After watching this week’s episode of FX’s Justified, fans know two things: First, Boyd can clog. We promised Walton Goggins we would make sure everyone knows that really was him. “I didn’t get winded for nothin’,” he joked with us recently, adding that he probably did about five takes of his jig at Mags’ whoop-dee-doo. (That shindig, by the way, featured a working moonshine still courtesy of the show’s prop department, though we hear they only managed to produce a few drops.) And secondly, things are going to get real interesting in Harlan now that the threat level in the Bennett-Givens feud has once again risen to red. If you haven’t seen the episode, stop reading now. Exec producer Graham Yost fielded our questions about the show’s latest casualty in episode 9, what happens next, and where we’re headed as we approach the May 4 season 2 finale, titled “Bloody Harlan.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you always know Coover [Brad William Henke] would be the Bennett to die? That was a fun character.
GRAHAM YOST: He was a great character. It was hard to kill any of them. I’d say we probably knew a month before [we shot the episode]. We needed something to set off the final act of the season. We felt that it couldn’t be Dickie, because the Raylan-Dickie thing is a huge story. Raylan crippled this guy. That’s the heart of the feud. It couldn’t be Mags. We needed Doyle around because Doyle is ambivalent. He’s a lawman — and he’s probably not a terrible sheriff, he probably gets some bad guys and keeps a lid on things. So it’s like, well, I guess then it’s Coover. Once we figured that out, then we went back. There’s a little scene in episode 5, where Coover goes into his mama’s store and Loretta’s behind the counter. We put that scene in weeks after we’d finished shooting [episode] 5, but it was a couple minutes short. We said, “We got room for something: Oh, let’s do a Coover-Loretta scene. Wherever we’re shooting, we’ll figure out a scene for that.” And so we put that in to start to lay some of the groundwork. When we start shooting in October and don’t go on the air until February, we can do those kinds of things. Don’t tell Sony that. [Laughs] It’s not free….
Did you tell Brad beforehand?
I did call Brad before the script came out and thanked him for his service. He understood. And I said, “But we give you a good death.” And more than that, we gave him a great episode. But more than that, he gave us a spectacular episode. “I’m a goddamn professional!” That’s one of my favorite lines. We screened episode 9 at our wrap party. The crew hadn’t seen it. Hearing the laughs that were going on in the midst of really tense stuff, that’s the goal. That’s Elmore [Leonard]. You’re laughing and you’re scared. Kaitlyn Dever [who plays Loretta], when she finds her father’s watch, oh my god. But when she comes through and turns on a light and sees Dickie passed out there, the audience laughed.
Last week, I wondered why Raylan would have chosen to duke it out with Coover when he was hungover.
We wanted to show that he was a formidable adversary. Raylan’s our hero, of course he can beat up someone. But when it’s a mountain man like Coover, that makes it dicier at the end of episode 9. The other thing is that Raylan has a certain self-flagellating aspect to his character. He likes to beat himself up. He doesn’t go easy on himself. If you remember last year, the episode “Hatless” when he is suspended for a week and he helps Winona and Gary out of that jam, and the guy steals his hat after they get into a fight at the bar. He gets the crap beaten out of him then, too. Of course it’s two guys, one wielding a 2 x 4. But still, there is that thing where Raylan almost wants to get beaten up sometimes. He wants to hurt [now] because listen, he is devastated by disappointing Art [by helping Winona return the money she’d stolen from the evidence locker]. That’s really hard for him. He’s not gonna show it. That’s one of the fun things with Raylan and Tim playing him. There’s stuff you’ll see in episode 12 that just blew me away that Tim was doing, ’cause he’s responding to something horrific that happens at the end of 11. I’ll say no more. He’s got to control himself to get this job done, but he is just ready to explode.
Margo Martindale is so good as Mags. When the look on her face changed from begging Raylan to let her see Loretta to that cold stare — chills.
Honestly, that’s not scripted. That’s just Margo tryin’ something. And we go, “Yes, that’s good.” We knew that one of the big themes of the season is feud. The Givens vs. The Bennetts, and how will that play out? Will it be the same as it’s always been, which is you kill one of ours, we kill one of yours? Or will there be some change?
Will she be investigated for Loretta’s dad’s death, or will they assume Coover did it?
No one buys that it’s Coover, but they also know that it would be pretty hard to prove at this point with the condition of the corpse. Or at least that’s what we’re saying. We try to stay away from forensic stuff as much as possible. Rarely do we mention DNA or fingerprints. I’m sure on another show, they could pin it on her.
Mags and Raylan have always had a certain respect for each other. Where does that come from if there’s so much bad blood?
There’s something that you will find out, and this is a bit of a spoiler alert: Mags didn’t want to me a criminal matriarch. She wanted to be a housewife, and then her husband was killed by highway robbers and she was forced into this position and she’s done it. She’s done it well. She’s ruled with an iron fist, and occasionally a hammer. But it was not her choice. So Raylan represents someone who got out and made a life for himself outside of the hollers. But I also think the larger thing is simply, and it’s too trite a phrase, southern hospitality. There’s a politeness, and there’s a sense that things aren’t personal even if they are personal. When we went down to Harlan, I remember a couple of people saying that they loved the fact that when Raylan first saw Johnny Crowder, and Johnny’s running this bar and hitting on underaged girls and stuff like that and there’s this history between the families, they still embrace. They’re still happy to see each other — and then it gets down to business. There’s some harsh stuff between them, but you start with friendly and offering food, and a kind word, and “How’s your family?” You see that progression between Raylan and Mags over the course of the season. It’ll get dark at times, but there is always a certain respect for each other.
So where does that leave Mags now that Raylan has been forced to kill one of her sons?
Mags will have to struggle with this. We thought her goal was one thing in episode 8 [to save the holler], and then we found out it was a whole different thing in episode 9, which is to secure a different future for her family. What would she not do because she doesn’t want to risk that future? How much is the future worth to her? That becomes a big question. As I said before, this is not the life she chose for herself, but then there’s that certain acceptance of fate — this is who I am, this is where I live, this is what I must do. That’s the thrust of Mags in the last few episodes.
Have we seen the last of Loretta?
You will see more of Loretta. We consider the poisoning of McCready to be the original sin of the season. If Mags had not done that, we wouldn’t have had a season, and there are aftershocks. What we saw in episode 9 was huge, but that will continue. And that’s only for one reason: Kaitlyn Dever is amazing. We actually discussed in the writers’ room that if we didn’t cast well, then we would never see Loretta after the first episode. And as soon as we saw the first episode, we said we will be seeing a lot of Loretta. As much as we can get with the child work laws.
Have we seen the last of Carol [Hung‘s Rebecca Creskoff]?
We’ve seen the last of Carol for now. HBO was very nice to let us have Rebecca. We originally asked for four episodes. We got on the phone. “I can give her to you for three.” I said, “I can do that!”
It must be scary to cast those recurring roles.
The Bennetts were the biggest roll of the dice of the season, but if Rebecca hadn’t been fantastic, we were stuck with her for three episodes. Well, the chemistry between her and Tim was just wonderful. Raylan is such a charming, sexy guy, one of the classic guys that men want to be and women want to be with, so it’s fun to see him flirting and getting one kiss, and yet it doesn’t feel like he’s cheating on his ex-wife who is cheating on her husband.
Boyd thinks Raylan could be leaving Harlan. When we will find out what Raylan’s thinking?
That has something to do with Raylan and Winona in episode 10 [read more about that hour in the Spoiler Room], and it’s a follow on to what happened with the money and them figuring that maybe Art knows. That was one of the goals of the season, too. We really wanted to strip Raylan down and make him face things about himself — what would he do in this difficult situation? — and strip away his marshal family. Art is the good father that Raylan never had. What happens if that relationship goes sour? You’ll see what we do with that toward the end of the season.
Moving onto Raylan’s bad father, Arlo and Helen really did sign their land over to Boyd?
We had a scene where Boyd went to Arlo’s, and the script was just too long, so we said, “We’ll just have Boyd say it.” We get a little bit more of it later on, but basically, Boyd figured out the deal was about the road and that Arlo’s property was key. He said to Arlo, “If you give me control of this property, I’ll get you a lot of money,” and Arlo said, “Okay.” But there’s also a sort of tacit agreement about where they were gonna go from there.
What’s next for Boyd?
Last season, I said, “I want to see Raylan and Boyd on the same side of a gunfight.” We felt that one of the themes of this season would be second chances. Raylan gets a second chance at Winona, Boyd gets a second chance at living a non-criminal life. But one of the big theme’s in Elmore’s work is the character’s destiny. People may want to change, but it’s very hard for them to change. And our feeling is Raylan, as our hero, can change incrementally, but Boyd, try as he might…. It’s a bit of a spoiler alert, but our goal from the beginning of the season was Boyd becomes an outlaw again. You can see us build to that. He drags the guy in episode 3, he gets the offer of the mine job in episode 4, episode 5 is the mine job. Now he’s revealed that he’s played the mine lady. Then we’ll see where he’s headed. (For more on Boyd and Ava, head to the Spoiler Room.)
We heard Raylan say he couldn’t get a hold of Winona. She’s not going to turn herself in, is she?
No. She’s not gonna try to turn herself in. Sometimes, we just want to keep the story alive and know that he’s thinking about her, but we don’t want to just have her on the other end of the phone. That sets up some stuff that happens in episode 10, and then there’s more stuff that relates to that in 12.
Does the Winona storyline merge with the family feud storyline in the end?
In a way, they do. In the finale, you’ll see that Winona plays a critical role.
That was what was so great about the season 1 finale, how everything converged. It was one of my favorite hours of TV last year.
That was actually, frankly, a pain in the ass, too, because we were so proud of that hour. And it’s like, What are we gonna do this year? And you’ll see we’ve gone… there’s not 15 bodies, put it that way.
There’s still a shootout though, right?
People get shot. There’s shootouts. S— happens.
Good. When Raylan was laying on the floor and shot the guy getting ready to climb through the window.
The window. I know. We’ve got some cool stuff. But it sort of ends up with a showdown that’s unexpected, I think.
Follow Mandi on Twitter: @EWMandiBierly