Looking back on it, Timothy Olyphant thinks he may have made a huge mistake.
The Modesto-raised actor and series creator Graham Yost decided a year ago that the upcoming sixth season of their show, “Justified,” would be its last. But as the beginning of the end nears for the FX series, Olyphant joked he could be having second thoughts.
“I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time. I can tell you this morning I woke up and thought that was a stupid idea,” said the 46-year-old star on the phone from his backyard in Los Angeles. “I had a good time at work this week and we’re about done. So, no, I’m not sure it was a smart idea.”
The 1986 Beyer High grad has starred as the show’s lead, the white hat-wearing U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, since 2010 when the series debuted. The modern-day neo-Western has earned critical acclaim and Olyphant an Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actor in a drama series during its run.
Still, despite moments of misgiving, Olyphant said it felt like the right time to wrap up the stories.
“Storywise, yeah, I think we’ve still got a little real estate here left to go,” he said. “But I hope and trust the day we wrap, we feel like we got everything done we wanted to get done.”
Set in Harlan, Ky., “Justified” has intertwined personal drama with criminal enterprises as Givens attempts to keep law and order over both. The final season is being billed as the ultimate showdown between Givens and his longtime nemesis and onetime friend, Boyd Crowder (played by Walton Goggins).
Crowder is as morally ambiguous as Givens is straight-shooting. Still, the two have continued a sometimes friendly, sometimes no so friendly relationship over the seasons.
“That’s where it’s headed, that direction. The question how and if, that’s all still going to go down,” said Olyphant, who began filming the final season last fall and will wrap in February. “I hope everyone watches, and I hope everyone else likes it. It’s always a tough thing to try to end something that has been going for so long. I hope we do it right and it feels like we’re in the ballpark. I think people will like it.”
While Olyphant said he can’t disclose too much else about the upcoming season, he said his character is committed to finishing the job in Harlan and then going back to Florida, where he was stationed when the series began, to be with his child. We also can expect Givens’ former love interest and Crowder’s on-again, off-again love interest, Ava Crowder (played by Joelle Carter), to return to form and find herself in more tight spots.
The show has added veteran actor Sam Elliott, “Raising Hope” star Garret Dillahunt and “Lost” alum Jeff Fahey to appear in recurring roles for the final season, which also will see the return of Mary Steenburgen as the widow of a former crime boss.
“Well, I can tell you that Sam Elliott has been the big treat of the year for me. He is just one of the greats and so good to have on the show,” Olyphant said. “When he showed up I said, ‘Now we’re making a f------ Western.’ Here we go. Finally we have someone authentic on this show.”
While the series has seen a parade of bad guys, and gals, come around Harlan, Olyphant said his stoic U.S. marshal has remains largely unchanged.
“He is more or less the same guy I met six years ago; that’s what I like about him,” he said.
Still, Olyphant said he won’t necessarily miss strapping on his holster and donning his Stetson every day.
“I’m not going to miss the character, I’ll miss the job,” he said. “It was a great job. The part was a lot of fun. I hope and trust I’ll be able to continue to play parts that are this much fun. It has been a consistently high level of work and extremely rewarding.”
The actor gives much of the credit for the high caliber of work to his co-workers, who have “a ridiculous high level of expertise.”
“It’s been a dream to have that kind of work to go to day in, day out for five to six months out of the year for six years,” he said. “In my line of work, it’s pretty easy to get at least one or two big a-holes on set. On a six-year show, that can really put a damper on things. This job had none of that. It’s nothing but class and professional.”
This is Olyphant’s longest stint on a single job. Before “Justified,” he spent three years on the gritty 19th-century HBO Western “Deadwood,” as real-life lawman Seth Bullock. He also has appeared in numerous movies over the years, from “Scream 2” to “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Hitman” and most recently the ensemble comedy “This Is Where I Leave You” alongside Tina Fey and Jason Bateman.
While Olyphant’s most high-profile roles have been serious, often darker fare, he has made several memorable cameo appearances in comedic roles over the years as well. He has appeared in guest-starring spots on “The Office,” “My Name Is Earl” and “The Mindy Project.” One of his first TV roles was as a younger, and messier, lover to Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw, on “Sex and the City.”
He said he has loved his roles on various comedies, particularly his appearance on “The Mindy Project” last season. He played a slacker skateboarder with long hair and a neck tattoo who briefly dates Mindy Kaling’s character.
“It’s like taking candy from a baby, getting a gig on one of those things,” he said of his sitcom guest spots. “It’s very little work and a lot of fun. And the money is good. I had the most fun working on ‘The Mindy Project.’ I could have done that character, that show, for six years. I told them afterward, ‘I’ll come back Monday.’ That was really enjoyable.”
The actor said he isn’t ruling out a return to television when he is done with “Justified.” He’s not ruling out anything else, for that matter. He has no current projects lined up after the series finishes production next month.
“I’m taking it as it comes. Television has been very good to me. It would be very wonderful if it continued to be so,” he said.
But he also has some dream projects he’d love to be considered for now that he will have some extra free time.
“If they’re going to make more Paul Thomas Anderson movies, I’d like to be in one of those. I’d like to be in the next Coen Brothers film,” he said. “I just want to get my hands on material that makes you want to get up in the morning.”
So then, what’s the first thing Olyphant plans to do when he finally hangs up Givens’ hat – which he said will not be coming home with him – for good?
“Oh, I’m going to need a job. I don’t know how that is going to work out,” he said. “It’s always worked out in the past, so I hope something good comes out now.”
WHAT: “Justified” season premiere
WHEN: 10 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: FX Network