like that, the party’s over. The season finale tied up loose ends and left us with some tantalizing hints of what’s to come. The next nine months are going to be tough to weather, and you’ve definitely come to the right place if you’re not ready to say good-bye to Justified just yet.

Today I’m honored to present a key scene from the finale in script form. You can see how particular ideas and lines were firmly established in the writing, which is even more of a testament to the actors for making those moments feel spontaneous. In any case, it’s a fascinating peek behind the curtain.

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Once again, you’ve pulled off the impossible by tying up all the loose ends and setting up the next season. Were there any challenges particular to this season’s finale?

Nothing out of the ordinary. Lovely working with the very talented team of Andron, Arkin, and the best cast and crew in television.

Jimmy’s death was a shock. Why poor Jimmy and why now?

Because we didn’t see it coming either, yet it made perfect sense.

“Restitution” – and much of this season – showed Boyd in a vulnerable place: his silver tongue and offer to the Mexican henchmen fail to save him, and the Marshals ultimately rescue him. How did the idea come about to strip away much of Boyd’s luck and talent?

Fundamentals of drama: you put your antihero up in a tree, then you throw rocks at him.

This episode marks the end of the Crowe story. Darryl’s demise is perfect as is, but did you and the other writers have alternative ways that his character could have been taken down?

I think we landed on this pretty early, and it felt right. Darryl’s always talking about how important family is, using that to manipulate his own family into disaster after disaster. Seemed only fitting that he be dispatched by one of his own.

What do you think is next for Wendy and Kendal?

Hopefully they settle down to a more quietly dysfunctional way of life and that Kendal gets a good education.

You co-wrote this year’s finale with Dave Andron. How did you split up the work?

I took the Raylan storyline, and he took the Boyd. After that it got very jumbled. But Dave’s first draft of the Boyd storyline is very, very close to what was in the episode. He did a great job.

Which was the hardest scene to shoot?

Probably the death of Darryl. Big, emotional scene with violence and special effects thrown in, that came at the end of a very long working day, so we were also pressed for time. Arkin and the cast came through like champs.

Is there a moment or scene in “Restitution” that you’re especially proud of?

Raylan’s “interrogation” of Kendal. I liked what I wrote, and Adam Arkin, Tim and Jacob brought it to life in a great way.  

It’s clear that the final season will have a strong focus on the Raylan/Boyd/Ava triangle, but is there anything else we should look forward to?

You mean that’s not enough???

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Here we are, fellow fans. I’m sad because tonight marks the last Justified episode until 2015, but thrilled because the cast and crew have pulled off yet another thirteen-week high-wire act. It’s all hands on deck as Raylan has one last shot at taking down Art’s would-be assassin, while cartel killers have Boyd’s back against the wall. Don’t miss how it all wraps up because when the smoke clears, you may be surprised who gets to leave Harlan alive.

The world’s greatest Theo Tonin lookalike Adam Arkin found time in his busy schedule to come back and direct his seventh episode of Justified, while Executive Producers Fred Golan and Dave Andron wrote the script for “Restitution.” Fred has been credited with every season finale of Justified thus far and he was nominated for an Edgar Award for writing “Slaughterhouse.” His earliest writing credit dates back to the TV series of Swamp Thing and since then he’s also lent his voice to Falling Skies, Boomtown and Roswell.

I hope you come back in the next week because I’ll have script pages, interviews, and a season wrap-out. In the meantime, click on over to FX and – to quote a blockbuster movie starring a former Justified guest star – hold onto your butts.

Jeff

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“Starvation” is really fun but it also sets up the season finale by moving characters into place. I’ve heard how difficult these scenes can be to conceive of and write, so how did you manage to make them seem so effortless?

Hardly effortless, they were the result of much discussion and rearranging and revision. The typical stuff you go through in the writer’s room getting something to work. 

This is the first time Raylan’s been called out for his involvement in the death of Nicky Augustine. Was it always planned for Boyd to be the one to say it, and was it always meant to be in this episode?

I don’t know that it “was always planned” to play out the way it did, but we knew for a while that if anyone was going to call him out on it, Boyd would hold the maximum dramatic potential. It was originally written to take place at the beginning of the episode but we all quickly realized that it was such a big moment, it had to fall as close as possible to the climax.

Likewise, how did you and the writers arrive at Raylan’s play to try Kendal as an adult?

This was there pretty much from the beginning. Had to give Raylan a big card to play, and a big risk to take. So we knew something this harsh was called for, and we knew it would be THE climax to the episode.

This week, Raylan and Boyd try and fail more than once to get Darryl Crowe on their own terms. Since Raylan tends to get a win in each episode, how did “noble failure” become the refrain of “Starvation”?

I would argue that Raylan’s win in this episode is his return to the fold with his fellow marshals. They’ve got his back in a pretty bad situation, and we, as writers, felt it was okay to let Darryl slip away if it meant Raylan would return to the “loving embrace of his marshal family.” Although they don’t love him. They tolerate him. But also they’d take a bullet for him. So maybe it’s love. A complicated love, I guess. 

This was director Michael Pressman’s first episode of Justified. What was it like to work with someone new?

Michael came to the show with a tremendous enthusiasm and respect for the material, the actors, and the process. The man is a veteran, and over and over again he commented to me how good things were on the show; the crew, the writing, the camaraderie and talent of the actors. He told me that when a show is this good and “the machine” is as well oiled as it was, his job is largely to stay out of the way. But that’s his modesty talking; Michael created a relaxed atmosphere on the set, gave very apt suggestions while remaining fluid to the ideas that came up in the moment, and worked his butt off. I loved him, the crew loved him, and the actors adored him. I get the feeling his name will be in the credits again next year… 

Which was the hardest scene to shoot?

This episode was pleasantly free of hard scenes to shoot. Although it wasn’t a ton of fun towing the Wynnebago in the pouring rain.

Were there any scene(s) that were particularly hard to write or went through numerous revisions?

All the Raylan/Boyd scenes went through a few discussions but not many written drafts. We knew these were big moments, so we put everything on the table and hashed it out. I already mentioned the structure changing slightly, but so did the ways in which the beats within the scenes came together. A lot of this was addressed in between the first and final draft, and there were only about two or three in between, which for us, is a fairly light rewrite.

You wrote three episodes this season, more than any of the other writers. How did you get to be so lucky? 

There was this weird affliction going around the writer’s office where a lot of the other folks lost feeling in their hands for a few weeks at a time, and I didn’t catch the bug.

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Fellow fans, you definitely shouldn’t miss tonight’s white-knuckle Justified as the Marshals have to scour Harlan to dismantle a nuclear device and Boyd wards off an army of the undead—oh, never mind, I was never good at April Fools’ anyway. Flip over to FX to see Raylan put pressure on every criminal in town as a ploy to arrest Darryl Crowe Jr., while Boyd and Duffy enlist an unlikely ally to fight off cartel killers.

“Starvation” was directed by Michael Pressman. He’s a newcomer to Justified but he’s been working on both sides of the camera since the 1970s. His TV credits include Law & Order and Grey’s Anatomy and he directed one of my childhood favorites Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

Chris Provenzano wrote the script – his third of the season – so as always you can expect great dialogue, strong structure, and a snap to the action. I’ll get Chris’s thoughts on this episode in a couple of days. See you soon!

Jeff

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If you thought last week’s episode was a doozy, just wait until tonight because the writers are kicking the show into high gear for the homestretch. And I hate to be the reminder of bad news, but including tonight’s episode, there are only three new chapters until another painfully long hiatus begins.

But it’s still too early to mourn, so set your alarm or tie a string somewhere because you won’t want to miss Justified, as a shooting close to home forces Raylan and Boyd to decide which lines they’re willing to cross.

Film and TV veteran Jon Avnet returns for his eighth episode in five seasons: his previous work includes the films Up Close & Personal and Red Corner, and the TV series Boomtown. The script is written by Benjamin Cavell, who is an unabashed fan of the movie Willow. (And with that, I’m officially out of random facts about Ben.)

You know the tune: come back soon!
Jeff

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First of all, thank you for such a Dewey-centric episode. You and the other writers are very careful about using his character but that means we occasionally get a wonderful hour of Dewey exploits. My question is: how do you figure out when to portion him out?

We didn’t have Dewey in season four, but we knew we wanted Dewey to play a big part in season five because he’s such a fun character and Damon Harriman is such a great actor. There’s really no conscious effort that goes into it. It’s more an instinctual feeling, not wanting to have too much of a good thing.

Raylan is a very assertive character most of the time but occasionally he has to play catch up with a criminal, as he does in this episode with Dewey. Is that a conscious way to switch-up the format a little?

We try to have Raylan be behind in as few episodes as possible. But when he’s following such an idiot like Dewey who creates semi-destruction in his wake, it’s fun to have Raylan behind him witnessing said semi-destruction. Same thing happened in season three in the episode where Dewey thinks his kidneys are missing and is running all over Harlan trying to steal money to buy them back. Raylan and Rachel follow his trail of failed robberies and I think it’s a blast for the audience to see Raylan’s reaction to all the shit that Dewey is disturbing.

Two significant deaths occur in this episode. How was it decided that this would be the place for them, and how did you all come up with the ways they died?

Tim Olyphant came up with the idea of Danny falling in a hole dug for his dead dog. The original idea was that Danny pulls out his knife, says, “Raylan, you ever hear of the 21-foot-rule–?” and Raylan just shoots him Raiders of the Ark-style.  But Tim Olyphant wanted something more unexpected and, well, it was. It worked amazingly well and is the part of the episode that everyone enjoys and remembers.

This was your third year as a writers’ assistant on Justified. I know we asked you this last season, but could you tell this year’s readers what you do as a writers’ assistant?

Writers’ assistants take notes in the writers room as ideas are batted around and stories are broken. It’s a written record of what was discussed. On some shows, writers’ assistants do research as well. 

Last year’s “Outlaw” [which Keith co-wrote with Benjamin Cavell] is a fan favorite. Did you get this episode based on the strength of your previous work, or were sea-salt caramels used as bribery of certain parties?

It was more like Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches. Last year’s episode went well, so I was given another chance to write an episode this year.

How did you and Taylor split up the writing?

Taylor wrote the Teaser and Act One. I was mostly Acts Three and Four. And we split up Act Two. Taylor wrote all the Dewey & Dickie stuff because there is no one in the world who can write those characters better than Taylor Elmore. 

Were there any scene(s) that were particularly hard to write or went through numerous revisions?

We were very lucky on this episode. None of the scenes were difficult to shoot and we didn’t go through a lot of revisions. The first draft was long, so a few full scenes were cut, but as for the existing scenes, none went through any significant re-writes.

Is there any moment in this episode that you’re particularly proud of?

I like the Danny’s death scene because it turned out so well. I wrote the first draft, Taylor revised it. John Dahl had some great storyboards and did a fantastic job of directing it. AJ played the scene perfectly. And the last line and whole idea of Danny falling into the hole was Tim Olyphant’s idea. It proved to be a truly collaborative scene.

What do you love about writing for TV?

That it’s more dialogue-based than film. And that the schedules are so tight, you’re able to write something and then it’s shot and on the screen only a few months later. Film scripts, if they’re even made at all, can sit in “development hell” for years.

And what do you not love about it?

The fact that the schedules are so tight, you’re able to write something and then it’s shot and on the screen only a few months later. The blessing of that is also the curse because the timeframe for writing is so compressed. One can never have too much time to write.

What have you been watching recently? What have you been reading?

I recently watched True Detective, I thought that was fantastic. I watch Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and was sad to see Breaking Bad go. Also The Walking Dead.

I read about a dozen Elmore Leonard books this year to get myself into the headspace of writing this Justified episode. My favorites included Killshot, Out of Sight, Rum Punch, Gold Coast, and Get Shorty. 

Any advice for aspiring writers reading this interview?

Write every day. The “writing muscle” needs to be worked constantly and not atrophy like physical muscles can. Get on a TV show however you can, even if it’s just a writers’ production assistant or a writers’ assistant. Good way to find out about those jobs is to take an assistant job at a TV studio or network, even if you have to temp at first to get your foot in the door. But again, write every day.

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