'Justified' duo Raylan and Boyd are bound by history

By Bill Keveney
USA Today
January 7, 2013

The relationship between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder has become the 'crux' of the FX series.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- It always comes down to Raylan and Boyd.
The two Justified antagonists, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and his opposite number, drug kingpin Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), are together in a scene, not so much at odds for a change as they try to figure a way out of captivity by dangerous Kentucky hill folk.
As crew members on this set, 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, prepare an explosion that could lead to the characters' escape from a rundown shack, Olyphant jokes, "Is this where we run out and get shot, and the season's over?"
Not likely. The relationship of the two characters, who have ties stretching back to their youth in Kentucky's coal-mining country, has become a linchpin of the acclaimed and award-winning FX series, which returns for Season 4 Tuesday (10 ET/PT). "It's critical," executive producer Graham Yost says. In fact, this season it takes center stage.
It also didn't necessarily have to happen. Boyd died in Fire in the Hole, the Elmore Leonard short story about a quick-drawing, Stetson-wearing deputy U.S. marshal that inspired the series. But on television, Boyd has become the yin to Raylan's yang, an irritant that keeps drawing the marshal, physically and psychologically, back home to the hills of Harlan County.
"We had our doubts about killing off Boyd, even as we were killing him off in the first go-round of the pilot. Walton's so wonderful, and Walton and Tim together are so wonderful," Yost says.
"Boyd's ability to hold up a dark mirror to Raylan was pretty invaluable," he says. "This show wouldn't be on the air without Tim playing Raylan, but I think right behind that, it would have a tough time if we didn't have Boyd."
The relationship between the two is "the crux of the show," Olyphant agrees. Justified is "about Raylan Givens. But Boyd is a large part of his history, and grounds him in this world, and is a witness to this journey that he's been on."
And a participant. Both know about life in the mines and each has been involved with Boyd's current love, Ava (Joelle Carter). And Raylan's estranged father, Arlo (Raymond Barry), is both a member of Boyd's criminal gang and a father figure to him, going so far as to confessing to a murder Boyd committed to spare him a prison term.
Boyd "may be a surrogate son, but there's nothing like blood. Boyd is the kind of blood one would establish in a gang," says Barry. As for Raylan, "regardless of what transpires, there's a primal love that a father would feel toward his son."
This season, there's no major outside threat as in the past, such as rural crime matriarch Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) or Detroit mobster Robert Quarles (Neil McDonough). (Season 3 averaged a healthy 3.9 million viewers per episode, and the series has earned Emmys for Martindale and Jeremy Davies, who plays her son, Dickie.)
"This year, we've brought it back to the core group, which allows us to in some ways exercise what I think is our greatest strength -- longer scenes, not as complicated, and you get to hear this Elmore-speak," Goggins says. He's referring to the best-selling author's distinct way with wry personalities and dry humor. "In some ways, it's kind of coming back to the way we first started the show."
Opposites attract
On the set, the mood is light but professional. In this scene, Raylan and Boyd are imprisoned in a small, corrugated-metal container inside the shack, decorated rustically with animal pelts, leg traps and lanterns.
Between scenes, the actors, each a one-time Emmy nominee for his role, display separate styles. The thoughtful Goggins, 41, is coiled intensity, exhibiting a taut style he used to great effect on another lauded FX drama, The Shield. He psyches himself up for scenes with almost a growl: "Let's bring some energy into this!"
It was that previous FX experience that persuaded Goggins to take the role of Boyd, a philosophizing troublemaker with nine lives, in the Justified pilot, even knowing the fate of the then-white supremacist in Leonard's story. But the actor, who has recently appeared inLincoln and Django Unchained, is happy he survived.
"I'm surprised and very grateful (that) four years in, I still don't know exactly who Boyd Crowder is. I still don't know everything that makes the relationship between Boyd Crowder and Raylan Givens tick," says Goggins, who meticulously chooses his words. "I'm as curious today as I was the first day we started filming the pilot."
The lanky Olyphant, 44, is just as serious about the scene, but with a relaxed confidence that probably served him well as a competitive swimmer in college. It fits his character, an old-school, slightly world-weary lawman whose belief in his own abilities gets him out of scrapes that his at-times impulsive, even reckless, behavior causes.
During a break, the Deadwood veteran walks around with hands bound by leather straps, not bothering to have an assistant undo them. At one point, he skillfully manages to pick up a paper cup and take a sip. At another, he narrates his co-star's energizing, pre-scene ritual: "Walton Goggins. On the set. Doing his thing."
But Olyphant's easy air shouldn't be mistaken for nonchalance. During one break, the actor, now a co-executive producer, approaches the episode's writer with an idea. He delights in the producing role. "This is the best part of the job. They've given me a lot of room and I've taken full advantage of it," he says."Someone cracked the door open and I knocked it down and backed up the truck and moved in."
Olyphant and Goggins are on friendly terms: a joke here, a quick shoulder squeeze there. After the scene, as they pose for a photo in the shack, Goggins suggests to Olyphant: "Why don't you wear this raccoon hat?"
His colleague demurs, preferring the character's signature headwear. "You didn't know Raylan and Boyd were vegans, did you?" Goggins says.
"We really do have a good time," Goggins says later. "I respect him as an actor and I love him as a person. There's no ego. I so enjoy figuring out the truth with Tim. He's my buddy. Boyd Crowder may not always think the world of Raylan Givens, but Walton Goggins thinks the world of Tim Olyphant."
And their styles complement each other. "Tim is very good at bringing humor," Goggins says. "He's always looking for the humor, and I'm always looking for the heart. ... It's a real nice combination."
Cold case heats up
This season, a 30-year-old cold case, reignited when something is found in the wall of Raylan's childhood home, serves as the core mystery, eventually bringing the two together in the same pursuit, if not with the same motivation.
"It was this huge federal investigation of a guy who was presumed dead and could potentially, if still alive, bring down some very powerful people in crime," Olyphant says. "When word gets out that he might be alive and well, everybody's looking for him for different reasons."
It "causes this tremendous upheaval in all these people's lives and there's a lot at stake for everybody involved," he says. "While some smaller chapters are going on through the season, this larger story is brewing and pulling everybody in. I find the whole thing to be very compelling."
Before their reunion in the shack, Raylan and Boyd spend early episodes apart. As a soon-to-be father, Raylan takes on some private fugitive apprehension work that would be frowned upon by his superiors. Winona, the mother of his unborn child, has left him, but her presence is still felt.
"He's got a kid coming. He's trying to make a little extra cash," Olyphant says. "I don't think he's got a clue of what he's gotten himself into" regarding the baby. As for the marshal's office, Raylan "still has his job, and he's managing. He's the kind of guy who causes a lot of problems but seems to get the job done."
Boyd, managing business as the drug kingpin of Harlan County, must deal with a snake-handling, Pentecostal preacher who is weaning valued customers from their addiction.
"One of the decisions we made going in (to Season 4) is we wanted to hold off on Raylan and Boyd actually seeing each other," Yost says. "To protect that relationship, we want to take a breather from it."
Olyphant likes the season's mix — new mystery, old adversary — and says the show can go in many directions, as long as it remains true to one core principle. "It's always good when it feels different yet familiar," he says. "One of the things that's so appealing about this show and the stories we tell is we don't have to be beholden to anything — as long as it feels like Elmore."