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'Justified' Showrunner Graham Yost Talks Tonight's Season Finale, Whether Raylan Lives or Dies and Shares Tips on Pitching a TV Show

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire April 8, 2014 at 9:38AM

Graham Yost took some time to discuss whether Raylan Givens will make it out of "Justified" alive and if a movie is in the works.
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Timothy Olyphant in 'Justified'
Guy D'Alama/FX Timothy Olyphant in 'Justified'

With the recent announcement "Justified" will end after its sixth season, tonight's season five finale is expected to be a doozy. There's only so much time left to wrap up U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens' narrative, first established by the late great Elmore Leonard in novel form and then successfully adapted to television over the past five years at FX. So what's to come for Raylan (Timothy Olyphant), Boyd (Walton Goggins), and Ava (Joelle Carter)? Show runner, executive producer, and writer Graham Yost took time to tell a select group of reporters what's in the works, and we've got all the details listed below.

The season five finale is actually the halfway mark of the final season.

Yost said early on in the discussion the writers thought about things differently knowing the end was coming. "Leonard Chang, one of the writers, called it pretty early last July when we were talking about season five," Yost explained. "We found that we couldn’t help also talking about season six and we knew by that point that that would be our final season. And we started discussing, well, how do we want this whole thing to end? Where do we want to go? And Leonard said, 'You know, maybe we should just be thinking about this one big season that’s divided in two parts.' [to the reporter] You've seen the season finale [...] everything is pointed in a certain direction for next year and that was our goal from pretty early on."

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in "Justified"
Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in "Justified"

"The whole sort of point of this season was to strip away everyone from everyone."

One of the reporters made a comment regarding the characters' loss of support systems throughout season five. "You’ll see a big shift in the finale," Yost replied. "You'll see what happens to the resolve of Ava this season, the resolve of the Crowes and also the Boyd story. And there is a big reset that happens in the finale. But, yes, the whole sort of point of this season was to strip away everyone from everyone."

Why "Justified" will end after six seasons.

One reporter/fan told Yost she thought he was making the best show on television, and demanded to know why he was ending it. Yost politely responded, "Listen, I don't think we are the best show on television, but I think we're all just incredibly happy to be even thought of in the company of other great shows that are on right now. And I think that's one of the reasons why we want to end it after six seasons is we want to make sure we don't overstay our welcome. We don't want to run out of story. We don't want to be treading water. We've already done a few things that to our mind are dangerously close to repeating ourselves. And sometimes we've repeated ourselves without knowing it. It's like, wow, in retrospect that seems an awful lot like the one in season two or three or whatever. So, that's the big thing. We want to leave the party on a high note."

Will Raylan live?

"Well, I've got to say, that’s still up in the air. Tim [Olyphant] was saying a friend of his in watching the show had said, 'Man, I don't know if Raylan's going to live or die,' and Tim kind of rubbed his hands together and said, 'Fantastic,' because we still don't know and we'll find out."

"What people are really looking for is a vision, something that has legs. You know, 'What’s episode 17?'"

How to pitch a TV show: know what happens long term.

Yost was asked if he had any advice for someone trying to pitch a TV show to a show runner, and -- after joking whether or not the reporter had a pitch ready to go -- he gave the following tips for young creative types. "Listen, this is a very interesting time in the history of television. Never has the marketplace been as big, as fragmented; it allows for shows that are very much of themselves. It's no longer just -- especially in hour-long -- the franchises of police, law and medicine. [...] But what people are really looking for is a vision, something that has legs. You know, 'What’s episode 17?' And a compelling narrative -- why do you want to get into this world. And it can be anything now. It’s so broad. The fact that Sam Shaw is doing a show on the Manhattan Project, that’s something that people would have dreamed about 20 years ago, and the fact that that can happen now is just wonderful."

Yost was then questioned about whether or not it helps to have footage to show investors. "I don’t think it can hurt," Yost said. "Except, and this is not good, I've seen some things that people have done, some webisodes, things that essentially turned into a pilot and the financial side of me, the first thing I asked was, 'How much did that cost? How much did you spend?' Because that looks fantastic, and that is part of the deal, too. I will say that one of the problems is that if you're doing those webisode things or trying to do an independent pilot, the big risk is are you going to get acting talent that can deliver? And also, can you make it look good? Can you make it look like a really professionally produced product? So, those are all things you have to weigh, but that helps. I mean, if you don’t have a track record, if you don’t have a list of credits, showing what you can do, especially if you want to direct it, then that becomes critical."

Raylan & Co. all have one more thing to do before they go -- "one more guy I want to get."

Yost took a minute to explore the theme of the final season, despite hesitating to use that exact word. "[...] one of the themes of the final season -- as it were, theme might be not exactly the right term for this -- is the notion of one more thing before I go. And that is certainly the case for Raylan. It'll also be the case for Boyd and we also think it'll be a case for Art. In talking to our technical advisor, former Chief Deputy in L.A., Charlie Almanza, he said that it's not uncommon for a chief deputy before he retires to say, 'You know, there's one more case I want to handle, one more guy I want to get."

Justified

Elmore Leonard's "City Primeval" inspired much of "Justified" season five.

The original creator of Raylan Givens passed away in 2013, but he still heavily influences the writers on the show. "His name comes up every day in the writer’s room and on set," Yost said. "You know, Tim, Walton, [and] the other cast members talk about him and his work all the time. We really do take seriously the notion of: 'What would Elmore do?' And we think about it a lot and we refer to his texts almost as if they were scripture, you know. It's, 'Well, in 'Tishomingo Blues' he did this,' and 'In 'Gold Coast' he did that,' and, oh boy, 'City Primeval.' 'City Primeval' was one of his earlier crime fiction books and we look to that for inspiration a lot this season. Our bad guy had that ability, a Daryl Crowe, Jr., like the bad guy in 'City Primeval' to sort of always get out of the good guy’s traps.

Will there be a movie?

My favorite "Justified" fan wanted me to find out whether or not there would be a movie. Well, Ma, here's your answer: "I won’t be coy," Yost said. "We've talked about it, but there's absolutely nothing concrete. Our focus is just so entirely on trying to put together the final season that we haven't really thought beyond that. At the same time, we always think about it. Now, that would lead you to believe that Raylan must live, but that is something that, again, because we haven’t decided, you know, listen, if he dies then there's not going to be a movie. Unless it's about Dewey. And we love our Dewey, but it really hasn't been decided. But it also is something that we do talk about." 

Yost liked the way "Lost" ended but doesn't like the "Seinfeld" finale.

Let that influence your expectations for "Justified's" last moments however you prefer.

Take a look at the trailer for tonight's season finale below. "Restitution" airs Tuesday night at 10pm on FX. 


This article is related to: Justified, Graham Yost, FX, FX, Television, Television, Interviews





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