the hat's back

Timothy Olyphant Reprises Role As Smoldering Gunslinger in Justified Spinoff

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX

Timothy Olyphant is dusting off his hat (oh, you know the one). The actor is set to reprise his role as Raylan Givens, that smoldering gunslinger, in a miniseries spinoff of FX’s crime drama Justified, which ended in 2015. Justified: City Primeval reunites Olyphant with producers of the original acclaimed series — including creator Graham Yost. The new limited series is set to be based on Elmore Leonard’s novel City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit — after the original series drew from Leonard’s novella Fire in the Hole and other stories featuring the Givens character. City Primeval takes place after Givens’s work in Kentucky is finished, with the U.S. Marshal living in Miami before he ends up in Detroit and involved with the case of someone known as the Oklahoma Wildman.

Has the trailer dropped?

Yeehaw, a trailer has trotted on down with a blue tint reminiscent of a Twilight film. The full trailer gives us just enough plot and more than enough punching to keep us interested. Givens was supposed to go on a road trip with his daughter but got suckered into crime fighting? Okay. There’s a bad guy who loves killing? Say more. That a bad guy who loves killing is maybe hooking up with Givens’s daughter, who was supposed to be on that road trip? Now yer talkin’! This game of bad cop–bad cop has us fascinated.

Who else is in the cast?

Speaking of wild men, FX announced that eight new actors were added to the main cast of Justified: City Primeval. Boyd Holbrook, Vondie Curtis Hall, Norbert Leo Butz, and Victor Williams are officially joining as new characters alongside Aunjanue Ellis, Adelaide Clemens, Marin Ireland, and Vivian Olyphant, the star’s daughter. While new faces will accompany Olyphant, other Justified stars like Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder or Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy have not confirmed if they’re returning for the revival. In the meantime, don’t say we didn’t call it first.

What’s the plot?

Justified: City Primeval begins ten years after the original series ended. After a spell in Miami raising his 15-year-old daughter (played by Olyphant’s real-life daughter) and continuing his work as a U.S. Marshal, Givens ends up in Detroit to take down sociopathic criminal Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook) and his attorney. “This story’s kind of a three-hander: It’s about Raylan, Clement Mansell, and the third character is this woman defense attorney, Carolyn Wilder, who in some ways is kind of locked at the wrists and ankles, not by her doing, to Clement Mansell,” showrunner Michael Dinner said in an interview with EW. “But then there’s a fourth character, which is the city of Detroit. Raylan’s a little bit of a fish out of water in a place that he doesn’t understand as well as he understood where he grew up in Kentucky — or Miami, where he lives.”

While you might be excited to see some familiar faces, the show emphasizes that this is a new world for Givens filled with new characters. “We’re dealing with this next chapter of his life — we did Justified for six or seven years, and that was kind of like Act 1. This is Act 2 of his life, and it’s an existential story,” explains Dinner to EW. However, Dinner does tease that Act 2 of Givens’s story might not end well. “If you’re bringing Raylan back, you put him up against a really, really bad guy who doesn’t have any problem killing people, because Raylan could die,” Andron says. “This is a limited [series] and Raylan could very well not make it out of this. Every season we ended the show with ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,’ but then he does. Right up until the end of the show, you know Raylan’s not going to die, and obviously he did not at the end. But I think, at this point, all bets are off.”

“This story is really going to be about Raylan and his demons and his past and trying to move forward at this point in his life,” fellow showrunner Dave Andron added. “So we had to create a new foil for him and somebody who’s still a little bit of a mirror but also a big obstacle.”

Was there really a shootout during filming?

Yes. Olyphant opened up about the incident on the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast. While filming at night in Chicago in a “very, very bad neighborhood,” he recalled hearing a series of rapid gunshots from across a nearby park. “It was the scariest goddamn thing. It went on forever,” Olyphant said. He then heard three cars drive by — ignoring the production’s road-closure barricade — as the people in the vehicles aimed “machine-gun fire” at each other. The actor said he grabbed a PA and “threw her out of the way” during the gunfight.

Olyphant acknowledged that the production was understaffed in terms of law enforcement, and noted that a cop who was present described the scene as “one of the closer calls he ever had.” Olyphant said that at his request, the show’s producers canceled filming the next day to give everyone a break.

What does Quentin Tarantino have to do with the Justified revival?

Well, he’s more or less responsible for the whole thing happening in the first place. According to the showrunners, the Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood director wanted to make the book into a movie at one point but eventually abandoned the idea and instead planted the TV-adaptation idea into Tim Olyphant’s head. “One day the phone rang, and it was Tim Olyphant, who said, ‘I’ve been sitting on the set with Quentin, and we were talking about this book, City Primeval,’” Dinner told EW. “So we started kicking around the idea, and FX was into it. It was very complicated to put together, because the rights situation was a little murky — part of the rights belonged to the estate, part belonged to MGM (which was going to make this movie several times), and it took a while to get it going, but then we did.”

When will Justified: City Primeval be released?

It’s slated to premiere privately during the ATX Television Festival on June 1 and will eventually make its way on FX in July 18, 2023.

This post has been updated throughout. 

Timothy Olyphant Reprises Role As Smoldering Gunslinger