Conference Call Interview With Michael Rapaport On Justified

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What do you think it is that makes this show so popular?

MR: I think the thing that makes the show so popular first comes from the writing and the world that’s set up, and then I think it’s the actors and I think it’s Tim and Walton. I think they’ve just created really, really fun characters. I think it’s like good versus evil, but then the lines are skewed.

And at the end of the day, I think it’s a world that’s a modern day Western. From a time when you were a little kid it’s like cowboys and good guys versus bad guys, and I think that it’s really relatable. And I think the backdrop of Harlan, obviously it’s a heightened world that the Justified people live in, but it’s just sort of a heightened fantasy world of good versus evil and cops and robbers.

To what extent was it easy or difficult to get into this character and this world, and how easy or difficult was it to get out of?

MR: It hasn’t been that easy to get into. It was easy to get out of because you’re so in it for the time when you’re shooting that by the time you’re done you don’t want anything to do with it because it’s very intense. Those guys are intense, and I mean that in a good way, and you push yourself; they push you and the writing pushes you.

But Tim and Walton really set the tone of, I think, excellence. They’re both great. I hope that they get Emmy nominations and win them. They both deserve them, and I think it’d be a little overdue. I think that they’ve done as good of work as anything that’s been on television in the last five or six years.

Getting back to Justified, some of the scenes that I’m really liking best this season are between you and Alicia Witt. Talk about her and talk about that work. It’s really, I think, been just—I think she lends something to the show that maybe we haven’t seen quite so much, a certain sort of delicacy in a way.

MR: I have to say that I’ve been enormously impressed with Alicia’s work and her intensity, and you’ll see in the last few episodes what I mean. She’s done some incredible work. We’ve had some days that couldn’t have been more intense, coming up in these last few episodes, and they’ve been a pleasure and very impressive.

She really gives the show some special talents and skills, as the episodes go along. There are some scenes towards the end of the season that are just great, and working with her she was just really special, special work.

And also Jacob Lofland, I think he’s really shown something too. He plays Kendal.

Michael: He’s been great. He’s a really sweet kid. He’s a young kid. He’s from Arkansas and we’ve had a lot of fun with him. He’s another really good talent.

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I know you’ve done a lot of work, both on the TV side of things, as well as in films and even some voiceover work for some video games and some animated stuff. Do you prefer working on TV where you have more time to develop a character or do you like going in and just doing kind of a one-and-done sort of thing?

MR: I think that it’s just a matter of job to job. Each environment is different. Each job is different and each realm of creativity that they give you is different. You try to do the best you can and put as much time into it as you can, but different jobs, different circumstances come about.

Sometimes you know about a job four months in advance. Sometimes you know about a job four days in advance. So it’s all different, and my thing is I just try to stay prepared. It’s like a boxer; you never know when you’re going to get your next fight so you have to just stay in shape mentally and physically and creatively.

You mentioned earlier that you were a fan of Justified before coming into the show. Are there other shows that you’re a fan of that you would like to work on sometime in the future?

MR: Right now, let me see, well, I was obviously a big fan of Breaking Bad. Everybody was into that. I’ve been enjoying True Detective. To be honest with you, right now, I’m probably forgetting some stuff, but to be really honest with you the thing that I get the most joy out of on television, besides sports, is, for better or for worse, a lot of Bravo television.

It’s shameful, but sometimes I watch those episodes of television and I’m like, “That was a really good hour of television.” I know, I know it doesn’t sound highbrow and geeky and all that. But all these television critics and stuff like that, you can sit down and watch a couple of hours of some good reality television and it’s as entertaining as anything that they have on cable, HBO, Showtime or anything. I promise you.

You’re not watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians are you?

MR: I don’t watch Kardashians. I’m more of a Real Housewives guy.

Setting aside Justified, what would you say is your favorite project that you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love that you thought it deserved?

MR: I would probably say I did a movie called Special that I wish had gotten better distribution. It’s an independent movie that I’m very proud of that people see on Netflix and iTunes and such.

I really did enjoy working on the TV show The War at Home. I thought that was a really good show, and I thought that we didn’t really get a fair shot at making a sort of traditional, family-style, raunchy television show. That was disappointing that it ended shortly.

What’s been your favorite moment between Darryl and Boyd?

MR: My favorite moment between Darryl and Boyd was probably the first scene when we met in the bar. That was probably my favorite. It was a really long scene. It had ebbs and flows and twists and turns. I’m a real fan of Walton, and he’s just really a perfectionist. I can’t say enough about him. He really just is a very intense, really pushing himself and pushing everybody else. He’s very encouraging of all the other actors around him and just a real team player and a really inspiring actor to work with.

I’m really enjoying Darryl, and I was wondering, we haven’t addressed this one specific thing and that is, as probably the most interesting villain since Mags Bennett back in Season 2, Darryl is a pretty strange cat. So I was wondering what did you find was the key that made him click for you, that made you say, “Oh yeah, I got this guy.”

MR: A lot of it is in the writing. I think the thing that made it click for me is the idea of him thinking that he’s taking care of his family and that everything he’s doing is in the best interest of his family. He says that a lot, but I think his actions, especially as we get towards the end of the season, don’t really live up to that. But I think family and him thinking that he’s taking care of his family is the main thing.

That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Michael very much for his time. Be sure to catch Michael on Justified every Tuesday on FX.