Based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard and developed for television by showrunner Graham Yost, the FX drama series Justified is back for Season 5, which is also its penultimate season, now that its been announced that it will be ending with six seasons. This season, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) must confront the deadly and dangerous Crowe family while Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) struggles to free his imprisoned fiancée Ava (Joelle Carter), as he partners with the Dixie mafia’s Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns).
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, executive producer Graham Yost talked about living up to the legacy of Elmore Leonard, what fans can expect from the remainder of this season, how they set up Season 5 to lead into the sixth and final season, why now was the right time to explore the Crowe family, that things will come to a head between Raylan and Daryl Crowe (Michael Rapaport), where things are headed with Boyd and Ava, and what it’s been like to have Timothy Olyphant as a collaborator, throughout the run of the series. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
GRAHAM YOST: You know, it’s interesting. People are asking that a lot and my stock answer is no, because we’ve always tried to live up to that. But now that everyone is asking it, I’m getting frightened that the pressure is on. I feel it a little bit. The big thing is that he doesn’t get to see it, so we don’t get that feedback and we don’t know absolutely whether or not we’re on the right track. So, it’s a little bit more guesswork. But, he was always so genuinely supportive. He got what we were trying to do ‘cause it was what he was trying to do.
What can you say about where things are headed, this season?
YOST: Well, the big thing for Raylan is parenthood, and the big thing for Boyd is, can he be reunited with Ava. We’ve got those two big stories going. And then, the Crowes are a big part of the season. They’re an invasive species that come in and take over, and they just cause problems for everyone.
With just one more season left, does it feel like everything is moving towards a conclusion, or does it not feel that way yet?
YOST: I will say that, even though we were entertaining the notion of maybe doing one big long season, at some point, and dividing it into two shorter seasons, we eventually decided against it. As we started to break Season 5, we started to think of it as 5 and 6. We said, “What do we do in this season that sets up something for next season, and where do we want the story to go?” So, we have been thinking with the end in sight. We don’t know what the end is going to be, but we know some of the rough material that will go into causing the complications that will lead us through the last season.
Do you have to nail down a conclusion soon?
YOST: I think we’ll have to find that conclusion next summer, or really get that rough target. Frankly, we’ve already started to think about that. But, we also had to think about how we wrap up this season. We do want this season to have a sense of completion. This is the season of the Crowes. That’s what takes us from Episodes 1 to 13. And then, the secondary thing is how that can set up what will be the last 13 episodes.
Did you always know that you’d explore the Crowes more deeply, at some point?
YOST: No, it’s not something that we’ve been kicking around for years. It was just sort of, “What haven’t we done?” Last year, we did a mystery season. The year before that was bad elements coming from without, and coming in and screwing things up. The Crowes are a little bit like that, but Quarles was very different than the Crowes are. And the second season was about Mags, and all of that. So, we were looking for that thing for this season and the Crowes presenting themselves.
What made you invent Daryl Crowe? What were you hoping to do with that character?
YOST: We liked the idea of these boys – Daryl, Danny, Dilly and Kendal, and even Jean Baptiste, to an extent – being the Lost Boys. We called Alicia Witt’s character Wendy because Daryl is Peter Pan and she’s Wendy. She’s more of the civilizing influence that tries to keep these boys from getting themselves killed. And yet, you can tell that there’s part of her that really enjoys it too, or she wouldn’t do it. That was something that just came together.
What was it about Michael Rapaport and Alicia Witt that made them the right actors for those roles?
YOST: You have a certain thing in mind, and then you see what the actor brings to it and you go, “Oh, that’s good. Let’s do more of that.” Or you say, “Let’s try this out in a scene and see how that goes. Let’s see if there’s something we can explore there.” Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but most of the time, with actors of this caliber, we find things where we’re like, “Oh, yeah, we can do that, too.” A lot of it is just finding our way.
What can you say about the relationship between Daryl and Dewey? Does Dewey just want to be left alone?
YOST: That will be Dewey’s goal for quite some time. Dewey is really tested. For a bunch of episodes, he’ll be really regretting the presence of the Crowes. We just love Dewey. From the very first scene that Damon Herriman shot in the pilot, he was fantastic. He’s this sweet Australian guy, and he can play Dewey so well. When you see all the other work that Damon’s done, he’s just an incredibly versatile actor. We wanted more Dewey, but you’ll notice that Dewey wasn’t in Season 4. There was a sense of, “Let’s hold him in reserve, and when we’re going to use him, let’s really use him.”
Have you had to be really careful about how much you bring Raylan and Boyd together, even though the fans really love to see them interacting, so that you don’t overuse those moments?
Is there a limit to the amount of times before Raylan can poke out the Crowes before they bite him?
YOST: Yes, and it’s 13 episodes, apparently. No. You’ll see. One of our calculations is that we had to make the family big enough that it could be slowly dismantled, and yet not too big that it’s possible to contain in the scripts. But yeah, things will come to a head between Raylan and Daryl.
We’ve talked before about how Raylan can only let Boyd slide for so long. Is that part of having everything in Boyd’s life come crashing down, this season?
YOST: Yeah. We wanted to really put Boyd in a number of jams, one after another. There’s a real art to the first five episodes. In its own way, that’s the first half of the penultimate season. And then, it’s about what happens from that.
Boyd seems to have the worst luck with people not being loyal or dependable. Does he have anyone who he can really rely on, at this point?
YOST: I think he can rely on his two henchmen, Jimmy and Carl. I think they’re pretty dependable. But, every other relationship is fraught for him. If you want to be a criminal kingpin, that’s what you get. That’s part of the job. And we have to do that. We need story and we need conflict, so things have to go badly.
It’s changed Boyd so much to have this relationship with Ava, but when he was given the option to sacrifice himself in exchange for her, he couldn’t do it. Can they find happiness, at this point?
YOST: I think you always want to keep that hope there, but it’s going to be difficult. The peak of their relationship was in the middle of last season, when he proposed. They were at their high point. It’s certainly been downhill since then. There will be happy times for them, but you’ll just have to see how that plays out.
What’s it been like to have Timothy Olyphant as a contributor and a collaborator, through this whole process?
YOST: The show wouldn’t be half as good without him, and not just as a performer, but as a producer and as a creative force in the show. He’s always challenging us to do something different, to go deeper, and to be unexpected. He’ll catch things that we’ve let slide, or that we just didn’t see. It’s been invaluable. It hasn’t been without its difficulties. We’ve fought and we’ve had hard times. But the reality is that we both, at the end of the day, realize that we’re doing something that people are really getting a kick out of, so we keep doing it. And we both genuinely like each other. Tim is a great guy. He’s very smart and very funny.
Justified airs on Tuesday nights on FX.