Based on the works of crime novelist Elmore Leonard and developed for television by showrunner Graham Yost, the FX drama series Justified is currently nearing the end of Season 5, which is also its penultimate season now that its been announced that the series will be ending with six seasons. This season, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has had to face the deadly and dangerous Crowe family while Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) struggles to free his imprisoned fiancée Ava (Joelle Carter), as his Dixie mafia partner Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) grows increasingly impatient with him.
During this recent interview to promote his arc on the show this season, actor Michael Rapaport, who plays Darryl Crowe Jr., talked about how much fun it’s been to be a part of this show, what originally drew him to the role, how Darryl turns a blind eye to his family, much to his own detriment, what he’s enjoyed most about playing this character, the biggest challenges, working with Walton Goggins, his favorite Darryl and Boyd moment, why he’s cool with it, if Darryl doesn’t make it through the end of the season, what drives him as an actor, and the projects he’s been involved with that mean the most to him. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: Darryl is much more intelligent and much more ambitious than a lot of the other characters give him credit for, but by that same token, the other members of his family are holding him back a little bit. Do you think Darryl truly realizes how detrimental they are to his goals, or is he just turning a blind eye to it because they’re family?
MICHAEL RAPAPORT: I think that he’s turning a blind eye to them because they’re family. In his head, he thinks he’s doing the best thing for his family. He’s running the family, and he has taken on this responsibility. He thinks that he’s doing the best thing for everybody, but as the season keeps going on, we’ll see how that plays out. It’s definitely been a lot of fun, and there are a lot of big twists and turns, at the end, that are going to be kind of shocking. There are a couple of scenes that are crazy.
This show has had so many great villains who have come in for one season. What originally drew you to this show?
RAPAPORT: I know the pedigree of actors that they’ve had on the show, and I’ve been a fan of the show before I got there. That made me excited, and it made me want to be a part of it. I think they have a really good standard, and a bar that they set.
What has been your favorite part of playing Darryl, and what has been the most challenging part?
RAPAPORT: My favorite part is just being able to say and do things that you can’t do in real life, and behaving in a way that’s just not really acceptable, in the real world. And then, when I see the episodes, I get off on the little things and the lines in between the lines of dialogue. It’s like playing cowboys and Indians. When you’re playing this bad of a character, it’s obviously not reality for someone who’s not living that life. So, that’s been the most fun. The challenge has been the intensity of the work schedule, the accent and my own personal standards.
It’s hard not to like this guy, even though he’s a criminal. What’s it been like to play a character like that?
RAPAPORT: It’s been one of the more fun jobs that I’ve had, in a long time, as an actor. To be able to play somebody that says and does pretty much whatever he wants is great. He’s manipulative and he’s very self-serving, although I don’t think he’s aware of it. It’s just been a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s been like venting. You scream and yell. You punch people. You smack people. It’s fun to do.
As the season continues, Darryl’s back continues to get further up against the wall, much like how things are with Boyd Crowder this season. What it’s like playing against Walton Goggins, and have you guys had any discussions about these characters paralleling each other?
RAPAPORT: We did have a couple of discussions about it. Walton is honestly one of the best actors I’ve ever had a chance to work with. It’s been a real pleasure working with him. Him and Tim’s insistence and persistence on pushing the envelope, not just for them, but for the show and for all the other actors, has been a real pleasure. It’s just been a lot of fun. It’s been challenging and creative. Those guys are just really good, and they really care about what they’re doing. It pays off, in the end result, but they really are team players, and are very welcoming and encouraging for everybody to do good. Obviously, Boyd is the most fleshed out of all of the bad guys, and I think he’s very humanized. He’s really a bad guy that you can get behind. He just brings a lot of color to the character. Darryl wants the same thing Boyd wants. They’re both criminals and, at the end of the day, they’re just trying to find their way and make their way. That’s definitely something that we talked about.
What has been your favorite moment between Darryl and Boyd?
RAPAPORT: My favorite moment between Darryl and Boyd was probably the first scene, when we met in the bar. It was a really long scene. It had ebbs and flows, and twists and turns. I’m a real fan of Walton, and he’s just a perfectionist. He really just is very intense, really pushing himself and pushing everybody else. He’s very encouraging of all the other actors around him, and just a real team player and a really inspiring actor to work with.
What’s it been like to work with Alicia Witt, this season?
RAPAPORT: I have to say that I’ve been enormously impressed with Alicia’s work and her intensity. She’s done some incredible work. We’ve had some days that couldn’t have been more intense, coming up in these last few episodes, and they’ve been a pleasure and very impressive. She gives the show some really special talents and skills, as the episodes go along. There are some scenes, towards the end of the season, that are just great. Working with her was just really special work.
The body count has been growing all season long, and this season isn’t over yet. Is the writing on the wall for Darryl, and are you cool with that?
RAPAPORT: Yes, I was totally cool with it. I knew that I had to accept my fate, going into it. I know that a character like this is living on the edge, so it’s really week-to-week. You didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t really know what was going to happen until we finished shooting. You don’t really get a heads up. But I knew that the way that he was behaving and the fact that I’m a bad guy stepping into a world of other bad guys, that there was a risk to take. I didn’t have any problems with it because it’s just been fun while it’s lasted.
What drives you as an actor, at this point in your career?
RAPAPORT: That’s a good question. Part of it is always the same, in terms of you just want to do the best you can do. It sounds cliché. You just want to do a great job, every time you get in front of a camera, and every time you’re in a scene. But as you get older and do more work, you want to try to vary yourself, and you want to try to different things and bring different colors. I think about more stuff than I did when I was younger, in terms of a performance. And I’m more aware of the technical aspect of acting, as far as where the camera is and pacing yourself to create and color a performance, using the camera. I’m conscious of that. But at the end of the day, my sole goal, when I go into any scene, is to try to be as honest as I possibly can, and then everything else is second. The most important thing for me is to just be as honest as I possibly can. In this performance, the accent was important, but at the end of the day, the honesty and the believability has always been my main goal, as an actor.
RAPAPORT: I think that it’s just a matter of job to job. Each environment is different, each job is different, and each realm of creativity that they give you is different. You try to do the best you can and put as much time into it as you can, but different jobs have different circumstances come about. Sometimes you know about a job four months in advance. Sometimes you know about a job four days in advance. It’s all different, and my thing is just to try to stay prepared. It’s like being a boxer. You never know when you’re going to get your next fight, so you have to just stay in shape, mentally and physically and creatively.
Are there other shows that you’re a fan of that you would like to work on, sometime in the future?
RAPAPORT: That’s a good question. I was a big fan of Breaking Bad. Everybody was into that. I’ve been enjoying True Detective. To be honest with you, the thing that I get the most joy out of on television, besides sports and since True Detective ended, is the reality television, for better or for worse, on Bravo. It’s shameful, but sometimes I watch those episodes of television and I’m like, “That was a really good hour of television.” I know it doesn’t sound highbrow and geeky, but you can sit down and watch a couple of hours of some good reality television, and it’s as entertaining as anything that they have on cable, HBO, Showtime, or anything. I promise you.
Aside from Justified, what would you say is your favorite project that you’ve worked on, over the years, that didn’t get the love that you thought it deserved?
RAPAPORT: That’s a good question. I would probably say a movie I did called Special, that I wish had gotten better distribution. It’s an independent movie that I’m very proud of, that people see on Netflix and iTunes, and such. I really did enjoy working on the TV show The War at Home. I thought that was a really good show, and I thought that we didn’t really get a fair shot at making a traditional, family-style, raunchy television show. It was disappointing that it ended early. I did a movie called Illtown that I think is pretty good. Those things are probably the ones that stick out, off the top of my head.
Justified airs on Tuesday nights on FX.