'Justified' EP Graham Yost talks Dickie's return, Danny's showdown
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode of Justified, “Weight” written by Taylor Elmore and Keith Schreier and directed by John Dahl, stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Danny’s awesome/hilarious death when he finally got to try out the 21-foot rule with Raylan. When did you know he’d go out that way?
GRAHAM YOST: I think Tim [Olyphant] was pitching that from, like, the first week. He wanted the dog to die. He wanted a grave to be dug. And he wanted Danny to fall in it. And it’s suggested by something in Out of Sight, one of the great Elmore Leonard film adaptations. There’s a scene in the climax where this character named White Boy Bob is running up the stairs with a gun, and he trips and falls and shoots himself in the head. It’s actually not in Elmore’s book, I don’t think. It was something that was suggested by someone on the set. But it felt very Elmore, and we’ve always loved that moment. So it’s a little bit of our tribute to White Boy Bob.
John Dahl storyboarded that. Taylor and Keith were meeting with John in Taylor’s office during the week of prep, and Taylor said, “You gotta come see this.” Fred [Golan, another executive producer] and I were meeting with Tim at that time, and so we all went in and looked at John’s storyboards, and there was a giddiness. Apparently on the night that they were shooting that scene, Olyphant couldn’t stop laughing. He was laughing during AJ [Buckley]’s takes. He was laughing when the stuntman was doing it. He was laughing when it was his stuff. He just got such a kick out of it. And the way Dahl shot it with those feet sticking up, you know, that’s Elmore. It’s funny and it’s horrifying. We hope it works. (UPDATE: Read what Buckley has to say about the scene.)
Was it hard to kill off Chelsea?
Honestly, we figured that the death of a dog is like the most dangerous thing in the world you can do on a television show. So we had to make sure that it was accidental and offscreen.
Now let’s jump to Dewey. He wanted $250,000 to return the heroin he’d stolen. Boyd said that was Darryl’s problem, and Darryl had a plan — until Raylan confiscated his attaché of mostly fake cash at Audrey’s, the green whorehouse.
That’s Taylor and Keith. I can’t remember which of them wrote that scene. (Laughs) Just the idea of a green whorehouse. It was Tim who wanted to just find the money and take it and smack Darryl around.
I was a little surprised he just hauled off and struck Darryl with the attaché. It seemed like excessive force.
Look, it’s episode 10. It’s that point in the season. That’s where things are headed.
Dewey’s whore friends helped Raylan phone him, and when Raylan tried to insinuate that he was Dewey’s only friend, Dewey instead thought of another — Dickie Bennett. Early in the season, I’d asked you whether we’d see Jeremy Davies this year, and you said something great would have to come up. When did you know that had happened?
It was the breaking of this episode. It was not planned before that. They pitched it to me: Taylor and Keith had worked out a lot, the room had worked out a lot. Just the notion of where would Dewey go? Who’s Dewey’s one friend in the world? It would be Dickie. We all thought about that: Is this how we want to bring Dickie back? Taylor reached out to Jeremy, and Jeremy was game.
Dickie’s hair is still amazing.
I’d heard rumors that Jeremy cut his own hair back in season 3. I don’t know if he did it this time or if they just matched it.
The scene with Dickie and Dewey — just the way Jeremy and Damon Herriman each picked up their phones. You knew it was gonna be amazing from the second it started.
(Laughs) I know. I heard from Taylor and Keith that on set, the moment between them was genuinely kind of touching, that they were just so glad to see each other, and they were like boys again. And that was one of things that happened in season 3, them in the yard running around playing grab-ass. It’s the sense that they are these two kind of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn boys, even though they’re horrible criminals. And listen, it’s Jeremy Davies and Damon Herriman: If you give them a halfway decent scene you’re gonna get a great scene.
What’s the story behind Dewey choosing the name Parker Stevenson as his alias?
(Laughs) That was me. Someone said, “Dewey couldn’t just go into a prison ’cause he’s a felon. He couldn’t just go and say, ‘Hi, my name is Dewey Crowe. I want to see Dickie Bennett.'” We play very fast and loose with a lot of stuff, but they said that’s being too fast and too loose. So I said, “Well, he goes in under an assumed name. These guys are criminals, so you’d believe that Dewey’s got a fake ID from some point.” Parker Stevenson was the first name that came to mind. (Laughs) I said to Taylor and Keith, “You can change that name. It could be anything.” And they said, “No, no we like that.” I was a big Hardy Boys fan, so that’s my tribute to the Hardy Boys. Shaun Cassidy would have been too much of a joke. Parker Stevenson was just right.
Dickie asked Raylan to visit him so he could try to trade Dewey’s whereabouts with the heroin for a stay in a nice rehab facility. Jeremy’s map monologue was a thing of beauty.
That was in the script. I think Taylor wrote that. I remember reading it and going, “Wow, that’s great: ‘Until you wink out of existence entirely.'” Jeremy will expand stuff. So what is a three-page scene, the first cut was about six minutes long. He just gives a lot of choices. He has a lot of fun with it. (Laughs) He gets that Dickie Bennett thing goin’ to the degree that Dickie Bennett’s putting on a performance. There was a point — and we’ve never seen this physical posture for Raylan before — when Raylan sits down at that table and puts his head in his hands and just watches. He’s never sat like that in the history of the series, I don’t think. It was just a little bit of him going, “I’m just gonna watch this guy, because this is gonna be entertaining. This is Dickie Bennett, and he’s gonna do something.”
That posture wasn’t scripted, I assume. It was Tim?
That’s Tim. And it’s John Dahl working with them and just letting it happen.
This is the last we’ll see of Dickie this season?
Dickie sent Dewey to Cyrus, who of course looped in Boyd and Darryl, who sent Danny to get the heroin back. That was another fun scene with Cyrus referring to them as “big dips–t” and “little dips–t.”
Bill Tangradi is just a wonderful actor. He had two wonderful scenes earlier in the season, one where he’s shooting the dealer on the street with the pellet gun and then when Wynn Duffy is shooting him. It’s just one of those things of conservation of cast and character: Okay, Dickie could have sent Dewey to any number of dealers. But let’s have him send him to someone we know, and someone we know can not only do a good job but a great job.
Let’s talk about Boyd and Ava’s breakup scene. Walton Goggins got me to tear up again.
That went back and forth, various versions, the actual wording and how it would come out. Walton wanted that turn of, “Do you realize what I’ve done?” And then Joelle [Carter] had a great comeback, “Yes, I do.” It’s the two of them working together with Taylor and Keith and John Dahl, and they found it. This is something that we’ve planned since, I would say, the fifth episode, and it was Walton’s idea: “What if we get to a low point where Ava in fact breaks up with Boyd?” We’re like, “Wow… Okay.”
Penny was in cahoots with Rowena because they both want Judith dead for making Penny have abortions when she got pregnant by the guards Judith made her have sex with. Ava made her first attempt in the bathroom.
We knew in the structure of the episode that we needed Ava to come close to doing it, have Penny kind of pulling her off, we think Penny is stopping her from doing it, but in fact Penny is saying, “No, that’s not the right way to do it, here’s the right way.” That allowed us to introduce Penny’s backstory in all of this. But there’s the little detail that I think Joelle came up with, which is she’s holding the cigarette for Judith. And then when they’ve got bed check and they’ve got to leave, she takes a couple of hits off the cigarette and then throws it in the sink. That wasn’t scripted. But there was just something about her doing that: She smoked in the beginning. Then she didn’t smoke for a long time. Then she smoked last year when she was in the big scene with Nicky Augustine in the bar. And here she is having a little hit. It’s a little character-specific moment that’s always fun to see.
Ava and Judith’s eventual brawl in the chapel was brutal.
John Dahl said he was so happy that he finally got to do a “girlfight in prison” scene. It was a mixture of stuntwomen and them. We just liked the idea of Ava coming in and saying, “No, I’m not gonna do this,” and Judith saying, “Yeah? Well, that’s too bad because I can no longer trust you,” and then it just goes the way it goes.
We saw Ava take off her bloody shirt. So she’ll pretend she was never there?
She was never there.
Boyd got his hands on the guard Albert (Danny Strong) and threatened to cut him worse if he didn’t recant his statement that Ava had attacked him. Albert said he’d only done that because he loved Ava immediately and knew he’d never be able to make her his, and Boyd set him free. That surprised me, too. Did Boyd really believe him, and is that really why he let him go?
That’s a good question. It was my feeling that he believes and doesn’t believe him, and that’s almost immaterial. Ava has broken up with him. He had Jimmy kill an old man to help Ava. And it’s like, you know, enough. There’s a little bit in episode 9 when Roscoe and Jay come in and Boyd says, “Why don’t we all just pull our guns and see who’s left standing?” There’s a big sense of what the hell am I doin’ this for?
Are you saying that Boyd is giving up on Ava? This is him trying to let go?
It’s just he’s not gonna torture this guy. He has reached his limit.
Moving on to Wynn Duffy: Hearing Picker reference Wynn’s fascination with Boyd made me wonder if there’s something there I should be paying more attention to.
There is sort of an odd friendship. You’ll see stuff a little bit in the next episode and more so in the subsequent ones. There’s the sense that they’ve been doing this together for a while, and even though Wynn Duffy has in the past been part of a conspiracy to have Boyd killed (Laughs), he kinda likes Boyd. They’re both survivors. There is something about Boyd that he finds admirable, and Boyd, I think, gets a kick out of Wynn Duffy to an extent.
Picker wants Wynn to choose between him and Boyd, and Wynn has asked his old associate Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) to help him with the assessment.
It happens next episode. She gets in a room with Boyd and with Picker and Duffy and has to help Wynn decide which road he should take.
Is there a sexual history between Wynn and Katherine?
We haven’t landed on that entirely. We don’t know if it was an infatuation, or if it indeed really was a sexual history.
Mary told me she’ll be in the final season, and she’s very excited about where the character is headed.
You’re really trying to tease that out of me? (Laughs) It’s the tenth episode. We’ve got three more to go, and you’re trying to tease that out of me.
On to Kendal then. He ran away to Allison’s because he didn’t want to face Danny’s wrath for Chelsea getting hit by a car. Allison sent him back with Wendy, and Chelsea’s death eventually came out, along with the truth about what Danny had done to Jean-Baptiste. After Danny’s death, Raylan told Art that he’s worried Wendy and Darryl will take their anger out on him by going after Allison. Should we be worried about Allison?
For the time being, we saw Wendy and Darryl take out their frustration on each other. That fight was also brutal.
We just had this thing: This sibling tension has been building, what if they just beat the s–t out of each other? Being realistic, with his size and her size, he does more damage than she does, but she gets in a few good licks.
Did the network have any concern about seeing her take that many kicks?
Um, I don’t know if you’re aware, this is FX.
The network is fearless, is that what you’re saying?
They do Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story, so…
They were fine with it.
I don’t know if they were fine with it, but they didn’t say anything about it.
Darryl went to Kendal and made him choose between him and Wendy. It had echoes of Darryl making Dewey decide whether he was a Crowe, but it was more intense and desperate. Kendal chose Darryl — I assume because he had no other option in that moment.