For five seasons, Timothy Olyphant has redefined the 21st-century lawman as cool-as-can-be U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on the FX series Justified. Tonight, the show—based on a short story by the late, great Elmore Leonard, who also served as an executive producer—will begin its sixth and final season. If the previous five seasons are any indication, it’s fair to assume that there will be a body count when Raylan tips his Stetson for the final time. Here are 21 things you might not know about Graham Yost’s Emmy-winning series.
1. RAYLAN GIVENS EXISTED BEFORE JUSTIFIED.
Though Justified, and its pilot episode in particular, is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 short story "Fire in the Hole," Raylan Givens made his literary debut in 1993, as a character in Leonard’s novel Pronto, and again in 1995’s Riding the Rap.
2. STEVEN SEAGAL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SERIES’ TITLE.
In the early stages of production, the series’ working title was "Lawman." “And then Steven Seagal’s reality show [Steven Seagal: Lawman] came on and we felt that there would be too much confusion, so we had to come up with something else,” series creator Graham Yost told IESB in 2010. “And someone at FX came up with Justified because it was used as a line in the pilot.”
3. EVEN BEFORE JUSTIFIED, LEONARD WAS ONE OF YOST’S BIGGEST INFLUENCES.
“Elmore was an influence—or at least someone I aspired to emulate—even before Justified,” Yost told TV Dudes when asked about the writers that inspired him.
4. YOST GOT HIS START ON HEY DUDE.
Yost’s first paying gig in Hollywood was as a writer on the Nickelodeon series Hey Dude, which ran from 1989 to 1991. “It was very low-budget,” Yost recalled to A.V. Club in 2013. “We were shooting on location at a real dude ranch in Tucson, so it looked pretty good for the paltry sum. We’d shoot an episode in three days so we were shooting 10 to 15 pages a day in the half-hour format. It was a great experience. The budget was a challenge, but the big challenge was just that we weren’t necessarily the best writers; we all became better.”
5. YOST ALSO WROTE FOR FULL HOUSE.
Shortly after his Hey Dude gig ended, Yost spent a couple of months as a writer on Full House. “I was on Full House for nine and a half weeks,” Yost told A.V. Club. “I was hired on a probationary period of 10 weeks, and I quit four days before I was going to be fired. It’s funny, I’ve run into Dennis Rinsler, who was one of the showrunners there with Marc Warren, and they have never confirmed for me that I was going to be fired, but I certainly felt like I was going to be fired … I was told that I was hired because they wanted edge, and a show like that really didn’t want edge. It was a big room, and it was competitive, and it was hard to get stuff in. I just felt like I was completely not the right fit. Although I really liked everyone in the room, it just didn’t feel like a good fit. So I quit, and then happily Speed sold a couple days later.”
6. LEONARD WAS A FAN OF OLYPHANT’S PORTRAYAL.
Before his passing, Leonard was very vocal about being a fan of Justified—particularly with the way that Olyphant interpreted the character of Raylan. In 2012, The Wall Street Journal asked Leonard whether the series had influenced the way he visualized the character in his writing, to which he responded: “No, because Tim Olyphant plays the character exactly the way I wrote him. I couldn't believe it. He's laidback and he's quiet about everything, but he says, if I have to pull my gun, then that's a different story. And it works. There are very few actors that recite the lines exactly the way you hear them when you're writing the book. George Clooney [in the 1998 movie Out of Sight] was one. He was very good.”
7. OLYPHANT ISN’T THE FIRST ACTOR TO PORTRAY RAYLAN GIVENS.
James LeGros got there first, playing Raylan Givens in the 1997 TV movie adaptation of Pronto. And LeGros has popped up on Justified, too: In 2011, he began a recurring role as small-potato criminal Wade Messer.
8. NICK SEARCY WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR ART MULLEN.
“When I read Elmore’s story 'Fire in the Hole,' and I got to the character of Art Mullen, I just knew that that would be Nick Searcy,” Yost told IESB. “I worked with him on From the Earth to the Moon, and he’s from the South and he has that avuncular, good sense of humor and yet is believable as a boss.”
9. WALTON GOGGINS HAD TO BE CONVINCED TO PLAY BOYD CROWDER.
“I've known Walt for years, and when we first mentioned the idea of him playing Boyd, he had concerns—the stereotype of the Southern racist and all that,” Olyphant recently told Rolling Stone. “He's from the region [Goggins was raised in Georgia] so he was sensitive about putting that out there in a one-dimensional way. You know, a lot of actors, we aren't that special; you get a well-written scene, and it's virtually actor-proof. But during the casting process, we had a list of people we had in mind for Boyd and the more I looked at his name on that list, the more I kept telling everyone involved, ‘Look, I stand corrected. I've been saying anyone could do it, but we really need to get this specific guy to play Boyd. He'll bring something special to it.’ And the son of a bitch did. He makes everybody better just by being around him.”
10. BOYD WASN’T SUPPOSED TO SURVIVE THE FIRST EPISODE.
It’s hard to imagine Justified without the frenemy friction between Raylan and Boyd. But even when the series began shooting, the plan was for Boyd to be killed off in the pilot. “Walton Goggins was initially resistant to the idea of playing Boyd, but we talked him into it,” Yost told IESB. “And that became a huge get for the show because he really made Boyd come alive and become someone that, in Elmore’s story and then in the pilot as we shot it, dies, but the decision was made to keep him alive.”
11. THERE WAS NO ARLO IN "FIRE IN THE HOLE."
In the series, Raylan’s criminal father Arlo serves as an impetus for his choice to stay on the right side of the law. But in the original short story, Raylan’s daddy issues weren’t quite so prominent. “In Elmore’s story ... Raylan’s father is dead and he died of black lung,” Yost told IESB. “He was a miner. I just decided, ‘Well, let’s keep him alive and let’s have him be a criminal.’ That’s what Raylan rebelled against, and that’s why he became a U.S. Marshal. So, right there, that dynamic gave us something to explore.”
12. TO GET LEONARD’S VOICE RIGHT, THE WRITERS BECAME READERS.
One of Justified’s hallmarks is its ability to perfectly replicate Leonard’s whipsmart dialogue. And much of this comes from the first assignment Yost gave after assembling his team of writers: Read! “When we started the writing room, we bought as many of Elmore’s books as we could find and divided them up,” Yost told IESB. “Everyone took a couple on and read them, so they would get into the rhythms and get the style. One of the great things that I got to do in writing the pilot was actually retype a lot of Elmore’s style and put it in the script. It was interesting. Just the act of retyping it let me get into the language a little bit more.”
13. LEONARD ENVISIONED RAYLAN WITH A SMALLER HAT.
Raylan’s signature Stetson is a bit larger than Leonard imagined it. “The critics have been calling Raylan a cowboy with his hat,” Leonard told Salon. “The hat came unexpectedly [with the show]. I had described kind of a businessman’s Stetson, a smaller Stetson … But evidently he found his own hat and design. It’s perfect. I don’t see him bareheaded. He seems to need a hat to define who he is.”
14. THERE IS ONLY ONE BACKUP FOR THE HAT ON SET AT ANY GIVEN TIME.
Raylan’s hat is one of the character’s key accessories (second only to his gun, perhaps—though he did spend much of season five hat-less). But there’s not a closetful of Stetsons on set should the main hat sustain damage during shooting. “Over the holidays, our costumer took the hat and asked if it was okay to have it refit,” Olyphant told Rolling Stone in 2014. “‘It's taking a heck of a beating.’ So I said, ‘Of course,’ and she said, ‘God, I had the hat at my house and I was constantly locking the doors… I can't be the person who loses that hat.’”
15. YOU CAN BUY YOUR VERY OWN RAYLAN HAT.
Want to channel your inner U.S. Marshal? A replica of Raylan’s hat can be yours—for the price of $144.95—at FX’s online shop.
16. GOGGINS IS AN OSCAR WINNER.
Though he was nominated for an Emmy in 2011 for his work on Justified, Walton Goggins has already got the ultimate golden guy on his bookshelf: an Oscar, which he won in 2002 for The Accountant, a short film he co-produced and starred in that took home the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.
17. OLYPHANT CLAIMS TO BE DOING HIS BEST SAM ELLIOTT IMPRESSION.
In order to be the coolest guy in the room, Olyphant claims that he just acts as Sam Elliott might. The irony, of course, is that Elliott will star as one of the final season’s bad guys. “On his first day of work, I took [Sam] aside and said, ‘Look, buddy, here's the deal: Raylan is really just me trying to be you and failing miserably,” Olyphant joked to Rolling Stone. “‘In fact, I've just been stealing your whole deal since before I started this gig. Now, when we do our scenes together, people are going to be like, 'Oh, now I get it! Tim is doing Sam Elliott but with the voice of a 12-year-old girl.’” I mean, what the f*** was I supposed to do? I couldn't rely on my old tricks. But we cast him anyway. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
18. IT WAS YOST AND OLYPHANT’S IDEA TO END THE SERIES WITH SIX SEASONS.
“It really came down to me and Tim, but everyone was comfortable with what we decided,” Yost told HitFix in 2014. “It was just our feeling that we only had so much story left, and to try to stretch it to a seventh season would not be the smartest move. It wouldn't be an entirely clean and separate seventh season.”
19. THE FINAL SEASON WILL BRING THE SERIES FULL CIRCLE.
“The final season will bring us back to where we started in the pilot,” Yost told TV Dudes in 2014. “It will all come done to Raylan, Boyd, and Ava. At this point we still haven't decided who lives and who dies.”
20. THE WORLD IS NOW FULL OF RAYLANS.
In 2011, Raylan—the name—made its way into the real world when it became the 699th most common name for newborn boys. Its rank rose to 535 in 2012 and 510 in 2013. It doubles as a girl’s name, too, though for every 15 boys named Raylan there is just one girl. Some fans of the show have opted for a softer Rae-Lynn. The name came from a real-life Raylan that Leonard met.
21. EVEN OLYPHANT ISN’T SURE WHETHER RAYLAN IS A GOOD GUY.
When recently asked whether he’d miss playing Raylan, Olyphant told Rolling Stone, “I know what you mean by that question, but ... no. I mean, I realize this was a great part to play, and I'll miss working with these guys a lot. But I had some problems with Raylan. I'm not so sure he's a great guy … When people tell me they like Raylan, I just say ‘Thank you very much.’ I honestly do appreciate the compliment. Just because I think he's kind of an asshole doesn't mean they have to think that, too.”