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13 Things You Didn't Know About Timothy Olyphant

Television's favorite cowboy might seem like a wholesome guy, in contrast to some of the hardened, morally ambiguous characters he often plays. But under his hat, Timothy Olyphant is hiding some deep, dark secrets.

No, not really. In reality, the former nationally-ranked swimmer and secret latte artist is a favorite among colleagues and audiences alike. He has a dry, endearing take on life that covers everything from stand-up comedy to room-service breakfast food.

As a former fine arts major who almost missed out on taking the commercial arts route, Olyphant brings a certain sensibility to everything he does — at one point, he compared Willie Mae's fried chicken to "a groundbreaking film or piece of artwork." And he is certainly qualified to confer the designation of "groundbreaking" after a career that has extended from film, theater, and television to video games and podcasts, earning him double-digit nominations and numerous awards. If Timothy Olyphant's truth is untold, it's probably because he's more likely to be living it than telling it. With that in mind, here's a look at some lesser-known details about the man's life and career.

He's a wanted man

Timothy Olyphant guest-starred on The Office as the suave leading salesman at a competing paper company. In the season seven episode "The Sting," Dwight and Jim show up for a sales appointment, only to see Danny Cordray, Olyphant's character, is already there to pitch to the same client. They call for reinforcements, but Danny alone easily defeats the combined efforts of Jim, Dwight, and their boss Michael — so they decide that in order to beat him, they have to steal his secrets, and go so far as to set up a decoy office and lure him to make a sale while they surveil the fake setup via hidden cameras.

Danny eventually uncovers the ridiculous sting operation, but Michael realizes that they didn't need to steal his tactics after all — they can simply steal the man himself, which he does when he hires Danny as a traveling salesman. During Olyphant's brief guest-starring tenure on the show, most of the storylines revolved around his attractiveness: Jim finds out that Pam and Danny once went on a few dates, while later in the show at a Dundies ceremony, Danny (who isn't even in attendance) pulls an upset when Michael names him "Hottest in the Office" instead of giving the award to Ryan as he does every year.

Olyphant's desirability isn't limited to this character. After he was enlisted for his memorable stint on the NBC sitcom, Office vet Mindy Kaling cast him for her own show, The Mindy Project. "Tim is like so funny. He came up doing standup, so no one knows how funny he is 'cause he plays essentially modern day cowboys in a lot of the stuff he does. Or, actual cowboys like in Deadwood," Kaling told MTV. "But he's also just like a super-funny dude."

That unique Olyphant swagger

Mindy Kaling isn't the only one whose eye Timothy Olyphant has captured: There's a substantial amount of internet discourse just on Olyphant's particular way of walking. Some fans say it's either an expression of, or a compensation for, actually being pigeon-toed in real life. Some call it a swagger. Whatever it is, for Olyphant's most passionate fans, it's ultimately just yet another reason to find him irresistible.

The distinctive walk has even been called out on some of the series Olyphant works on. Raylan Givens, the character he played on Justified, has frequently been compared to Gary Cooper's portrayal of U.S. Marshal Will Kane in High Noon, a classic western from 1952, and in the episode "Truth and Consequences," one character references Givens' posture in the course of a threat: "How about I put a little hitch in that Gary Cooper walk?"

Despite all this, he's not too cool for school

Timothy Olyphant has always had a finer sensibility — when he discovered that you could major in fine arts, he's said that it felt like a steal: He could get a degree in something he already loved studying and engaging in anyway.

When he first studied fine arts and throughout his youth, though, he was embarrassed to be interested in acting, until he read Stanislavski and Meisner. Though he read these thinkers early in his initiation to acting and admitted that he didn't always understand what they were talking about, he said that he felt that the seriousness with which they took the craft was akin to, and just as valid as, the investments that masters make into other disciplines like art or sculpture. He felt that he was being given "permission to be an actor" and take it just as seriously as he would any other career. It wasn't superficial, and he didn't have to act too cool to admit he loved it: He felt that these thespian thinkers were, as he puts it, speaking directly to the artist he wanted to be.

Love on- and offscreen

Timothy Olyphant married his college sweetheart, Alexis Knief, and they have three children together. Marriage, in fact, is one of the things that first drew him to his role on the underappreciated Netflix zombie dramedy Santa Clarita Diet. He felt that the project had layers and that you could tell that it was "about something." That something wasn't zombies or life or death: To Olyphant, it was just about a marriage, and that was extremely meaningful in itself.

In fact, Olyphant got the perfect opportunity to combine marriage and Santa Clarita Diet when he and co-star Drew Barrymore helped a fan of the series propose to his girlfriend.

When something matters to Olyphant, he commits unconditionally. How unconditionally? Well, his response to Santa Clarita Diet's premature cancellation pretty much says it all: "I'm going to continue coming in and doing scenes. If they don't want to film it, that's up to them."

Man of many talents

Though he's well-known around the country now for acting, Timothy Olyphant was once a national phenomenon in a far different circle: he was a US National Swim Finalist in 1986. He also comes from a talented family: His older brother Andy is an A&R executive in the music industry, and his younger brother Matt was the lead singer of the band Fetish. Olyphant is distantly related to Anderson Cooper as well.

His talents in other areas of his life may be the reason he eventually went on to grace our screens. If he hadn't been recruited as a swimmer in college, he may never have become an actor: He considered pursuing a career in architecture before his college dean told him there was no way he could manage a sport and an architecture degree, selecting a fine arts trajectory instead, which gave him the time to take the elective class in acting that would eventually inspire him to follow that career path. He never gave up his athleticism, though, and has participated in numerous pro-celebrity tennis tournaments.

Stand-up guy

Despite his initial reluctance to pursue acting, Timothy Olyphant was always something of a performer, even if occasionally by accident. While promoting his acclaimed drama Deadwood on the radio, he ended up agreeing to host an hour of sports for L.A.'s Indie 103.1 station: Interestingly enough, David Lynch did the weather on the same station. 

Olyphant's willingness to roll with unexpected changes in a public setting no doubt served him well when he was starting out in stand-up comedy — and although he didn't make it far on the stand-up circuit, his quick-witted humor ended up serving him well in later projects. A case in point: Olyphant's cameo as himself on The Good Place, during which he improvised a line that ended up being a highlight for creator Mike Schur. "That was just him, in that moment, goofing around," Schur explained. "We left it in because I thought it was funny."

He's a breakfast aficionado

If you enjoy foam art in your coffee, here's one more reason not to pass up an opportunity to hang out with Timothy Olyphant: he can make latte art like a barista. He's taken a milk art class, much like he first took acting as an elective (fortunately, the latter class is the one that ended up defining his professional life). What's interesting, though, is the different ways in which Olyphant channels his artistic spirit. Milk foam may not be the first outlet you think of when you picture someone with a fine arts degree, but he has clearly amassed a wide array of interests and hobbies that play to his literal and figurative palates in different arenas.

One of these sensibilities is food, specifically breakfast food. Olyphant is fascinated by the breadth of modern cereal choices, an ever-widening aesthetic wonderland. He also makes oatmeal in his rice cooker, which is creative in its own right. Instant oatmeal, he counsels, is "no way to live your life." Whatever his way of living life is, the breakfast connoisseur seems to be onto something.

Timothy Olyphant's long list of roles includes himself

Timothy Olyphant is so likable that he's played multiple versions of himself in other shows — for example, his aforementioned appearances on The Good Place, as well as The Grinder. In the latter series, the version of himself that he portrays isn't exactly accurate. In fact, when he first heard the pitch, he waffled a bit because that Timothy Olyphant was depicted having an affair, and that's just not something the devoted husband and father would do in real life.

He talked it over with his wife, though, asking, "Are we okay with this?" She responded with a somewhat nonchalant, "Tim, nobody takes this s*** seriously." In an odd way, the fact that he played a fictionalized unfaithful version of himself without his wife batting an eye is a testament to the solidity of their relationship.

His appearance on The Good Place, though, is more along the lines of what we'd expect: He is literally summoned into existence to serve as eye candy in an inter-dimensional void. The all-knowing Judge of the universe (along with The Good Place showrunners) feels pretty much the same way toward Timothy Olyphant as Mindy Kaling and scores of ardent fans do: obsessed. In the episode in question, "You've Changed, Man," the fate of the universe literally rests on keeping the Judge's attention long enough for the humans to pitch their plan to save humanity. You could say that Olyphant's cowboy-hat-adorned presence does the job.

Timothy Olyphant's journey to a galaxy far, far away

Timothy Olyphant's natural gift for playing sheriff types has led to memorable runs on Deadwood and Justified, and although he's certainly branched out into a variety of non-western roles in the years since, he clearly isn't finished playing guys who make a living enforcing the law. In "The Marshal," the first episode of The Mandalorian's second season, Olyphant appears as Cobb Vanth, a resident of the Tatooine outpost known as Mos Pelgo. Vanth protects the townspeople with the aid of some familiar-looking armor that helped set up a satisfying twist late in the episode — but that wasn't the only nod to the past in "The Marshal." As sharp-eyed Deadwood fans may have noticed, one scene in the episode also serves as a mini-reunion of sorts for two characters from the show.

When Cobb Vanth meets the Mandalorian, they're both drinking at the Mos Pelgo cantina, where they're served by a bartender played by W. Earl Brown — who shared the screen with Olyphant during Deadwood as bartender Dan Dority. As Brown told Twitter followers after the episode's premiere, he and Olyphant spent a few moments trading lines rom their past series, after which director and Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau walked onto the set professing his love for Deadwood and promising Brown "We cast you first."

Roles Timothy Olyphant almost played

Timothy Olyphant's diverse set of onscreen appearances is fascinating — but the roles he was highly considered for are almost as interesting. How different would the Marvel world be if Olyphant, who auditioned to play Tony Stark in 2008's Iron Man on the same day as Robert Downey Jr., been cast in that part? He may not be as quick with a quip as Downey, but it isn't difficult to imagine him as the rakishly charming Avenger. Olyphant proved he could handle leading a one-man show when he brought David Sedaris' titular essay to life in The Santaland Diaries during its Broadway opening in 1996. When you think about it, someone who was capable of headlining a one-man show would be a solid choice for the one-man spectacle that is Tony Stark.

Another role that could have been? Timothy Olyphant as Dom in 2001's The Fast and the Furious movie and eventual franchise. In fact, the studio was initially so sold on casting Olyphant for the role that they committed to greenlighting the movie if the production could manage to snag him. It seems like anywhere he goes, Olyphant is a "wanted man."

Timothy Olyphant's food philosophy

Timothy Olyphant has a lot of unique takes on food and the dining experience, going back to how he was raised as well as incorporating his current values. His philosophy on room service essentially amounts to him taking the law into his own hands like a true denizen of the Wild West, but it makes sense: If there's a really expensive room service omelet, for example, he believes it's unspoken that he gets to take the silverware with him. It's just part of the deal implied by the amount you pay.

And speaking of getting the full value out of something, the key to happiness might be always saying yes to fresh pepper on your dish at a restaurant. And saying it's the key to a full life is not an exaggeration: Olyphant is literally on record as saying that if you decline when the waiter asks, you "clearly have no interest in living a full life." Seeing as how one of Olyphant's characters, Joel Hammond on Santa Clarita Diet, has an undead wife who eats human flesh, we trust that he knows what he's talking about when he tells us what constitutes a full life and a good meal.

He regularly justifies our high opinion of him

Whether or not his character appears that way, Timothy Olyphant was by all accounts a real team player and genuinely good guy on the set of Justified. Fellow cast member Walt Goggins had to wear fake racist tattoos as part of his role, for example, and as an exercise in method acting, he kept them on even after wrapping and emerging back into the real world so he could experience real disdain from onlookers and use it to inform his character. Olyphant was only able to go along with that tactic for so long, however.

"There was one time when I was with Tim, when I had rolled my shirt up just to see what would happen, and Tim didn't notice it for about five minutes until there were tourists walking through the lobby of the hotel who almost gasped — like, you could hear it, you could hear them step back with their Starbucks coffee in their hands," Goggins recalled. "And Tim said, 'Please, please roll down your shirt. Please. Or I'm gonna have to leave you here alone.'"

Later, Olyphant added an improvised line that helped Goggins with the difficulty of playing such a bigoted part. After talking to him about his struggles with delivering a racist monologue, Olyphant added a line that helped him out. "'Boyd, I don't think you believe everything that you're saying. I think you just like to blow stuff up,'" Goggins quoted Olyphant's character as saying. "That was very important to me."

He defines his goals and successes by relationships and reciprocity

Though Timothy Olyphant started out in stand-up, he didn't want to keep going down that road because, in his view, it doesn't give you nearly enough time to really connect with people when your whole life revolves around coming up with the next joke. A career that prevents you from attending to your relationships and getting the most out of interactions with interesting people is not, in his view, one worth pursuing.

In terms of give-and-take and personal growth, Olyphant loves the fact that acting has opened a window into producing and storytelling because it lets him "be a student again." Student, parent, chef, husband, cowboy — Olyphant wears many hats, and his personality and career allow him to play all of these real and fictional roles with grace. But one of his most coveted roles ties back into his food fixations: He not-so-secretly wants to have a cooking show, one that puts him in the kitchen with kids. Like Timothy Olyphant himself, the dream has a sense of dry, delicious chaos — and as with everything he does, audiences would be sure to eat it up.