Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
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Spoiler alert! Joelle Carter, who plays Ava on FX’s Justified, joined us to talk about the 10th episode of the show’s final season, including that climactic final scene and what Ava took away from finding Dewey’s necklace. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, you might want to stop reading right about now…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I was losing my mind watching this episode. It’s too intense.

JOELLE CARTER: Good! I was losing my mind shooting it.

Is this what we’re in for from here on out, with only three episodes to go? Is everything going to be this intense with everybody fighting for their survival?

Yes. It was hard getting there. By the time we got to 10 [episodes] we were cross-shooting with so many scheduling conflicts…and even this episode, we shot until two or three in the morning, and I didn’t know I would be doing this until the day before, so I was just getting privy to the information that night. It was crazy.

I was going to ask you if there was any specific way you changed your approach to playing Ava as the season has gone on and she’s found herself in more dire circumstances, but it doesn’t sound like you had a lot of time to react.

I knew what was coming [in that final scene], but it hadn’t been “justified,” for lack of a better word, for me yet because the prequel scenes [eg: Raylan informing Ava that Vasquez will no longer honor her C.I. contract and will try to send her back to prison] had not been written. Usually for me, it all kind of ends up making sense and we pretty much shoot in a decent order so that, in my mind, I can pave it out. This isn’t one of those occasions. I mean, I knew this was going down, but it wasn’t going to go down, and then it was [laughs]…so it was a lot to digest. Luckily [director] Adam Arkin was there, and he’s been with us for a long time. Even in the shooting of the scene, there’s so many different ways it can go. With Tim and everyone, we were really talking about this turn and what it meant, and they were really solidifying where the rest was going from here on out. Every once in awhile, life reflects art, and I feel like in that moment Ava knew what she was doing, that she called the right shot, no pun intended. But she was in the same kind of place I was in, feeling all out of control and flustered, but taking charge of the moment.

I think it shows that Ava’s come a long way. If we’re at a point in this show where Ava is shooting Boyd Crowder to save herself, things are really out of control. It’s a huge moment.

It was huge! And one of the problems I had with the scene was, I was like, that’s it, that’s the shooting? I don’t have a moment before Raylan comes out of the bushes to say something? And they’re like, nope, that’s it. I get it 100 percent now. It makes total sense from here on out. It was hard for me, as it should have been hard for Ava to just do what she had to do, and to know what she was going to do. She’s in survival mode, she’s acting on instinct, but also got to a point in the season where she can stand behind it now because of the violence coming from Boyd and because she can’t trust Raylan to really help her stay out of prison. In the end, he’s going to answer to the law, so now it’s time for Ava to take charge.

In that moment, and with everything leading up to it… Ava’s obviously scared of going back to prison, but is her decision to turn on Boyd and Raylan partly because she’s realized how manipulated she’s been by these two men?

Yeah, I think along the way she’s been realizing that, and until the last couple of episodes, she still keeps a little faith in both of these men. But I want to say that along the way she’s known that she’s going to have to be very careful and look out for herself. When she ran the first time, that’s when it started really solidifying for her; she just didn’t have a second to think. This time she’s been thinking about it, especially after being threatened by Raylan and the Marshals. She’s been holding on to knowing that at some point there’s going to be an opportunity that she’s going to have to take advantage of.

Dewey’s necklace comes back into play in this episode. Was finding that necklace kind of the final straw for her in terms of her relationship with Boyd, in that she realizes he’ll never be completely honest with her?

Yeah, it was a reveal that he’s still hiding so much from her. And it’s also hard to digest that there was a reason to kill Dewey, although Ava was never that fond of him. [Laughs] Initially, Graham [Yost] had told me that the killing of Dewey would be a catalyst for Ava, like a final breaking point for her to break ties with Boyd, but before the season started, they needed that element to happen at the beginning of the season to show the audience where Boyd was from the very beginning. It just helped show his downward spiral into desperation.

And he’s been really desperate as of late. What’s almost a cruel irony is that he ends up succeeding in a way­—he gets Markham’s money—but it’s too late, except maybe for Ava.

Yeah, the opportunist that she is, just waiting for that moment. And this is really, I have a feeling, going to put Boyd over the edge. Poor guy. It breaks my heart! It broke my heart the night it went down, even though I really stood by her and I believe in what she’s doing. I imagine it’s going to be hard for the audience to see too.

I think so. And that gets back to feeling conflicted about these characters and what we want for them. I didn’t want Boyd to die in that mine, and that feeling is the same here, where I didn’t want Ava and Boyd’s relationship to end this way. It’s so strange seeing her shoot Boyd. I never thought it would come to that.

Yeah, you don’t know how to feel. You’re like, yeah get away! But then you’re like, wait a minute, she just shot Boyd! The love of your life, the man who did everything he could do to get you guys out! It’s pretty crazy.

For you personally, was that a fun scene to do? I imagine getting to draw down on those two would be kind of fun.

For me it was a hard night. I was exhausted. But also, everyone was in an unusual mood, I think because it was really getting torn apart at that scene in that episode, and I have to say, sometimes the breaking down of something really brings it together because it is such an exciting, wonderful episode; but it was painful. [Laughs] But at the end, I always enjoyed working with everyone on the set.

I imagine knowing that the end of a six-season run is right around the corner is part of that too.

Oh, of course. The whole year was bittersweet, and the last two weeks Graham came out and was there crying through everything, and that made it very difficult. [Laughs] I knew that was the last scene that I would be shooting with Walton [Goggins] as Ava and Boyd where we were on the same side, so that was difficult, too. It was really the end of that story as it had already been defined. Now it has a different definition.

Earlier in the episode, when Ava shows Dewey’s necklace to Raylan and tries to convince him that it could be used as evidence of murder, or that she can get a confession out of Boyd, does she honestly believe that, or is this her way or luring Raylan in? At what point did she really finalize her plan?

I think when she finds it she’s getting a lot of information. She’s realizing Boyd hasn’t been completely honest with her, that he’s capable of anything. She doesn’t know all the circumstances, but it’s not good. She’s seen a lot of people in his employment end up this way, through his decision-making. And he’s already showing so much violence, anger, and mistrust toward her that she’s really walking on eggshells. The necklace is just a sign for her that she really has to look for an opportunity and do the thing she wants. I don’t think it’s until the moment where she knows she’s going back to prison that she’s decides to use everything she’s got.

Would Ava really have shot Raylan if necessary? For all her crimes, shooting a U.S. Marshal is taking it to another level.

You know, you have to realize that all of that is happening in the moment, and if you put someone in that situation, there’s so much adrenaline going. And these people, all three of them, get off a little bit on that particular adrenaline. I feel like if he pulled, she would have pulled, too. I mean, she was going for it right there; she didn’t know how it was going to end. He could have shot her without even thinking. I think this comes down to their relationship, and one of the few times you see Raylan walk away when he potentially could have stopped it; he could have shot me in the leg or something. In a way, he’s like, I’m coming after you, I’m going to get you, and it’s adrenaline for him, too, especially with this particular woman. They have that kind of relationship.

It’s almost like he wants her to get away so that he can keep chasing her, so that he has an excuse to keep her in his life.

I mean, if he was fully thinking about the whole situation, and the ramifications of her getting away, I don’t think he would have let her, but in the moment, and the moment they shared before… she’s using what Ava uses best, her femininity and her sexuality to even get him to take this risk of talking Boyd into confessing in front of him. But, these two men are blinded by their desire to outdo each other, so you can pretty much talk either one of them into anything right now. [Laughs]

Obviously we can’t get into details, but would you say Ava has a plan going forward? What’s her mind-set right now?

I think she’s scared, desperate, and a little confident. I think she’s made this move, standing behind it, and she does have a bit of a plan. That’s all I can really say. [Laughs]

Justified airs at 10 p.m. ET on Tuesdays.

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