Raylan has his dark side… But the guy is a hero. I thought, ‘Man, it would be fun to do a show which has a true-blue hero.’
Justified is based on the Elmore Leonard short story “Fire in the Hole” (read it here) which provides the story for the pilot episode, in which U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens returns to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, to track his old coal-mining buddy Boyd Crowder, an ex-con now leading a Neo-Nazi terrorist group, after Boyd blows up a black church with an RPG. Raylan meets Boyd at the home of Boyd’s sister-in-law Ava Crowder; [SPOILERS AHEAD] firearms are brandished and Boyd comes out on the wrong end of Raylan’s six-shooter. Boyd dies at the end of the Leonard story, but not in the Justified pilot. Which means veteran actor Walton Goggins will continue to appear (fun link: Walton Goggins’ blog from India in 2009).
Graham Yost is the series creator/Executive Producer of Justified and a veteran writer/director in film and television with an impressive list of credits that includes Band of Brothers, Boomtown, Raines and The Pacific and the feature films Speed, Broken Arrow and Mission to Mars. He won an Emmy for his work on the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.
Elmore Leonard is an Executive Producer of Justified and the legendary novelist and short story writer whose works have spawned several feature films, including Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Stick, Mr. Majestyk and 3:10 to Yuma. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana but has lived in Michigan since 1934. He is also well-known for his “10 Rules of Writing.”
I sat in on a conference call interview with Mr. Yost and Mr. Leonard on April 28, 2010…
Q: Graham, how did you go about assembling the writing staff — because Elmore’s voice is so distinct and he has so many fans out there — so they have that same voice?
Graham Yost: You know, it was a lot of guesswork because there weren’t many writing samples that really showed the mixture of tension and humor and sudden violence and sort of quirky character that, you know, I was looking for to try and, you know, keep Elmore’s voice alive in the show. You know, the first writer I hired was Fred Golan because I’ve been working with him since “Boomtown” and I know he can do just about anything. And then there was a writer, Wendy Calhoun, off of “Raines,” who I also felt could do pretty much anything, had a great sense of humor and good sense of, you know, odd and interesting characters that we would like. But the big thing we did is when we started the writing room, we bought as many of Elmore’s books as we could find and, you know, divided them up so everyone, well, took a couple on and read them so they would get into the rhythms and get the style. You know, one of the great things that I got to do in writing the pilot was actually retype a lot of Elmore’s style on I can just put it in the script. I mean, it was interesting. Just the act of retyping it sort of let me, you know, get into the language a little bit more, what he leaves out, what he puts in, that kind of thing.
Q: Okay. And Mr. Leonard, how did it feel to see your characters come to life on a weekly television series? I know a lot of your, you know, characters have been movies, but how about TV series?