I showed up for a wardrobe fitting that afternoon, not having read the script or anything. I met with the wardrobe person, and she asked me, “What are your ideas?” And I said, “I have no idea -- I haven’t even read the script.” She looked at me with this grin on her face and said, “Oh. Well... you’re in a wheelchair. And... you have a colostomy bag.” And I thought, “Oh, this is great! I am alive, but this is the condition that I’m in.” So, I take the bathrobe, the sweatpants and the slippers, and that’s it for my wardrobe. It was a big surprise. [laughs] But I love that episode where I come back.
I remember watching that episode for the first time, and Johnny’s return was set up as this huge reveal.
Yeah, they set it up like Boyd is having this very heartfelt conversation, apologizing to someone, we didn’t know what it was about. Then the camera pans around to a wheelchair, and I’m sitting there smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer.
With Johnny’s now-limited mobility, did you spend a lot of time working on his physicality, the transition from being in a wheelchair to using a cane?
One of the actors on the show, Kevin Rankin, who played Devil, played a character in a wheelchair on “Friday Night Lights.” But he played a character who spent his whole life in a wheelchair. We used at talk about that on set, about how he needed to be a professional in a wheelchair. But Johnny doesn’t have to do that, so I didn’t have to master a skill, per se.
Timothy Olyphant (Raylan Givens) is also an executive producer on the show, and I read that he has a lot of input as to what happens plotwise. Are he and [showrunner] Graham Yost very receptive to your and the rest of the cast’s input on your characters?
Hugely receptive. All the writers are, too. That doesn’t mean that we always get our way, but they definitely give us their ear. That’s why it’s such a fun show to work on, because you’re handed the script to begin with, and then you’re like, “What if this happens?” or “What if, instead of saying this, I say this instead?” or “What if that person says that and I don’t?” There’s a bit of a conversation and everyone pitches their ideas and their thoughts. Tim [Olyphant] brings his own ideas -- with every script, he reads the first draft and brings in his own notes, even on the days when we’re filming. We play with it as we go along and it’s a lot of fun.
Is Elmore Leonard [who wrote the short story “Fire in the Hole,” on which the show is based] very involved in the production of the show?
I have never met Elmore -- he lives on the East Coast and we’re in LA. But I think on some level of the production, he and Graham [Yost] talk, the powers that be. He’s written more material about Raylan -- he created Raylan and the show came from his short story about him -- and the new material is now spun from the show. It’s starting to become symbiotic. I feel Elmore really enjoys the fact that Raylan is now walking and talking, a character he created and wrote about.
So what other “Justified” character besides your own would you like to try your hand at playing?
Well, the obvious choice is Raylan. Anyone would want to play Raylan, right? [laughs] At the end of the day, he’s got the girl, he’s got the gun, he’s got the hat... that would be very different from the roles that I typically play. Raylan would be a fun role to play. But don’t tell Tim I said that.