‘Justified’: A Chat With Michael Rapaport About Playing This Season’s Big Bad

By March 18, 2014
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We’re well into the fifth season of FX’s hit series “Justified.” If you’ve listened to almost any episode of Pass The Effin’ Remote, you’d know both my co-host Jack and I have huge man crushes on Timothy Olyphant. If I could sport a stetson and get away with head-to-toe denim, I would. But I digress…

Every season of the show has featured a main “Big Bad” so to speak, and this season is no exception. Michael Rapaport stepped in this year as Daryl Crowe Jr., the bigger and badder (no pun intended) of the Crowe boys. Last week, we had a chance to participate in a conference call with Mr. Rapaport himself. During the conversation, he discussed his experience working with Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and the rest of the “Justified” crew, what drives him as an actor today, and what we can expect from Daryl during the rest of the season. Check it out!

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On the role the Crowe family takes in achieving Daryl’s goals:

I think that he’s turning a blind eye to them because they’re family.  I think in his head he thinks he’s doing the best thing for his family. He’s running the family and he has taken on this responsibility. So I think in his head he thinks he’s doing the best thing for everybody, but as the season keeps going on we’ll see how that plays out. But it’s definitely been a lot of fun, and I think there are a lot of big twists and turns at the end that are going to be, I would say, kind of shocking.  There are a couple of scenes that are like crazy.

On his experience working with Walton Goggins and how their characters parallel each other:

Walton is honestly one of the best actors I’ve ever had a chance to work with. It’s been a real pleasure working with him. 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. Him and Tim’s insistence and persistence on pushing the envelope, not just for them but for the show and for all the other actors, has been a real pleasure and it’s just been a lot of fun. Those guys are just really good and they really care about what they’re doing. It pays off in the end result, but they really are team players and very welcoming and encouraging for everybody to do good.

Obviously Boyd is the most fleshed out of all of the bad guys, and I think he’s very humanized. So he’s really a bad guy you could get behind in the character. He just brings a lot of color to the character. Daryl wants the same thing Boyd wants. They’re both criminals. They’re both criminals and at the end of the day they’re just trying to find their way and make their way. So that’s definitely something we talk about.

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On the fun and challenges in playing Daryl Crowe Jr.:

I get off on the little things, the little sort of things, the lines in between the lines of dialogue. So that’s been my favorite part and just really being able to—it’s like playing cowboys and Indians. When you’re playing this bad of a character, it’s obviously not reality for someone who’s not living that life. So that’s been the most fun. The challenge has been just the intensity of the work schedule, the accent and my own personal standards.

On taking on the accent for the role:

It was a lot of work. It was a lot of time. I feel like I did a good job, I’m proud of it and it was a great opportunity to do something a little bit different for me. In this performance, the accent was important, but at the end of the day the honesty and the believability has always been my main goal as an actor. That’s always my first thing, just to be as real as possible.

On the show’s amazing and unique caliber of writing: 

It’s a lot of fun to get and to read the scripts. One of the things about the show is that it’ll have long, four, five, six-page scenes and they’re almost like a play within the episode. It’s not something that you get to do a lot on television. To be honest, it’s not something you get to do a lot in film. And I think that the writers do a really good job of when there is exposition they color it to the characters and they try to make it a little bit more specific, as opposed to just sort of giving information to the audience and trying to fill in the blanks. So it’s really fun and exciting, and I think it keeps you on your toes. Every time you get a script, you look forward to opening it up and starting it, whereas sometimes that’s not the case with other shows.

On the show’s location of Kentucky and what he thinks makes “Justified” so popular:

I think the thing that makes the show so popular first comes from the writing and the world that’s set up, 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. At the end of the day, I think it’s a modern day Western. It’s like cowboys and good guys versus bad guys. Also, I think that it’s really relatable. I think the backdrop of Harlan County – 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, cops and robbers.

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On the experience working alongside Alicia Witt (Wendy Crowe):

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 really 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.

On what drives him as an actor today as opposed to 20 years ago:

Part of it is the same in terms of you just want to do the best you can do. It sounds sort of cliché. You just want to do a great job every time you get in front of a camera, every time you’re in a scene. But as you get older and do more work, you want to try to variate yourself. You want to try to do different things and bring different colors. I think about more stuff than I did when I was younger in terms of a performance. And I’m more, as an actor on film or digital these days, whether its TV or actually movies, aware of the technical aspect of that acting. At the end of the day, my sole goal when I go into any scene, is to try to be as honest as I possibly can and then everything else is second. But the most important thing for me is to just be as honest as I possibly can.

On if he prefers the longer narrative of TV over film work:

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 with 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, physically and creatively.

Aside from “Justified”, he discusses the other TV programming he’s a fan of:

I was obviously a big fan of “Breaking Bad.” Everybody was into that. I’ve been enjoying “True Detective.” To be really honest with you, the thing that I get the most joy out of on television, besides sports right now and since “True Detective” ended…I’m really, and I wouldn’t say that I’m embarrassed about it because I’m actually a proud viewer, but I do watch a lot of reality television. For better or for worse, like a lot of Bravo television!

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On what to expect out of Daryl in the remaining 3 episodes of the season: 

I can just say this, he’s not playing around. He’s not taking any prisoners going forward. He’s getting more and more impatient as things go along. So the best I can tell you is that Daryl Crowe Jr. is definitely coming in—he’s ready to get what he wants to get! The show gets better and better and crazier and crazier, and the blood soaks the streets!

So there you have it, folks!

Now, I have a tradition where I partake in three fingers of bourbon while watching Raylan and Boyd kick ass every week. Won’t you join me? Tune in every Tuesday (tonight) at 10pm for an all new episode of  “Justified” only on FX!

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.