Timothy Olyphant on Being Deadwood Movie's Lone Holdout: 'I've Never Been in a Position to Be Such an A--hole'

You would be hard-pressed to find a television ensemble more gung-ho about staging a revival than the close-knit cast of Deadwood. In the 13 years since the acclaimed HBO Western was unceremoniously cancelled after just three seasons, it seemed as if no one wanted to get the proverbial band back together — and give fans the closure they so desperately wanted — more than the band members themselves. Which made Timothy Olyphant‘s gun-shyness all the more… awkward.

Unlike his colleagues, the actor behind lawman Seth Bullock was in no big rush to revisit the Old West. In fact, as the TV vet recounts in the refreshingly candid Q&A below, he was essentially the last MVP to sign on to the reunion movie (which premieres May 31 on the premium cabler).

Below, the Santa Clarita Diet star explains why he was skittish about reprising his breakout role. And he sheds light on what turned the tide for him (he, like co-star Ian McShane, also is an executive producer on the film) and reveals why — in hindsight — he can say unequivocally that he made the right decision.

TVLINE | There were so many false starts to this project. Had you given up on the idea of it happening?
I always thought it was never going to happen. And the false starts I never, quite honestly, paid attention to. It was white noise.

TVLINE | What was your reaction when it looked like it was all going to come together finally?
My mindset was, “S–t. I guess I’m going to have to make some kind of decision here.” It was a very curious process. I did not expect to be in the position to actually have to make a decision; I just assumed it would go away. It’s a curious [thing] deciding on whether to do a job when all of your old friends have already committed to it and  you kind of think, “Well, I’ve never been in a position to be such an a–hole.” But it was [ultimately] a really wonderful process with [series creator/writer] David Milch and [director] Dan Minahan and [HBO]’s Carolyn Strauss. I had a lot of conversations with them. The whole process was quite rewarding.

TVLINE | Why do you think you were more reluctant to sign on than some of your other co-stars?
High school reunions can be a lot of fun. But repeating your sophomore year? Not so fun. And I couldn’t tell if this was going to be the former or the latter. I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. Is it just going to be a lovely reunion, or is going to feel like, “Jesus, I’m being asked to do things I regret”?

TVLINE | Fans felt cheated out of a proper ending to this show. Did you feel like you had any unfinished business with Seth?
Perhaps it’s my own shortcomings, but I’ve never thought of a character ever needing closure. There is no character; it’s just a bunch of lines on a page. I think of it as a job. Where I feel [cheated] is not having an opportunity to celebrate the work that we did with [my] fellow cast members and to say goodbye knowing that that’s the end of this particular journey. But that’s not how this business tends to work, so what the f–k are you gonna do?

TVLINE | So what was the experience like doing this movie?
It was so bizarre. It was so surreal. And lovely. [Pauses] It was way more moving than I could’ve imagined. And way more rewarding than I could’ve imagined. I underestimated how much those people meant to me. You look back and you’re like, “It’s three years. It’s a blip.” But it was quite a memorable three years. It was also, for me personally, a very memorable time [in my life]. My kids had just been born. I had little tiny kids when we made that show. It just brought back a lot of memories.

TVLINE | Where is Seth when we pick up at the beginning of the movie?
He was a character that was so defined by his rage. But now he’s got three children and he’s been married [to Anna Gunn’s Martha] for 10 years. And one of the central questions on the show is, “Has he gained any wisdom? Has that rage within him subsided? What will happen when he’s tested? Will he regress to the man he was, or will he be able to take a new path?” It allowed me to really enjoy returning to the character because I could try to answer some of those questions with the performance. It was almost like asking the same questions of myself.

TVLINE | Has Seth moved on from true love Alma [Molly Parker] after 10 years?
That, young man, is one of the questions asked in the film.

TVLINE | Is the movie a satisfying ending to the entire series?
Yes. I think it is. It’s a lovely goodbye. It is a very lovely goodbye. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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