Developed by Graham Yost from the work of Elmore Leonard, the final season of Justified is focused on the long-brimming conflict between Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), and how it will all finally come to a head. Up until now, they’ve been tap-dancing around the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the law, but as Boyd hopes for one final score that will enable him to leave Harlan forever, Raylan would like nothing more than to put an end to all of the criminal activity in Harlan County.
During this exclusive on-set interview with Collider, actress Joelle Carter (who plays Ava Crowder) talked about what it’s like to shoot the last season of a show she’s done for six seasons, likely needing some time to decompress once it’s all done, how she feels about Ava’s journey in the final season, that she wanted to know more about what would happen this season than she has in previous seasons, what she’ll take from her time collaborating with co-star Walton Goggins, what she’ll miss most about playing Ava, her character’s regrets, and what she’d like to take from the set. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
JOELLE CARTER: Yeah, it has. I start a scene with excitement or nervousness, and by the time it’s done, I’m like, “Another one down.” Each scene is one scene closer to the end. The days seem long, but when they’re over, it’s like, “Oh, my god!” Everyone is a big family. It’s starting to get sad.
Are you going to take some time to decompress, once it’s all over?
CARTER: Oh, of course! I feel like I’ve been mourning, all season. Everyone is so close to their characters, because it’s collaborative, in that way. We wear their skin. I feel like I’m putting Ava to bed, and I wonder if I’ll get that close to another character. I think it would be nice to have a little bit of time, but it could take your mind off of it, if you have another character to try to get into, right away.
Ava is stuck in a bad situation. How do you feel about her journey in this final season?
CARTER: This season is a dream season for me. They’re really writing such a wonderfully complicated and exhausting journey for Ava, and I feel it. It’s the first season that I’ve worn her home more than ever. She’s really been put up, not only to test herself and her loyalty, but in some ways, she’s going to have to either follow her heart or soul. It’s a constant tug-of-war, emotionally, for Ava. They put me in situations where she’s having to betray the love of her life. Walt [Goggins] and I will sit here together and say that my Ava is so in love with his Boyd, and I’m so protective of that, but the situation they put her in, she has to be loyal to Raylan (Timothy Olyphant). In the real world, I don’t know how anyone would deal with that situation. It tears your heart apart.
CARTER: Oh, yes, definitely. They introduced an uncle this season, which is the first family member I’ve met or dealt with, in six years. It was comforting, but it was also distant and foreign. What Boyd and Ava provide for each other is that one person in life that they can really rely on. He constantly has a vision of the future for them, which for her, is nice to look at, but she doesn’t have the same vision, especially in the position that she’s in.
Did you have any idea what the final outcome was going to be, going into the season, or do you prefer not to know?
CARTER: Most seasons, they’d give me an idea, but not tell me a lot. This season, I really wanted to know, so they told me the outline of the journey for all of the characters. But the history of this show is that it constantly changes, so with that in mind, I kind of knew how it would end. There are a lot of opinions with how different people want it to end, so it was a mystery.
Were you able to sit with Graham Yost and tell him what you’d like to see happen with Ava?
CARTER: I think I heard that most people went to Graham and said they wanted to die, this season, but I was not one of them. I was like, “You can’t put Ava through all of this, and then kill her. And she cannot go back to prison.” That was my two cents, for my character. I wanted her to walk away like an Elmore Leonard woman who really took care of herself. Unfortunately, that might mean that she’ll have to play both sides to the point where she can do that. But as it goes on and I’ve had more and more scenes with Boyd, I don’t want to do it. I can imagine, if they do write that and I’m playing that scene, in the future, it’s going to be heartbreaking.
CARTER: He is a method actor. I don’t think I’ll be totally method, ever, but I’ve learned how to honor that part of the process and really stay where I need to stay, during the whole acting day, without any apologies or regret anymore. That’s what I’ve learned from him the most. He honors what he needs, on the set, to do what he needs to do for his character. Later on, he’ll apologize. You have to really take care of yourself. You can’t juggle it all, when you’re in these characters. Even at home, I had to get my husband to step up a little bit more, this season. I was like, “You’ve gotta take care of me a little bit more,” ‘cause I just come home trashed.
What will you miss most about playing Ava Crowder?
CARTER: I just love her unpredictability and the way she can take some really difficult situations and figure out how to keep her power, even in the moment. We all have a survivor instinct. There’s so much that I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss her sassiness. She has a quick wit. I love that she has a big heart and a deep love for another person. It’s been a lot of fun.
CARTER: It was like she was being birthed, which was interesting. So, I’d have to say no. Even in that scene where we meet her, I was so impressed that this woman could have just been a mess, but she was a mess in a different way. She was explaining the demise of her husband while she was seducing Raylan. Maybe she wasn’t right, but she was interesting. She was always very interesting, but I didn’t know she’d go on the journey that she went on.
Is there anything that she regrets, or is she somebody who has no regrets?
CARTER: I think we all have regrets and apologies. She can move on from them pretty quickly, and has had to. I think all of these characters are a little bit psychopath, and when you’re a psychopath, you can justify your actions. She’s killed three people, but justifiably, in defense. They always give me a way out. I don’t think she wants to go around killing people, or that she doesn’t think about it or regret it. I think she does have regrets. She just can’t afford the time to ruminate over them.
How do you see the relationship between Ava and Raylan, at this point?
CARTER: It’s very father-daughter, in a way. He’s putting her out there and has to take care of her. She’s trying to deliver, but wishes he’d leave her alone and let her deal with things on her own. She’s constantly having to answer to him. It’s really complicated. They have a history and they care about each other, to a certain extent. Wherever that leads is a surprise. I hope he cares enough to want to keep her alive and not just send her back to prison.
Is there anything you want to take with you from the set?
CARTER: There are definitely different wardrobe pieces. There are these red shoes that she wears that I probably can’t even wear anymore because they’re so worn, but I’d love to take those. I’ve walked around thinking, “What would I take?” There’s probably something in the bar. There is a wedding picture of me in the house that I don’t want anyone to see, so I might take that.
Justified airs on Tuesday nights on FX.