“Justified” showrunner Graham Yost told the audience at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Tuesday that the key team behind the show decided to end the FX series before its stories became repetitive.
“A lot of it was just sort of figuring out how much story we had left,” Yost said. “Our biggest concern telling these stories is that we don’t run out of story and start repeating ourselves.”
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He said that the decision was made between him, series lead and executive producer Timothy Olyphant, and other executive producers, including Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly of “Justified” production company Timberman/Beverly Productions.
“This was a long conversation,” Yost added. “We all talked about it a lot. And you know there were financial incentives to keep going, but it really felt, in terms of the story of Raylan Givens in Kentucky, that six years felt about right.”
Including Tuesday night’s episode, the second in the show’s fifth season, there are 25 production episodes remaining in the series, the producers said.
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The “Justified” team also paid tribute to literary legend Elmore Leonard, whose novella “Fire in the Hole” served as the inspiration for the series. Leonard had worked as a consultant on the show before his death in August 2013.
“To be honest, every episode we’ve tried to to as a tribute to Elmore Leonard, from the beginning of the series,” Yost said.
“I love the man,” Olyphant added. “He’s going to be greatly missed.”
Walton Goggins, who plays the arch-enemy of Olyphant’s character, said Leonard’s absence is palpable on set.
“There’s a chair that he used to keep in front of the monitor,” Goggins said. “The very first day I was working [after Leonard died]… I remember kinda walking past it and kinda seeing it, and it just kinda hit me, like as if I had just walked into a glass door, like, ‘Oh my God, he really is not here.'”
He told a story about finding comfort in that chair on a day he was struggling with a scene, and then spoke about Elmore’s legacy.
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“I think when it’s all said and done we will be a small piece of cloth in Elmore’s coat, but it’s something I think for all of us … that we’re really going to hang our hats on, you know,” Goggins added. “It’s a big deal at the end of your life to say that you were part of a literary giant’s career.”
A tribute to Elmore Leonard will be held Jan. 21 at the New Roads School in Santa Monica. Olyphant, Yost, and others will be on hand to do readings of the author’s works.