Based on the late Elmore Leonard’s writings about Kentucky-born U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, JUSTIFIED ran for six acclaimed seasons, 2010-2015, on FX.
Now Raylan, played as before by Timothy Olyphant, is back for the eight-episode miniseries JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVAL, which has a two-episode premiere on FX on Tuesday, July 18, with episodes streaming the following day on FX on Hulu, and new episodes arriving on subsequent Tuesdays. The miniseries is being referred to by its makers as “an extension of the universe,” meaning that there is continuity for JUSTIFIED fans, but newcomers will be right at home, too.
Leonard began his career writing Westerns. CITY PRIMEVAL: HIGH NOON IN DETROIT, published in 1980, was one of his first crime novels, paving the path that his subsequent creations would take.
However, Raylan is not a character in the CITY PRIMEVAL book. The miniseries gives him the hero’s role and sends Raylan, with teen daughter Willa (played by Olyphant’s real daughter Vivian Olyphant), to Detroit. There, they encounter the primary villain from the novel, “Oklahoma Wildman” Clement Mansell, played by Boyd Holbrook. Other important figures in the miniseries include Clement’s lover, Sandy Stanton, played by Adelaide Clemens, and musician/Detroit bar owner Marcus “Sweety” Sweeton, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Kentucky native Holbrook can currently be seen on the big screen as another very bad guy in INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. His many other feature credits include MILK, LOGAN, THE PREDATOR, and VENGEANCE, and he has been a series lead in NARCOS and SANDMAN.
Clemens, born in Brisbane, Australia, has had series and miniseries leads in PARADE’S END, RECTIFY, TOMMY, and UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN. She has also been in many films, including director Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY, and I’LL FIND YOU.
Curtis-Hall, born in Detroit, has an extensive career. He was in the original Broadway cast of DREAMGIRLS. He was Emmy-nominated for his recurring role on ER. Curtis-Hall’s many film credits include DIE HARD 2, THE MAMBO KINGS, PASSION FISH, CROOKLYN, and HARRIET, and he has had regular/recurring roles in COP ROCK, I’LL FLY AWAY, CHICAGO HOPE, SOUL FOOD, DAREDEVIL, FOR THE PEOPLE, and THE RECRUIT. He is also a director of features, telefilms, and episodics.
Clemens, Curtis-Hall, and Holbrook sit down together during FX’s portion of the 2023 Winter Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, CA, to discuss JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVAL with Assignment X. Later in the day, they appear on a Q&A panel for the series with fellow actors Timothy Olyphant and Vivian Olyphant, and a number of the writers and executive producers.
This article is a combination of what was said in the private interview and in the Q&A session.
For starters, how familiar were the three actors with the original JUSTIFIED before they became involved with JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVAL?
Holbrook jokes that since he, like Raylan, is from Kentucky, perhaps he should go first. “I knew that it was about a detective marshal. I was a little hesitant to watch the show, because I was like, ‘Are they going to get Kentucky right?’ But they did. And that’s the root for me.”
Clemens says she’s always been a “big fan” of Olyphant. “I loved him. And he’s so great in this.”
Curtis-Hall concurs. “I was a big fan of Tim’s work, and I just thought the mash-up of JUSTIFIED and CITY PRIMEVAL was great.”
Although most of JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVAL takes place in Detroit, it was shot in Chicago. Did that require any mental adjustments?
“Well,” says Curtis-Hall, “I’m from Detroit, so, I was conscious of what the vibe was going to be, in terms of some of the exteriors. And where we shot really felt like Detroit.”
Clemens enthuses, “The production designer [Marek Dobrowolski] did such a great job. It really felt like the world of the show.”
Holbrook chimes in guilelessly. “And I had never been to either city, so they told me it was Detroit.”
“Yeah, he thought it was Detroit for five minutes,” Clemens quips.
Did the actors come up with back stories for their characters?
“Absolutely,” says Curtis-Hall. “That’s the work of the actor, right? We’re trying to build a foundation for what you see on film and what’s coming out of your mouth.”
“That’s the fun part,” Clemens agrees with a laugh.
“We’re all kind of psychos,” Holbrook says of the characters the trio play. “We’re all bad people.”
Curtis-Hall elaborates. “I drew from the folks that I knew as musicians, growing up in Detroit, being in the bars, being in the room with the musicians, the hustlers, the con men, the middle-class black folks. So, I brought those folks that I saw, growing up, to the background of my character.”
For Clemens, “It’s super-dark. Sandy has an interesting relationship to men. So, I started with her dad. She’s a con artist and a swindler, so I think she learned that that is valuable. I felt like her dad probably taught her how to play cards, probably how to sell counterfeit handbags, and that was what she perceived as a gift from him, and she’s just carrying on in the family tradition.”
Clemens notes that she is probably best-known for portraying women who seem very different than Sandy. “I realized I have a reputation for playing extremist, religious women, a Baptist Christian and a Mormon. So, this was so exciting, to be able to enter Sandy’s brain. She’s fun, and she moves like a million miles an hour. Initially, when I read it, because Tim kind of sent me the script, I was like, ‘I really don’t see myself in this character.’ And then, over time, it dawned on me that there are a few similarities in terms of her energy, and she’s ambivalent a lot of the time. I think that she has her own moral code, and that’s really fun to play in. The writing was so incredible, and working with Boyd and Tim and everybody was a total joy.”
Of his “Oklahoma Wildman,” Holbrook offers, “Some things I will just bypass saying, because he is such a psychopath. I don’t know if he knows clinically how to diagnose himself and talk about how dark all that is. But [as an actor] you have to do that, step inside that. I’m not a sociopath. However, it’s fun to play one. I feel like a lot of times you are [like] the equalizer on a sound board, where you are pulling up certain things of you to see what would work and, ‘That’s not going to work.’ So, I leaned into a lot of stuff, but the character has so many things to latch onto. He thinks he’s this rock star, but, really, he’s in the gutter. He’s a thief. He’s a hustler. So, you don’t know if he’s oblivious or he’s planning all of this out.”
As real people, the actors all know that Raylan Givens is a true badass. But are their characters aware of this when they first encounter the lawman?
“Not really at first,” Holbrook says. “He’s a regular old bearded kind of guy.”
Clemens references the beard Holbrook currently sports. “You’re turning into him.”
Holbrook laughs. “What’s to worry about?”
Curtis-Hall says, “I don’t really peg him as somebody who’s a problem, because when I first see [Raylan and Willa], they show up at my bar, and I know I’ve got a great lawyer, Aunjanue Ellis’s character. So, I view him as a nuisance, when I first see him. And then to have Aunjanue to bounce off of in terms of our familiar relationship was just magic.”
“I think that Sandy kind of falls apart when Raylan’s around,” Clemens says. “She doesn’t know whether to flirt with him, or con him, or hardball him, or to be loyal [to Clement] and withhold. I think Raylan really sees Sandy for who she is, and that’s super-uncomfortable for her.”
Raylan’s ongoing adversary in the six seasons of JUSTIFIED was his lifelong frenemy Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins. Holbrook opines, “I had big shoes to fill behind what Walton did with that character. You think about that for a long time, and then you realize that, ‘I’m just losing time here. I’ve actually got to figure this out.’ But it makes it a lot easier when the writer has already done so much work and given you such a character to play that does the full gamut. [Clement is] a contradiction of a person, so many things. But I had, I think, the best time I’ve ever had shooting something. It was like an elastic band, and I got to work with all of these amazing actors. The stuff that comes out of your mouth, you just get really excited to get up in the morning and go to work, to go to set. I’ve never had a challenge like that.”
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVAL: Actors Adelaide Clement, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Boyd Holbrook on new FX mini-series