On Justified, when two hillbilly thugs walk into a room with an ominous-looking bag, you know they’re not toting the makings of a picnic. Anything might be inside: explosives, guns, a bear trap. For Timothy Olyphant, who stars on FX’s crime drama as the low-key but deadly deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and is now a producer, the secret to the show’s rich yet unhurried storytelling is how it triggers the imagination.
“I keep thinking about all the things that could be in the bag,” says Olyphant to staff writer Dave Andron as they sit on location in South Pasadena, California, outside of a police museum that’s doubling today as a jailhouse in rural eastern Kentucky. “Now the thing that tickles me most is live animals,” says Olyphant, who is dressed in full Raylan gear: nicely cut suit, collared shirt, tie, cowboy boots and, of course, his Stetson. “How about a…badger?” Olyphant collapses in a fit of giggles. “Badgers!” he drawls, riffing on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. “We don’t need no stinking badgers!”
Season 2 packs more unexpected twists than a sackful of such critters. Episode 1 will be memorable to every Justified fan for the indelible introduction of Raylan’s newest adversary, Mags Bennett, played by Margo Martindale. She’s the mother of three dimwit sons, including one played by Lost’s Jeremy Davies, and was inspired by both a real-life Kentucky crime matriarch and one of three brand-new Raylan-centric short stories penned by exec producer and master mystery writer Elmore Leonard. Raylan’s surprising affection for Mags stems from their shared past. Says Olyphant, “[Raylan]‘s a guy who’s able to put aside certain things and say, ‘These are the people I grew up with. She knew me when I was wearing Pampers, she knew my granddaddy.’”