'Justified': EP Graham Yost dissects 'Harlan Roulette' in weekly postmortem

JUSTIFIED-ROULETTE

SPOILER ALERT! This week’s episode of Justified, “Harlan Roulette,” featured the welcome return of Wade Messer (James LeGros), a lot of gunplay courtesy of Dixie Mafia member Glen Fogle (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and a memorable first meeting between Raylan and Quarles. As we’ll be doing each week throughout the season, we asked exec producer Graham Yost to take us inside the writers room. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The story Raylan told Wade about why he won’t go into someone’s house uninvited — that goes back to the pilot, when he met Dewey Crowe at Ava’s.
GRAHAM YOST: That goes back to the pilot, and the short story, and it might even have been mentioned in one of the books, too. One of the themes of the season is crossing the line. So here we have a scene where Raylan says this is why he doesn’t cross this line, why he won’t go into someone’s house uninvited. When Wade comes out and he can’t find the gun and Raylan’s got it, it’s like, “I thought you wasn’t gonna go inside?” “We all got lines we gotta cross, Wade.” It’s just exploring that notion. And, it’s a fun story to tell.

I’m so happy that Wade Messer lived. Why do incompetent guys like he and Dewey survive for so long in this world? Because they’re comic relief? 
You know, a lot of it has to do with just us seeing the performance. We had so much fun with Damon Herriman playing Dewey on the pilot. We just thought it’d be cool to bring him back. We always want to make sure when we use him that we remind ourselves and the audience that he’s a bad guy capable of bad stuff, but at the same time, not lose sight of the Elmore Leonard humor that’s involved with a character like that. We just sort of feel that Raylan has an odd affection for them. He would never say that. His affection for Wade is a little more apparent and pronounced since he knew him from growing up, but there’s just something about Dewey that he kind of gets a kick out of, you know, even though he’s a dope. With Wade, we got a call last year that James LeGros liked the show and said, “Listen guys, if there’s anything for me, count me in.” When we came up with the character of Wade Messer, we knew we needed someone in the last episode [of season 2] to play a pivotal role. We approached him and he said, “Great.” Then you see the scene between him and Raylan [in LeGros' delivery] “Hey Raylan, how are ya?” It was just wonderful. And so when we were kickin’ around ideas for this season, we thought, well, maybe Wade’s still in the wind and he’s a fugitive, and what he’s doing could pull us into this story and take us deeper into this Oxy subculture.

Will we see Wade again this season?
No, he’s in custody. We have to figure how bad the charges are against him. He helped Raylan out in this situation, so in the Justified world, we could see him out in jail in season 4 — if James still wants to play.

Quarles’ Oxy scam: What’s the origin of that story line?
Two things. Talking to people down there [in Harlan], Oxy is the great destroyer. So we needed to go in deeper to that. We touched on it in season 1, and touched on it in season 2, when Dewey’s on that bus that’s done an Oxy run to Florida. And then we’d heard rumors about this idea of pill mills in Kentucky. Now, we saw a documentary about pill mills in Florida, and it’s just sooo horrific, the destruction that hath wrought. So we knew as a subject area we wanted to explore it. And then we heard about this possible scam of mobile Oxy clinics where you’d set up doctors to be quasi legal, and if the heat got too hot, you would just move. That’s something that we wanted to build toward, and that becomes more a part of the story in episodes five and six. So that’s one thing, just the Oxy world. The other thing is looking at Quarles as the Carpetbagger. Part of it is suggested, as I’ll tell everyone, by the song we’ve used as the end of season 1 and season 2, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” There’s a line in there something about a man from the Northeast comes waving $100 bills — it’s just that idea of people coming to Harlan to exploit it for its natural resources and then gettin’ the money and getting out. First it was timber, then it was coal. In our twisted Justified world, the natural resource down there is Oxy addicts. We just thought that becomes an Elmore-like scam. Elmore’s bad guys are always looking for that little gap, that little thing that no one else has tried, that makes some kind of sense.

Staying on Quarles: Were we supposed to know who the guy was he had bound and gagged in that room?
We’re not supposed to know who that guy is. You’ll find out more about that guy and how that relates to Quarles in subsequent episodes.

Will we ever meet his son?
We’re not gonna meet the son, but that should always be something that is part of Quarles’ character. He’s a very tormented, very conflicted guy with a lot of demons. And those get expressed in the world in a way that makes you realize that no matter how sad his story is, he needs to die.

That awesome end scene, where Raylan drops the bullet on Duffy and says, “The next one’s comin’ faster”: I heard that line was all you.
I don’t know if this is right, but I remember hearing something like that on Johnny Carson. If I remember, it was a comedian or a singer who was dating a girl and found out she was, like, the daughter of a mob boss in Vegas, and the dad came into his dressing room and threw a bullet at him and said, “The next one’s coming a lot faster.” I always loved that line. So that’s how that got into the story. I’ll tell you that moment — throwing a bullet at someone and saying that line — has an impact on the story of the season. You’ll see in a later episode where someone says, “Did you come up with that on your own?” and Raylan will say why he heard that line.

We’ve talked before about Quarles‘ sleeve gun, how the audience knowing about it when Raylan doesn’t brings such great tension, and why Quarles doesn’t just shoot Raylan when he has the chance. I love how that scene ends with Raylan taking a picture of a smiling Quarles on his phone and Raylan giving him that look.
That look like, You are weird, guy. That was something I thought of. I thought it would be nice if Raylan had a picture of him, so that then in subsequent episodes he could maybe find out more about him as their two stories start to come together. At this point, at the end of episode 3, Raylan doesn’t know that Quarles is going to be his main adversary this season.

Let’s talk about the game Harlan Roulette. How did that come about?
That was just something that popped into the room. I can’t even remember the genesis. It was just one of those, we’ve got a few minutes to establish how bad this Fogle character is. We called him Fagin in our breaking of the story because we thought of him as this Oliver Twist-like character who has these addicts going out and robbing for him. We just wanted to see, like Fagin or Sikes to an extent, how bad he could be.

It was excruciating to watch, in the best possible way. 
I gotta tell you, it’s a cheap shot, but it works. If you’ve ever seen Deer Hunter, there is nothing quite as horrific as people being forced to play Russian Roulette, or in this case, Harlan Roulette.

Are you sad you killed Pruitt Taylor Vince after one episode?
Ohmygod, yeah. We all come up with the part in the room. We think about various people. Casting comes up with this idea, and it’s like, “Really, we can get him?” There is a sense of Ohmygod, so that’s it? That’s all we can use him for? That’s kinda hard. But at the same time, he’s so wonderful, it just makes the episode work.

When I first saw the episode, before I knew Raylan’s problem in the season premiere would be short-lived, I wondered if he wasn’t firing in that scene because he didn’t want to show them that his aim was off. 
It’s not really that, it’s just that you’ve got two bad guys about to shoot each other. Well, which one do you go for? He’s got Fogle, who’s promising information, so he can’t shoot him. But the other guy is this poor bastard addict who’s been tortured essentially by Fogle, so you’re on his side. He’s the better of the two bad guys. So you’re telling both people to put down their guns. What are you gonna do? You can’t shoot both of them, because that’s what they’re gonna do anyway.

Moving on to Boyd: When he met with Limehouse, it sounded like he was suggesting he off Dickie now so they can split Mags’ money. What can you tease about where that story line is headed?
Coming out of the first episode, people were saying, “Really? Boyd got himself thrown in jail just to kill Dickie?” And then we had the twist in the second episode, where you realize that’s not the reason. And then we just wanted to create a mystery about this money: Does it exist? Does it not exist? What’s the story behind it? And so, you’ll see that in the fourth episode. You’ll also get more information on it in the fifth as well.

I feel sorta bad that Boyd took back the bar that way. He’s really not gonna give that guy more money?
[Laughs] You honestly feel bad for that guy? First of all, let’s not forget something: Boyd Crowder, he’s a bad guy. He may be charming, he’s played by Walton Goggins, he speaks well, he’s got a lot of style, he’s got a pretty girlfriend. HE IS A CRIMINAL.

So you’re saying he could have killed him and taken it back if he wanted to, so this was the nicer option.
Yeah. And Boyd has his reasons. Johnny was laid up in the hospital, you swooped in and made him an offer and it wasn’t a righteous offer. You sorta snaked the bar out from under him, so we’re taking it back. He lets him take the cash in the drawer, I think. There you go, that’s nice.

What are we supposed to take away from Boyd’s conversation with Devil? Is he racist old Boyd or not?
He’s not running from his past, and he’s not denying it. I don’t think he would describe himself as a racist now, although most racists don’t describe themselves as racists. We established pretty clearly in the pilot that that was more a part of a scheme for him, to use skinheads to rob banks so he could blow crap up and make money.

In regards to Limehouse, we’ve talked before about Noble’s Holler being a refuge for abused white women, like Ava and Raylan’s mother, who’d go there knowing their white husbands or boyfriends wouldn’t follow them. But how would that work while they were there?
We don’t know the entire history of Coe Holler, or Coe Ridge, where this kind of thing actually took place. We don’t know the details of it, so a lot of it we’re just making up. I think the idea would be as if these women were at a shelter. Time goes by and their husbands or boyfriends settle down, swear it won’t happen again, and the women are willing to take another shot and they go back with them. They would just be treated as guests.

I have “Limehouse’s teeth?” written in my notes here.
The teeth were just an idea that Mykelti [Williamson] had. I think he just didn’t want to see advanced 20th, 21st century dental care back in the holler. We didn’t want the teeth to be too distracting. But if that helps him, let’s do it.

On to Dewey and Dickie’s cute play fighting in prison. Is there a story behind that moment? It was another great one.
[Laughs] They kind of went overboard. There was a little too much grab ass. We had to scale it back in the editing room. That’s just actors goofing around, coming up with stuff on the day. It goes to the mental age of these characters. They really stopped maturing when they were teenagers. With Dickie, you could probably say it was when Raylan crippled him that his growth stopped in a way.

What was the idea behind bringing the prison guard into this, having him threaten to make Dickie’s life hell unless he gets him Mags’ money?
Part of doing a serialized show is while we’ll have an A storyline that is kind of standalone even though it’s related to the whole — like Glen Fogle and the whole pawn shop thing — we also have to advance our other stories. So that’s setting up what will happen in episode four. That’s part of what we do: One episode leads into the next, or sometimes we’ll set up something in an episode, skip that story for two episodes, and then come back to it. You’ll find with Mags’ money that after the fourth episode, we’re done with that for awhile. But it shall return.

One of my favorite pairings on the show is Raylan and Trooper Tom Bergen. That actor, Peter Murnik, guested as a cop who turned out to be bad on Rizzoli & Isles, and I’m so used to seeing him as a good guy on Justified that it totally got me.
Oh good. I’m glad we could help Rizzoli & Isles.

My first question: It looked like Trooper Tom’s kids were eating KGC and not KFC. Why?
We were approached at the beginning of the season to have some product placement, and the deal just didn’t work out. But that was gonna be one of our attempts. It’s just kinda eh.

Well it kinda worked out for them because it made you think of KFC anyway.
Yes. And part of the thing was you can’t have bad guys eating it. So cute little kids eating a little KFC? Fine.

My second question: Will we see Trooper Tom more this season?
Yes. We set him up at the beginning of season 2, ’cause we wanted Raylan to have a law enforcement friend down in Harlan that he could trust. You’ll see other law enforcement people who are a little shadier start making appearances down in Harlan. We wanted someone who was an ally, so he plays an important role this season. I worked with Peter back on a movie 14 years ago called Hard Rain. When his name popped up as a possibility for Trooper Tom, I said let’s get him.

Read more:
‘Justified': EP Graham Yost talks ‘Cut Ties’ in weekly postmortem
‘Justified': EP Graham Yost dissects season 3 premiere in first of our weekly postmortems
‘Justified’ season premiere review: ‘Dexter’ actor helped launch what may be the best season yet
‘Justified': Timothy Olyphant talks season 3’s big bad, why the show’s writing is that good
‘Justified’ Primer: Who’s Who in Harlan?

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