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'Justified' EP Graham Yost talks Drew Thompson reveal

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Justified Hatchet
Prashant Gupta/FX

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t watched this week’s Justified episode “The Hatchet Tour,” written by Taylor Elmore and Leonard Chang and directed by Lesli Glatter, stop reading now. We learned Drew Thompson’s new identity as Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) took the long way around transporting Hunter (Brent Sexton), and Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Ava (Joelle Carter) discovered the truth about Ellen May. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you decide that Shelby (Jim Beaver) would be Drew Thompson?

GRAHAM YOST: We didn’t know until we were finishing up breaking episode 405. We had played with various other possibilities. Initially, we were thinking Drew would be a Clover Hill person. And then we thought, “Eh, we don’t really know them. We’re not invested.” And then we thought maybe Josiah [guest star Gerald McRaney], who got his foot chopped off. “Yeah, but we were thinking we wanted Drew to go on the run, and that wouldn’t work.” And then I got a call that Ben Cavell in the writers room had hit on an idea. It might have come up before that, and we all just kind of pooh-poohed it. But in that context, he said, “What if Shelby’s Drew?” And we put [story editor] VJ [Boyd] on it — we jokingly call him Storytron 6000 — and he’s brilliant at tracking everything back and saying, “Okay, in season 2, this is what we knew about Shelby…” So he tracked it back and found that it could fit with a few little nudges. Tim’s response immediately to it was ours: We liked the idea of a guy who was on the run from the law working as a sheriff’s deputy for years and then becoming the sheriff. That was partly suggested by something that [EP Fred Golan] had read about, a guy was running for Congress and then it was found out he was living under a stolen identity. Then it became a balancing act: We wanted to support the answer, but we didn’t want to give it away. The thing is, in this modern world, people really pay such close attention to everything in a show, and because of the various forums and blogs and feeding off each other, it’s harder to really pull it off as a complete surprise.

Is finding Shelby/Drew the focus of the rest of the season?

I’ll tell you that episode 10 is the getting of Drew, and then 11 is a big complication, and then 12 wraps up another big story of the season that relates to Shelby, and then 13 [the season finale] is all the unforeseen consequences that have arisen because of this whole thing for both Boyd and Raylan.

Tell me about the idea for Raylan to transport Hunter and take him to Duffy — that motor coach scene was great, from Raylan sitting on the counter and kicking Hunter’s chair over to Raylan sitting on the couch with Wynn and Wynn giving his condolences.

Because we didn’t know that Shelby was gonna be Drew for some time, and the decision to kill Arlo came kind of late in the game while we were about to start shooting [last week’s] episode, my original pitch for episode eight was that there was an attempted assassination and then in nine, Raylan drags Arlo out of prison and takes him on what we call the Magical Mystery Tour just trying to shake out of him the name. And so we had this idea of Raylan taking someone from prison and dragging him around. So when Tim said, “You know what, I really think we should kill Arlo in eight,” it took me a while to wrap my head around that. But it became clear that was the right thing to do. Then we decided, well, wait a second, now his father’s been killed by someone he knows — Hunter — what if he pulled him out of prison and dragged him around? That became the impetus for the episode, with the notion that Duffy would be his first stop. It’s another great Raylan-Duffy scene with a different cast on it. Not to compliment ourselves, but we really enjoy that scene.

Let’s talk about Hunter rolling out of Raylan’s car and trying to get himself hit, then Raylan beating on him. I assume that wasn’t just frustration on Raylan’s part that Hunter wouldn’t give him Drew’s name.

It was actually Brent Sexton not having fun in the scene, so he jumped out of the moving car and then Tim just went after him, so we incorporated it into the show. No. Raylan seems all fine and dandy with the fact that this man killed his father, and we wanted that one moment where maybe there’s a little something else going on. That’s from Raylan’s side. From Hunter’s side, he would rather die than be tortured to death in prison, but under no circumstances was he gonna give up Drew’s new identity.

And then Hunter and Shelby told Raylan about Arlo shoving dog crap down a man’s throat who’d talked dirty about Frances. Raylan seemed almost proud of Arlo in that moment.

I think Raylan was proud of him in that moment. That was Leonard Chang who really arced out that part of the story — that we hear three different versions of that story, basically, over the course of the episode. It’s just a slight little mystery as to what really happened, and I think it has to do with how Raylan saw Arlo. It goes to the final lines of the episode, really: “Who are you gonna be like, Raylan? Are you gonna be like Frances, who was a peacemaker, or are you gonna be like Arlo, who would go to the ends of the earth to exact revenge or right a wrong?” And that’s the central issue of Raylan Givens.

What did Hunter mean when he told Shelby, “Sorry about Arlo, it should have been clean and easy?”

Hunter killed Arlo on his own initiative. That wasn’t something that Drew had asked for. He was just doing it to protect him. There’s a question still in our mind, because Shelby hadn’t reached out to Hunter and said, “Would you kill Arlo for me,” whether it was something Shelby even thought would be necessary. But Hunter seeing how things were going thought it would be. It was just the depth of their bond. We call that scene in the backseat [where Shelby said goodbye to Hunter] the love scene. It’s these two middle-aged, balding bearded men, and if they’d kissed, I wouldn’t have been surprised. No. It was a sweet scene, and we needed that scene to accomplish a lot — which is to understand the depth of the feeling between these two guys that went back 20+ years.

After Raylan breaks up Constable Bob’s hilarious shootout with Lee and Gerald, it’s Constable Bob who tells Raylan about the history between Shelby and Hunter, which leads Raylan to deduce that it’s Shelby who Hunter is protecting.

Right. That was just something that came out of the room. Look, Bob was introduced as a one-off, basically, and we had so much fun with Patton Oswalt, we thought well, let’s bring him back. And then when Cavell came up with the idea of Shelby as Drew, then we started to think, well, how does Raylan figure this out? And then someone came up with the notion that Bob would be the one who had inside knowledge about the relationship between Shelby and Hunter back in the day, that they’d always been very good to him when they were handling his probationary period after putting Ollie Kemp in a coma. It’s one of those things where you’re like, Wow, this actually all comes together. The idea that Bob would provide the crucial clue that gives Raylan the realization we thought was pretty sweet. And, Bob got to shoot an automatic weapon, so that was also pretty sweet.

Are we done seeing Constable Bob this season?


Raylan’s last scene with Hunter: Hunter apologizes for killing Arlo and Raylan tells him his last visit with Arlo was nice — he told him he loved him, he thought he was a good boy, he was sorry for being a dick, and he’d be watching him.

In the first draft, it was interesting: Raylan basically asked, “Did Arlo say anything?” and Hunter said, “Yes, he told me to tell you that he loved you and he’s sorry.” And then the idea was to put it in Raylan’s mouth, and you realize he knows who his dad was. The last thing Arlo said to him was, “Kiss my ass” — there was never gonna be a redemption of that relationship. But at the same time, over the course of this episode, at least he does hear that story that is totally Arlo but the good side to Arlo’s meanness.

Art was not happy about Raylan taking Hunter for a ride.

It’s just always fun to see Nick [Searcy] play Art mad. He just does it so well. There will be ramifications. I will say that taking Hunter on that Magical Mystery Tour will have consequences in Raylan’s career. Nothing huge, but it does play a part in the rest of the season.

NEXT: Boyd and Ava learn Colt’s been lying