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FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 file photo, author Elmore Leonard works on a manuscript at his home in Bloomfield Township, Mich. Leonard, a former adman who later in life became one of America's foremost crime writers, has died. He was 87. His researcher says he passed away Tuesday morning, Aug. 20, 2013 from complications from a stroke. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Spirit of Elmore Leonard still infuses ‘Justified’
TV » The continuing success of FX series best tribute to author.
First Published Jan 23 2014 10:33 am • Last Updated Jan 23 2014 04:42 pm

Pasadena, Calif. • If you’re waiting for a big tribute to author Elmore Leonard on an upcoming episode of "Justified," you won’t see it. Or maybe you won’t notice it.

"To be honest, and I think we’d all agree, every episode we’ve tried to do as a tribute to Elmore Leonard," said executive producer Graham Yost, "from the beginning of the series."

At a glance

Leonard’s books to movies, TV

Among the most successful movie adaptations of Elmore Leonard’s books were “52 Pick-Up,” “Get Shorty,” “Hombre,” “Jackie Brown,” “Mr. Majestyk,” “Out of Sight” and “3:10 to Yuma.” The TV series “Maximum Bob” and “Karen Sisco” were critically praised but quickly failed in the ratings; “Justified” is in its fifth (of six) season on FX.

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"Justified" (Tuesdays, 11 p.m., FX) is based on Leonard’s novels "Pronto" and "Riding the Rap" and his short story "Fire in the Hole" — all of which feature U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant in the TV series.

"I loved the man," Olyphant said. "He’s going to be greatly missed. I feel blessed to be able to do the show and that he got a kick out of it."

Which he did. The author, who passed away in August, said repeatedly that he was a fan of the series, calling it "a terrific show."

"I love all of the writing, and I’m amazed sometimes that they’ve got the characters better than I put them on paper," Leonard said in 2012. "They are doing a good job — really a good job."

Yost and his team always tried to keep "Justified" true to Leonard’s vision. Including setting parts of the current season in Florida and in Detroit — two of the author’s favorite locales.

"We were thinking, ‘Boy, this is going to be fun. Elmore’s going to get a big kick out of that,’ " Yost said. "And then he died."

Leonard is gone, but he’s not forgotten. His spirit hangs over the production — in the best of ways.

"I feel lucky to have known the man," Olyphant said.

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Walton Goggins (who stars as Boyd Crowder) recalled a chair where Leonard would sit when he visited the set. He was rather unsettled by its continued presence while they were filming.

"I remember kind of circling it for the first three or four episodes," Goggins said. "And there was one day in particular that was really kind of hard, just a hard day. … There was this one scene we were doing, I just couldn’t get it right, and I was really tired. It was at the end of the day, and I just said, ‘[Expletive] it. I’m going to sit down in your chair, Elmore. I’m just going to sit down.’ "

And it was something "spiritual" and "very special."

"It was very comforting," Goggins said. "And I think, when it’s all said and done, we will be a small piece of cloth in Elmore’s coat. It’s a big deal at the end of your life to say that you were part of a literary giant’s career."

"Justified" is going away, but it isn’t going away soon. It’s three episodes into its fifth season, with 10 to go; there will be a 13-episode sixth season, which will be the last.

"You know, a lot 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 we start repeating ourselves."

According to Yost, everyone involved just kind of felt that six seasons would be enough. That decision came after "a long conversation" among Yost, Olyphant and the show’s other producers.

"We all talked about it a lot," Olyphant said. "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."


Twitter: @ScottDPierce

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