• Television

Timothy Olyphant Puts U.S. Marshal Hat Back on for “Justified: City Primeval”

Eight years ago, the neo-Western crime drama Justified concluded after six seasons, following a creative decision made by lead actor Timothy Olyphant and series developer Graham Yost to bring the story to a close. But FX cable network and fans were eager for more tales of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and are finally getting their wish with a new limited series, premiering July 18 on FX, and the next day on Hulu.

Based on crime novels “City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit” and “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard – whose short stories revolving around Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) were adapted into the original series, Justified: City Primeval – returns to the character but in a whole new setting.

Having left the hollers of Kentucky 15 years ago, Givens now lives in Miami and balances his U.S. Marshal duties with parenting his 15-year-old girl Willa, played by Olyphant’s real-life daughter, Vivian Olyphant. A chance encounter on a desolate Florida highway sends him to Detroit, where he soon crosses paths with Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook), known as The Oklahoma Wildman, a violent, sociopathic desperado who’s already slipped through the fingers of Detroit’s finest once and aims to do so again.


Meanwhile, Mansell’s lawyer, formidable Motor City native Carolyn Wilder, played by Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee Aunjanue Ellis, has every intention of representing her client, even as she finds herself caught in between cop and criminal, with her own game afoot as well.

“My biggest concern was that I would only make a lot of money, but creatively it would have been a huge mistake,” said Olyphant jokingly during the Television Critics Association 2023 Winter Tour panel promoting the new revival series, “I really didn’t have any concerns. I love these guys. Elmore Leonard and Graham Yost gave us so much material to launch what I’ve always thought were potentially numerous stories. As long as we were still in the Elmore Leonard world and the Graham Yost world that the two of them created, I just thought: I’d love to be there for it.”

Olyphant, who has an additional credit as an executive producer on the eight-episode series currently referred to as a limited event but with potential for more seasons, also talked about the sensitivities of depicting law enforcement on screen in the era post-George Floyd and some casting choices made.

“Look, my wife loves Law & Order. Perhaps I love Law & Order. But we’re not that. We’re not a show that just cheerleads for law enforcement,” he explained, “I’d like to think part of what makes Elmore Leonard’s world and our world something a little different is the characters are self-aware a little bit. They’re aware of their flaws, and they’re aware of their shortcomings, and they’re aware that it’s complicated. Casting Aunjanue: from the jump, the character in the book is not a Black woman. That was such a fun, exciting, creative idea to go to Detroit, to cast Aunjanue. They should just back up all the truck with all the trophies and give them to Aunjanue. Wait till you see the show. It’s just something special. So, that was one of the most exciting things about this story: that relationship. And asking those questions. Because, otherwise, kind of why bring him back in today’s day and age?”

On getting cast alongside her father, Vivian Olyphant said in the panel, “I was really excited to work with my dad. Even just preparing for the audition was a joy. If I didn’t get the job, then I would be happy with that. But I really liked working with him. I thought it went really well. I felt like we kept a good balance about being professional but also really enjoying this experience. Not many people get to work with their parents. So, I thought we kept a good balance of professionalism and fun. Yeah, work hard, play hard.”

Last month, the Olyphant father-daughter duo attended the world premiere of Justified: City Primeval at the 2023 ATX TV Festival in Austin, and further discussed the casting.

“My wife and I talked about it. We knew we were going to be shooting over the summer, and she needed a job,” said Olyphant, “We talked about it for a while, and my wife thought it was a good idea. So, I went along with it. We had an instinct that she’d be good at it, that she’d work hard. We wouldn’t have brought it up if we didn’t think she could handle it. Just the audition process with her was a joy. It was a pleasure. She worked super hard. It was very fun. I told them: working with her on the audition I thought to myself ‘This would be a fun person to work with.’ Didn’t say anything more and let them take it from there.”

“I still have never seen Justified. We never really watched my dad’s work, my siblings and I. But I became interested when I heard there was the role available,” the young Olyphant revealed. “It was interesting to see that he’s getting paid to be a child. But, seriously, my dad is a very hard worker. It was amazing to watch him work. I’ve learned that it takes a long time for him to have his makeup done.”