Justified: City Primeval - Timothy Olyphant's Daughter Didn't Listen To His Advice On Set - Exclusive Interview

This interview was conducted prior to the beginning of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

For six seasons, Timothy Olyphant starred as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on "Justified," a neo-Western drama based upon the work of Elmore Leonard. While the original show wrapped in April 2015, Olyphant returns for "Justified: City Primeval," a limited series spin-off which follows Givens as he heads to Detroit to track down The Oklahoma Wildman. 

"Justified: City Primeval" is made all the more special because Olyphant's real-life daughter, Vivian Olyphant, plays his onscreen daughter, marking her first acting credit. "It's always fun to be around someone who is clearly enjoying what they do, and enjoying working really hard at it, and that's what I saw," Timothy says of sharing the screen with his daughter. 

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Timothy Olyphant reveals what it was like returning for "Justified: City Primeval," why working on "The Mandalorian" was so fun, and how he really felt about working with Vivian Olyphant.

Working with daughter Vivian Olyphant on Justified: City Primeval

What was it like returning to "Justified" eight years after the original series ended?

Just as damn fun. It's not the character, it's like getting together with the gang, it's getting the band back together that was so fun. I thought the idea of bringing back the show, but with a whole new cast of characters, they took a big swing, and yet it feels like ["Justified"]. It's all these new people, a new setting, and yet still feels like the show. That was very satisfying.

Everyone's always really excited when a beloved series comes back unexpectedly. What can fans expect from "Justified: City Primeval," and do you think we'll be surprised by anything?

Surprised, God, I hope so. If they're not, we haven't done our job right. I'm telling you, my money says you're going to be surprised. I'm really proud of it. We aired the first episode in Austin [at the ATX TV Festival], with an audience-packed theater. It played so great, and they loved it. It was very satisfying and very gratifying to see how much they enjoyed it. It has this wonderful contradiction. It's nothing like what we did before, and yet it feels exactly the same. I'm really proud. I'm really happy for everybody involved.

You star opposite your daughter, Vivian Olyphant, in the new show. Were there any unexpected challenges playing her onscreen dad?

Apparently, when you play her onscreen dad, your real life dad job doesn't stop. I was hoping to get a break from that, but apparently that job is 24/7. It was such a wonderful experience to share with her. Neither one of us saw it coming, and it was really special.

Did you give her any advice in particular before she joined the show? 

Yeah, I told her, "When in doubt, just do what I say."

That's probably what you say in your normal dad role as well.

Exactly. Somehow, it was less effective on the set.

Do you think she's going to follow in your footsteps and pursue an acting career now?

Look, she'd always wanted to do it when growing up. We, quite honestly, didn't let her do it until now. I hope she does, because she's really good at it. She had a great feel for it. She worked really hard. She's in New York, studying acting now.

So you're a proud dad. It's a proud dad moment.

To be honest with you, I always have been. It was good to see. I'm happy for her. At the end of the day, you want your kids to be happy, and part of that is finding a job, a career, or path that you know they're doing something they really enjoy, because everything is really difficult. 

The Mandalorian and Scream 2 highlights

I really loved your arc on "The Mandalorian." What was it like joining the Star Wars universe, and acting opposite Baby Yoda? 

Baby Yoda — with all due respect, it was fun to work with him, he was a class act, but doing a scene with the Jawas was the most exciting. That was a throwback to my childhood. I don't think it occurred to me how special it was until that moment. I had a little bit of a pinch myself moment where I realized, "Oh my God, this is my whole childhood, and quite possibly why I'm an actor." 

I also was aware that ... someone pointed it out to me, it might have been [Dave] Filoni, he goes, "Not a lot of actors have worked with the Jawas. You're in very nice company of people who have worked with the Jawas." It's a privileged group. It was good. I had a ball working with those guys, specifically [Jon] Favreau and Dave [Filoni]. Those guys are class acts, and they're doing really cool work, so it was nice to be part of it.

You were part of the "Scream" franchise early on. What was it like to play such a wild role in "Scream 2"?

It was such a tremendous opportunity for me. I'm so thankful for that experience. It was both thrilling and overwhelming. I was barely wet behind the ears. It was pretty new, and it was pretty huge. The whole thing was ... Very vivid memories of doing that job.

You've worked with so many great people to date, but are there any collaborators you'd like to work with next?

Oh yeah, the Coen Brothers. Are they listening?

That would be great. I can see that.

You tell them. I don't know what's going on in my schedule, but I'll free it up. There are so many wonderful filmmakers. When I think about it, the most gratifying thing is how much I still look forward to working. I got really lucky. It's a great gig. There's some things that I loved, like playing sports, but I know that's a limited experience to be able to play it at a certain level. Acting, it's one of these things you can do for a while, and it's still pretty fun. In fact, it's arguably more fun now, so that's a nice thing. It's nice to look forward to still going to work.

The joys of returning to the Justified universe

Do you have any favorite memories from the set of "Justified: City Primeval"?

Working with the kid was really special. It's hard for anything to compare to that. We both knew it's one of those things that may never happen again, and it was really special. To add to working with the kid, to have my wife and I there ... To have us all there on those days where we were all there on the set, it was a really special feeling.

Working with the writers [of "Justified"] again — we all had more fun working together. All the growing pains, we'd gotten through that, we all knew each other. It had been years, but we picked up where we left off. Not to speak for them, but I think we were all reminded how special the show was, and how much fun we had. There's nothing like getting away from something to give you a little perspective, realizing how lucky we were to have that kind of an opportunity to play in that sandbox. It was great to see how much we were all appreciating it. It was really fun.

At the risk of babbling on and on, the new cast was  a joy. They were a ball. They all came in as if they'd been on the show for years, like right from the jump. Those scenes like driving around with Victor Williams was a treat. I was like, "Wait, this is the show, this is the show we always did." It was really great. There was nothing wrong with this gig.

Now everything's on streaming, the fan base is getting bigger. Is the door open for more "Justified"?

Oh, yeah. We all feel like this might have given us the opportunity to keep the story going. It freed us up in a way that now the possibilities are ... There's a lot more possibilities.

What else are you working on at the moment? Is there anything you can tell us about?

Well, I've got this Soderbergh thing [TV mini-series "Full Circle"] that's coming out, and it comes out right when ["Justified" City Primeval"] comes out. I'm shipping off to do another gig, assuming me and the rest of us, we don't all strike. ... If the powers that be give us what we want, then I'll go to work maybe in a week or two, but I guess that's not out there yet. 

"Justified: City Primeval" premieres tonight with back-to-back episodes on FX at 10 p.m. ET/PT, and the episodes are streaming the next day on Hulu.

This interview has been edited for clarity.