By all accounts, Timothy Olyphant ought to have a trophy case full of gold statuettes. His resume is stuffed with award magnets like Deadwood, Damages and The Office. His acting is consistently acclaimed. And he’s extremely well-liked in the community. But for whatever reason, the self-effacing 44-year-old remains decidedly kudos-deprived. There’s a strong feeling that could change this year in the wake of his impressive work as laconic Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in Justified’s pitch-perfect second season.
TVLINE | Season 2 presented us with a much more human, flawed Raylan. Did you discover anything new about the character that surprised you?
It’s hard for me to think of it in those terms, to be quite honest with you. I just do it. I don’t know if it’s a fault or not but I more or less really am just thinking about the stories. I invest a great deal of energy into the stories we’re trying to tell, or where the stories seem to want to go. I’m just guided by, “Oh my God, that would be entertaining. What a moment. What a scene. What an idea.” Everything else I just trust that we’re in the right world.
TVLINE | Your storyline with young Loretta McCready revealed a paternal side to Raylan. As far as child stars go, how was Kaitlyn Dever to work with?
She was fantastic. What an actress. [I was] so pleasantly surprised. She was just so good. She wasn’t just good in terms of being present and truthful and capable, but I was really able to throw curve balls at her, change stuff on the spot, and she wasn’t fazed by it. She wasn’t rehearsed. Sometimes I think with kids they’re working with an acting coach and they’ve got their line readings and they’re really pinned down and then when you go, “We’re going to move this line, take this out, switch this around,” they’re like, “Mom! What the f–k is this guy talking about?” [Laughs] She was just so right there. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that. She was no different than anyone else on that set. Her parents must be pretty cool, because usually if the kid actor is a pain in the ass there’s a pain in the ass right behind them. We lucked out there because those things can be a disaster.
TVLINE | You’ve enjoyed an embarrassment of riches last season in terms of guest stars. Jeremy Davies, Brad Henke and, my God, Margo Martindale. Did that raise your game?
It just makes my job easier. It’s a little bit like tennis — you just look better when you’re playing against someone really good. If I go out and hit the ball with Roger Federer I look great. You know why? Because no matter where I hit it, he hits it back to me. That makes me look good. [Laughs] I get that with [co-star Walton Goggins], it’s what I got with Margo… It just keeps coming right back. I can take [something] in a different direction and I know they’re going to pick it up and I know they’re going to throw it back at me in a way that I just haven’t seen before. It’s so much easier to stay present. I felt this way last [season], especially about Walt. If he’s on the call sheet I just know it’s an easy day for me because I’m going to let him do all the work. As an actor, you’re doing everything to, for, because of, and off of the other person. That is super easy to do when that other person is Walt Goggins. Or that other person is Margo Martindale. Or Natalie Zea.
TVLINE | Justified didn’t receive any major Emmy nominations in its first season, but there’s a feeling that may change this year. What’s your take on “the race”?
I don’t know if I have a take on it. I’m not sure that I know anything about it. I mean I know there are Emmys. [Laughs] It’s a great show. I watch it every year. I’m thrilled to be part of the conversation.
TVLINE | Any theories as to why it didn’t get more recognition last year? Do you think it might be a little too under the radar for Emmy voters?
No. I assumed the other shows last year were really good. If you told me there was a show [that was nominated] that sucked, then I’d say, “Well that’s too bad. We should have gotten on there.” But I assume they were all pretty good. Our show is pretty good. I think our show this year is really good. Beyond that I don’t know how these things work.
TVLINE | Are you one of those actors that dream of getting an Emmy, or perhaps even an Oscar?
[Laughs] Maybe the reason we didn’t get nominated for an Emmy last year is because we were more worthy of an Oscar. Therein lies the problem. We were doing Oscar caliber work. [Laughs] I have a number of things I should be embarrassed to admit. One of which is that I’m constantly coming up with names for bands. I don’t know how to play an instrument or carry a tune. But I still can tell you off the top of my head at least a half-dozen great names for a band. Also, I think I’ve got about four or five fantastic acceptance speeches in me. I’ve never been nominated or received any award where I would have to give a speech. But I’m sure I can come up with a couple of really good ones. I’m in a profession that is child’s play, but I get a great deal of enjoyment out of it. I think part of that mentality [includes] daydreaming. I’m guilty of those kinds of things. At the same time, I know very little about these awards or how they work.
TVLINE | If you were to get nominated, what episode would you submit?
Oh, I have no idea. I’m very pleased and very proud of the work on the show, period. I go home at night and the pillow is very cool. I have fully committed to this job. I’m looking under every rock and I’m looking at it from every angle. I’m putting my hand in everybody’s f—ing cookie jar to figure out how to make the best possible show and tell the best possible story. I get the rough [cuts] and I watch the early edits of the show. I don’t see the work, I’m just watching something that feels fully inhabited, and simple, and clear. That’s all I’m trying to achieve. That’s essentially the job. To do it simply and to do it clearly. I’m very proud of that. Beyond that, I’m aware that if you break down and cry on film people are very impressed. So if there’s an episode where I would start bawling and crying I would choose that one because people tend to get impressed by those things.