LOS ANGELES – When “Justified” ended, star Timothy Olyphant says he cried like a baby – “not because of the character but because of the people I was working with and how much I had enjoyed being in their company.”
Rather than wear out their welcome, Olyphant and the show’s creators decided to stop after six seasons.
“We felt we stuck the landing,” Executive Producer Michael Dinner says. But he, Olyphant and Executive Producer Graham Yost were open to another project. Enter: “City Primeval,” another Elmore Leonard novel that deals with a crazed killer. “Tim called and said, ‘You know this book “City Primeval”? It might make a good year of ‘Justified.’”
The producers saw it as an opportunity – dropping U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in another world and seeing how he reacts. Set in Detroit, “Justified: City Primeval” follows him as he encounters Clement Mansel, the Oklahoma Wildman, who has eluded authorities repeatedly. Adding a Givens daughter, who was referenced in “Justified,” was seen as a way to enrich the story.
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“We knew Raylan had a kid and that kid would be in her teens,” Olyphant says. “We figured we could take artistic license…in terms of age.”
Olyphant’s daughter, Vivian, who’s 20, auditioned for the part of the 15-year-old and got it.
“We talked about making her younger, but we were attracted to the idea of this as a ticking clock and ‘you’re about to lose her, no matter what,’” Olyphant says.
Because he’s three years from mandatory retirement from the U.S. Marshals’ service, Givens doesn’t have much time.
For Vivian Olyphant, it was great experience: “We kept a good balance of professionalism and fun. Work hard, play hard.”
The only time Timothy Olyphant flinched was when she said, “Dad, leave me alone.” “I was like, ‘You can’t say that,’” he recalls.
For fans of the original “Justified,” “City Primeval” isn’t a sequel but another look at the universe. “This show repeats what ‘Justified’ does so well, which is create these really detailed universes of people who are not good guys or bad guys but kind of in the gray areas,” says Executive Producer Sarah Timberman.
Vivian Olyphant as Willa Givens, Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens in "Justified: City Primeval."
When Mansel begins showing interest in Raylan’s daughter, Raylan knows he can’t dawdle. Compounding matters: Mansel’s wildly divergent personality.
“He thinks he’s this rock star but, really, he’s in the gutter,” says Boyd Holbrook, who plays Mansel. “He’s a thief. He’s a hustler. You don’t know if he’s oblivious or if he’s planning all of this out. He’s just a walking contradiction.”
When Leonard read the script for the original “Justified” series, he wanted to make sure Timothy Olyphant wore a cowboy hat. “Then he saw the pilot and Tim wore the hat just the way Elmore’s western cowboys did and so that was handled,” says son Peter Leonard. “He thought Tim Olyphant was the only guy, the only actor who could play Raylan.”
Clement Mansel, Leonard says, was one of his father’s favorite bad guys, so having him square off with Raylan would have pleased him.
“He talked to Tim about adapting ‘Swag,’ one of his middle period novels,” Leonard says. “ ‘I’m going to tell Tim he should be in “Swag” and all he’s got to do is take off the cowboy hat and put a sports cap on and we’re done.’”
Now, thanks to “Justified: City Primeval,” there’s the possibility of other world Givens could conquer.
“Justified: City Primeval” premieres July 18 on FX and streaming on Hulu.