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Leonard Chang (@leonardchang) joins the show to talk about what’s in store for the rest of Justified, his book Triplines, the possibility of the return of Awake and much, much more! SUBSCRIBE to our iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud for the latest episodes!
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It’s really neat that you and Dave created a reflection of Raylan in the character of DEA Agent Alex Miller. Even though Raylan isn’t prone to deep introspection, do you think this partnership will affect his actions going forward?
— That was our hope and intent. Although it’s true that we’ve created a character of action in Raylan, rather than one of contemplation and introspection, just because you don’t want to think about something, or actively choose not to, doesn’t mean you don’t. This is what makes Tim Olyphant such a good, subtle actor. He’s the master of acting understatement, so I would argue that there are places in this episode where if you watch him closely, all it takes is flick of his eyes, a fraction of a second as he frowns, and we begin to suspect those wheels turning. Raylan is being slowly forced to confront aspects of himself he has previously been able to avoid simply by being the cool, gun toting Raylan, using violence and quips to deflect any real self-analysis. Last season’s death of his father cracked that facade — remember that scene at the elevator? — and now with his surrogate father questioning him — in fact, ALL of his immediate and important relationships beginning to question him — Raylan is being cornered into asking himself why he’s the way he is, why he does the things he does. Is violence his only way of handling difficulties? Where does that come from and why can’t he face that? How is that tied into his being a father, and his avoidance of that role? Alex Miller is one of many pieces of that argument.
Rowena is playing a dangerous game by making hard demands on both Boyd and Ava. Can you hint at what her larger agenda may be?
— Ava has stepped into a middle of a minor battle already boiling, and we learned in this episode why Rowena targeted Elmont Swain; it appears Judith is part of that. Whatever the details are, the main issue for Ava is how to negotiate these alliances and landmines, and still survive.
Roscoe’s riff on King Lear is a wonderful and memorable moment. How did it come about?
— On Justified it’s often a close collaboration. In this case Andron wanted from the start to have Roscoe be quiet throughout the entire run of the season until the very end. And then when Roscoe spoke it would reveal his truer self. As to what he would say, Andron had a few conversations with Steve Harris, and guess what? Steve is a huge King Lear fan. That’s when everything began coming together for that scene.
Big showdown scenes with lots of characters have been hard to land on in the past. Was this one any different in terms of difficulty?
— This was one of the largest showdown/climax scenes we’ve had on the show, with almost all the main characters in a room together. This was difficult primarily because of the staging — Audry’s is a relatively small space, and Michael Dinner was working extremely hard to make sure the scenes made geographic sense. When you watch the scene, the shots and direction look effortless — that’s Dinner being a genius. But remember how many characters are talking, and how the camera moves to them and around the space. All in a tiny room. Painstaking planning and execution.
How did you end up playing the bartender in this episode? And how was it to be in front of the camera for a change?
— Andron was working on that bar scene, and told me he wondered about the bartender, just in terms of character, and then pictured me. So he wrote in the script “the bartender [Leonard Chang]”. When I read it I thought it was a joke, but soon realized everyone was fully intending to put me in there. MIchael Dinner and Annie Berger asked me about it. Costume and wardrobe called me. So I just tried my best not to mess up the scene, like spill a drink all over Raylan.
You’re such a literary writer and often find ways to weave in subtext and themes. Without spoiling all the fun, can you hint at what fans should pay particular attention to during additional viewings?
— On first viewings the audience is just trying to follow the story and enjoy themselves, but when you start paying closer attention to the actors, you begin to see a larger arc being played through their heads as they move through this story. Very subtle things, like Boyd growing more and more tired of having to do things he no longer wants to. We see the result at the end, in the Audry’s scene, but there’s a careful build-up. Watch him closely in the Elmont Swain scenes, especially in the truck; Boyd is evaluating his actions and is not pleased.
What was it like for you and Dave to co-write this episode? How was it different than working with Taylor?
— Andron and I worked really well together; we approached the writing of the script similarly: we did some initial talking and planning, then divided up the script and dove in. Afterwards we talked at length and then rewrote, talked, and rewrote again. It was a cumulative process of building on scenes, and making sure the thematics were tracking throughout for the characters. Taylor and I worked on 409 and 412 together, and the approaches were simliar, depending on the script. 412 was difficult because we were making many large-scale changes during the writing of it. But when it comes to TV writing, you have to be good at collaborating, rewriting, and, most importantly, listening and assimilating other peoples’ ideas into your writing. Both Andron and Taylor are great writers and easy collaborators.
This turned out to be a long episode at ten minutes longer than the usual running time. Was it always planned this way?
— Quite the contrary. Andron and I were intending to write a shorter script that kept things lean and fast. But as you begin to write and address the larger stories of the season, you begin to need more time and space, and the script kept growing. At one point it was even longer than what you see on screen, but Andron went in and did a pruning pass to help keep it from turning into a two-hour episode.
Last year you said that Boyd was your favorite character to write. Is that still the case?
— Did I say that? Well it’s true I have an affinity for Boyd’s affection for language and the protean nature of his personality. However, both Raylan and Ava are turning out to be intriguing characters for me to delve into. I talked about Raylan above, but let’s consider Ava, a woman whose identity has been subsumed by the men around her — Bowman her late abusive husband, Raylan, even Boyd, whose fleeting avatars were changed to become the great lover and partner to Ava — but now even that guise is slowly being questioned. Ava is in a woman’s prison, stripped of her usual protections, forced to rely on herself. We wanted to grow her as a character based on the previous 4 seasons. If last season we tested her as an outlaw, and revealed that she couldn’t murder Ellen May in cold blood, we’re now examining who she really is, and how she garners the strength to achieve that…. Anyway, you can see how all the characters are fascinating to write for…
What was the hardest scene to shoot?
— The big confrontation at Audry’s was complicated, as I mentioned above. But also the final Dewey/Danny/Miller scene on the road was hard — it involved stunts, we were filming at 3:00 AM, and it was literally freezing.
Were there any scene(s) that were particularly hard to write or went through numerous revisions?
— Believe it or not, one of the simpler scenes — Art seeing Raylan come into the office — was very hard, not because of the literal words on the page, but because it was part of a very difficult storyline and we talked at great length with everyone about what should happen here. The issue of multiple serialized storylines happening concurrently became a complex juggling issue, and we needed to advance certain storylines but keep others at a slower boil.
Is there any moment in this episode that you’re particularly proud of?
— It was a great honor to work with Steve and Wood Harris. I’ve worked with Steve before on Awake, and I’ve admired Wood for years because of The Wire — a show that made me want to write for TV. So to have them both — brothers in real life and in the show — was something unique and special for me. Andron worked very hard to introduce these two characters in 502, so when I was able to help move them along in a story that was theirs, it was a pleasure. As for a specific moment, maybe “hammer and anvil” — I went off Andron’s introduction of them, when they talked about how they thought about the military. Roscoe’s a great reader (hence the Shakespeare) and undoubtedly read military history in some form. Hammer and Anvil is an actual military strategy that I read about pertaining to Genghis Khan. Steve and Wood made it their own.
What do you love about writing for TV?
— Everything. It’s a truly collaborative process, yet still demands the individual writer bring something unique and compelling to the page. It’s working with not just other writers but talented directors, actors, crewmembers, editors — a fully integrated team trying to put the best stories on the screen. I think it’s kind of amazing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring TV writers reading this interview?
— I would echo and add upon what Provenzano said in his interview: read everything. You need to be writing every day, and writing a lot, which is obvious. But if you don’t have anything to write about, you’ll be a technically proficient husk. I taught writing for many years, and what’s interesting is I began to recognize pretty quickly the writers who didn’t have much to say. He or she could write a lovely scene that was, upon further reflection, fundamentally shallow. So, read everything and live a lot — by that I mean have a lot of meaningful experiences. Life, and whatever you take in, help feed what you write. When Provenzano said don’t just watch TV, I nodded to myself, because your goal as an aspiring TV writer is to bring something unique to the page. If all you do is watch other TV shows, you’re going to bring what I and every other TV writer have already seen. We want to see something that’s distinct, unique, compelling — we want to see you.
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10. Dave Andron and I wrote it. FYI: Andron wrote some of my favorite Justified episodes: Hatless and Reckoning.
9. Michael Dinner directed this, as well as many of Justified’s best episodes. FYI: He also was once a well-known musician. Google him if you’re curious.
8. One of the guest stars is Eric Roberts, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Runaway Train, blew everyone away in The Pope of Greenwich Village, and we also mentioned him in episode 412 during an exchange with Art and Raylan.
7. Two more guests stars: Wood and Steve Harris, who were introduced in 502, and who have acclaimed careers in films and TV, play brothers Jay and Roscoe, but are ACTUAL brothers, too. They acted like brothers on and off set, in and out of character. Steve Harris was in Awake, a show I wrote for before joining Justified. He played Bird, Michael’s partner in both worlds. Wood Harris was in The Wire, the best TV show *ever*, the show that made me want to switch from novels to TV. See if you can find a veiled nod to The Wire in this episode.
6. Andron thought it would be fun to give me a non-speaking cameo. This made me happy and stressed-out: writing and appearing on my favorite show, but not wanting to mess up the scene.
5. Muse Watson is in this episode, playing Elmont Swain. Muse has a scene with Walton that really affected me. Muse is a regular on NCIS. I hope his fans tune in. He has a lot of fans.
4. Hot Rod Dunham has an important role in this episode. We see some real depth to his character. FYI: Mickey Jones was a drummer for Bob Dylan.
2. Raylan, Boyd and Ava are confronted with the paths they’re heading toward. Hence, the title; it foreshadows the final run of the season.
1. Wait for Dewey’s final scene. It’s a doozy.
~~ BOYD CROWDER ~~
JUSTIFIED Poster Art by Francesco Francavilla
After another great episode of JUSTIFIED on FX last night, I had to draw our favorite bad boy BOYD, definitely as part of the success of the show as Raylan Givens.
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#Regram from Michael Rapaport:
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One word in the script (“rain”) creates a complicated night shoot.
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