Based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard and developed for television by showrunner Graham Yost, the FX drama series Justified is wrapping up its fifth season and looking ahead to its sixth and final season. As things wind down, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) finally faces off with Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport), and the fate of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and his love for Ava (Joelle Carter) are still unresolved.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider to discuss the events of Season 5, Aussie actor Damon Herriman talked about how much fun it was to expand his character this season, how much more worried he was that he wouldn’t make it to the end alive, why viewers have grown to feel sympathy for Dewey Crowe, what Dewey’s perfect world would look like, what he did to prepare for this role, what it’s been like to work with such a talented cast of actors, and how awesome it would be if Dewey was one of the last men standing, when all was said and done, at the end of Season 6. He also talked about his roles in the upcoming TV series Battle Creek, from Vince Gilligan, David Shore and Bryan Singer, in which he plays a detective, and Starz’s Flesh and Bone, which is set around the world of ballet dancers, as well as being a part of Russell Crowe’s directorial debut The Water Diviner. Check out our Damon Herriman after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
DAMON HERRIMAN: It’s been so fun. In the past, I think the most I’ve ever done in a season is five episodes. And last season, I didn’t do any, at all. So, when I heard that I was going to get to do a bit more in this season, I was so excited because I just love playing this role and I love this show. It’s made a big difference, getting to be in most of the season, ‘cause you get an ongoing story, and you get so much more to do and sink your teeth into.
Since you were around more to cause even more trouble than usual, were you worried that you wouldn’t make it to the end of the season?
HERRIMAN: Absolutely! Before we started shooting, I visited the writers’ room and they said, “Just so you know, there’s a 50/50 chance you’re not going to survive this season.” I was like, “Okay, I don’t know how I feel about that, but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.” That’s a weird feeling, knowing that you have absolutely no control over this character that you feel some weird ownership over, but you really have no ownership of, at the end of the day. It’s their character, not yours. So far, I’m alive, but you never know what might happen.
What’s it been like to really get to explore the whole Crowe family and their relationships so extensively, this season?
HERRIMAN: It was cool because, in the past, Dewey has really only ever had interactions with complete strangers, or Raylan and Boyd. He’s had to spend a bit of time with Dickey, but spending more time with his family was a fun thing to approach because of how much he didn’t want to be there. He’s such a lone wolf. He’s just this guy that drifts about the place on his own, and you don’t even really think of him having family. I just thought it was so clever how they came up with this idea that, at the start of the season, everything couldn’t be going better for him with the money and the whorehouse and he’s the boss. Dewey Crowe was in his element. It was the day he’d been waiting for, to be king of the castle. And then, within days of all that, it’s all come crumbling down horribly and these terrifying cousin that he doesn’t want around don’t leave. The next thing he knows, he’s not even at his whorehouse anymore. He’s out in the middle of Mexico, in the middle of gang warfare.
Why do you think viewers feel sympathy for Dewey Crowe when he’s not really a good guy?
HERRIMAN: I guess it’s partly the fact that you know Dewey, so it’s the devil you know. You root for him because these other people have just arrived. There’s also just a quality in Dewey where he’s such an underdog. Nothing ever goes right for him. He’s a bad guy, in many ways. He has his tattoos and he commits armed robberies, and now he’s killed someone. But, there’s still something about him where you feel like maybe he’s not really that bad of a guy. He’s just found himself in this set of circumstances that have put him in this time and place, but he could have easily been a janitor with a wife and kid, and been perfectly happy and not been bothering anybody.
HERRIMAN: It’s more fun when things don’t go well for Dewey. If things are going well for Dewey, it’s nice for the guy, but it’s not as fun to play and it’s probably not as fun to watch. I think it when I read the scripts and things go wrong. It’s so much more fun because I know that means that Dewey is going to be incredibly frustrated and trying to fix it in a really bad way, and then it will probably go worse. That’s really fun stuff, as an actor, to get to do.
In a perfect world, how do you think Dewey would like to see things turn out for himself? Do you think that he’d ideally like to have the respect of his family, or do you think he’d rather be left alone by his family so that he can start his own criminal enterprise?
HERRIMAN: I think he would prefer to be left alone. In a really perfect world, if it could all be completely different, he probably would like the respect of his family, if he was the king and everybody was looking after him, kind of like he was when he was the boss for an episode or two, before it all went so horribly wrong. He definitely likes taking on that position of the head honcho. He doesn’t get to do that very often. He’s normally the guy that’s running around for everybody else. So, I’m sure that in some complete fantasy world for Dewey, the idea that he could be the Darryl of the situation is probably a great idea. But given that that’s not the situation, I think he just wants those people out of his life. He’s so low on the ladder, with those guys. When he’s on his own, he can be the boss, and he likes that. He likes doing what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. When those guys are around, he ends up doing what they want him to do.
Dewey Crowe is a very specific type of character. Before you started playing this character, did you go out with the tattoos to see how people would react to him, or was it more of an internal process?
HERRIMAN: I certainly didn’t go out with the tattoos, considering that they’re all white supremacist and Nazi tattoos. Although when we shot the pilot in Pittsburgh, we were finishing late one night and starting early the next day, and the make-up artist did ask me to keep them on. I discovered, when I was walking around in the city at night, that I had “Heil Hitler” written on my neck and that probably wasn’t such a great idea, so I got home as quickly as I could. But, I didn’t really go out as Dewey. For me, it’s a combination of what’s in the script and the way the character feels, in terms of how it’s described, the way he behaves and the things he says, with those types of people that I might have seen in real life or in a movie. I paint a picture, that way. And then, you get to know who you’re playing a bit more, the more you do it. When I come across the pilot episode now, I can see that that’s not quite the fully fleshed out Dewey. He’s similar, but he’s not quite the same Dewey because I didn’t know who he was yet. Certainly, in the pilot, he didn’t have as many extreme and ridiculous things going wrong for him, in the way he has, as it’s gone on. That was something that there was a hint of in the pilot, but the writers injected more and more of that stuff, the more it went along, which was great because that’s more fun for me.
HERRIMAN: No. People from other countries who play American do it in different ways. I have some friends who will turn up with the American accent and stay in it the whole day. Some even do occasionally bring it home. They want to be so in that accent that they don’t want to think about how they normally speak. But, I’ve always just gone into it when they call action. I could be talking two seconds before we start talking a take, and I’ll be Australian, and then as soon as they say, “Cut!,” I’ll ask a question as an Australian. It’s not a conscious thing, really. It’s just that that’s how I talk, and I’m not Dewey anymore. It’s just the way it is. I never feel like the accent comes with me.
When did you start to realize that despite his behavior and his shortcomings that viewers were really liking Dewey Crowe?
HERRIMAN: Maybe it was around Season 2, with that episode where he decides to impersonate Raylan. There was some great stuff there, where he wants to be in disguise, so he goes to a sporting goods store in Kentucky and tries to buy a ski mask. There’s the whole thing with the guy going, “What do you need a ski mask for? Where are you going to go skiing? It’s the middle of summer.” And then, he dresses up as Raylan and pretends to be Raylan. Around that time, I feel like that was the start, to my recollection, of when the really hapless Dewey became clear, and I think that’s maybe what people liked. He was Dewey with a scheme. He was scheming ridiculous schemes to try to better his place in the world. I think it was around then. You don’t really get an immediate sense of that stuff. It just filters through and someone might say, “Oh, I really liked that character,” and then someone else will say, “My friends say they like that character.” As the actor playing it, you probably don’t hear a lot of that stuff yourself, but it’s certainly nice when you do hear it. It’s nice to play a character that people like watching, for sure, but the majority of that is due to the writers of the show. They write incredibly great material for that character.
HERRIMAN: It’s been so amazing to work with those actors, too. They’re just so incredibly good, and they’re all lovely people. It’s just a pleasure. And they all really care about it, even to this day. Five seasons in, you’ll never do a scene with Tim or Walton where they’re not thinking about, “Can this scene be any better? Does this scene work? Is this the best line? Do we need these bits?” There’s no sense of it just being their job. It’s a really cool thing.
You also have roles coming up in Battle Creek and Flesh and Bone. Was one TV show just not enough for you? Does it feel like an embarrassment of riches, in your career right now?
HERRIMAN: I guess it does, a little bit, and it is weirdly a bit embarrassing. I’ve ben acting since I was a kid. I’ve had way more months and years of not working, in that time, than working, so I know exactly what it’s like to be out of work, and to be out of work for long periods of time. I feel incredibly lucky, at the moment. I know it is a very lucky period in my life, and there’s a part of me that does feel a bit embarrassed about it because I have really good friends who are incredibly talented actors, who might not be working, at the moment. It does seem a little bit unfair, the way the world works. But, I’ve also been that guy. I’ve been an actor since I was eight, so there have been plenty of times where I had a couple of years where I felt completely unhireable and I didn’t know what I could do to get a job. So, I don’t take it lightly or for granted, at all. I really appreciate that I’m very lucky.
With a show that has such talent behind it as Vince Gilligan, David Shore and Bryan Singer, and actors like Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters at the center of it, what are you most excited about with Battle Creek?
HERRIMAN: When you hear that you’re auditioning for a show created by Vince Gilligan, that in itself is incredibly exciting, not to mention David Shore. In Australia, and certainly amongst actors, Breaking Bad is huge. It’s huge everywhere, but pretty much every actor I know is obsessed with Breaking Bad. So, to have an opportunity to do a show that Vince Gilligan wrote, that’s probably the most exciting thing about it, but there are a lot of exciting things. It’s a really great script. It’s an interesting character that’s a bit different for me. I get to wear a suit. I’ve played a lot of characters that wear the opposite of a suit, so that’s quite a nice change, as well. I’m really excited about it.
Is it weird to step onto the other side of the law and play a detective?
HERRIMAN: It couldn’t be more different, really, but I like that. I’ll always love playing different characters, especially characters that are different from whatever I’ve done most recently. I’m really excited about it.
HERRIMAN: I am, actually. Battle Creek is a recurring role and Flesh and Bone is a series regular, so that’s why I’m able to do both.
What attracted you to that show?
HERRIMAN: It’s amazing. It’s such great writing. It also has the Breaking Bad connection. Moira [Walley-Beckett] wrote for Breaking Bad for four seasons. That’s shot in New York, which is exciting. It’s set around the world of ballet dancers, which I think is a really cool idea for a show. I don’t play a ballet dancer, which might surprise you. I’m playing a homeless guy that is an incredibly written character. He’s a kind-hearted homeless guy who has this great literary talent. It’s a really awesome role. I think it’s going to be a good show.
You also had a role in Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner?
HERRIMAN: I did, yeah. That was in January. I was actually in the middle of shooting Justified and they very kindly let me go back to Australia where it was shooting. They had enough notice where they could write me out of, or not write me into, that episode, which was Episode 11. That was awesome. He was amazing. He’s actually a really wonderful director. I don’t have a very big role in it, but it was a really cool role. I play a very strict priest, and it’s set in 1919 and 1920. It was a two-hander. That was a really cool thing. Doing a scene with Russell Crowe is not something you get to do every day, and he was wonderful. I’m so glad that I got to do it.
Do you want to continue to work both in the States and in Australia?
HERRIMAN: I really do, yeah. I’ve been doing that, ever since I came here nine years ago. I’ve been going back and forth, partly because I really like my life there. Living in Sydney is a great life, and working there is great, too. I feel like, if I leave either place for too long, I might stop working there. So, I’ve been doing this back and forth thing, and it seems to be working all right. I definitely want to keep doing it. It might be harder to get home as often, if these shows continue for awhile, but that’s obviously not a bad problem to have.
Well, hopefully we’ll get to see you in the last season of Justified.
HERRIMAN: Yeah, I know. I still don’t know if I’ll show up next season, at all, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. I said to them, “Can Dewey please be in the last episode?” He’s in the first one, and it would be funny if that guy didn’t end up dying, right to the end. There’s something bizarre about that guy, who should have been killed ten times, still going.
It would be awesome if Dewey Crowe ended up as one of the few still standing, at the end of it all.
HERRIMAN: Yeah, exactly!
The Season 5 finale of Justified airs on FX on Tuesday, April 8th.