Check out what the critics are saying about last week’s landmark episode!
“Here’s how I know “Decoy” was a great Justified episode: I didn’t realize it was just about done until there were only about two minutes to go. And that revelation was almost painful. Grade: A” -Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
“The distinction of Justified–a literary, word-lover’s show to begin with–is that on this drama, talk is action. It is how characters test one another’s mettle, conduct reconnaissance, and carry out war by other means. And “Decoy” was just one fantastic instance of this after another.” -James Poniewozik, Time
“Cool as an astronaut landing a helicopter on the baseball diamond must have been to the teenage versions of Boyd, Ava, Johnny and Raylan, I would say the entirety of “Decoy” just topped it for me.” -Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix
“The best thing about ”Decoy” was that, despite the extraordinary circumstances and helicopters and molotov cocktails and IEDs and giant friggin’ guns, the episode was unequivocally an hour’s worth of everything we love about Justified. The familiar, lighthearted lobs of eloquent spoken word and “gosh I wish I had thought of that” zingers didn’t stop just because everyone was one trigger squeeze away from a massacre. Quite the opposite. “Decoy” was stuffed with the type of top-notch dialogue that we—greedy little mugs that we are–somehow expect the show to deliver each week, even as the writers are conjuring magic from their fingertips.” -Tim Surette, TV.com
“Top to bottom, I can’t find a single character that I’m not invested in. I even want to see where Picker, Augustine’s henchman, ends up. Speaking of Augustine, can enough be said about the work Mike O’Malley has done this season?” -Jack McKinney, Paste Magazine
–We talked a little bit about how you became a writer on Justified in your video interview with Fred Golan, but how did you first begin to write? At what age did you start and how did you first get hooked?
I wrote my first story when I was 11, because I heard about a girl who got a book published at the age of 12 and was determined to best her. This did not happen, but I did end up with a 23 page rip-off of the Chronicles of Narnia. I kept writing short stories after that, and eventually combined that with my desire to make movies and wrote a screenplay when I was 16.
–What comics are you reading right now? What are some of your all time favorites?
I’m reading some of my friends’ comics like “Seven Percent” and “Killing Machine,” and I’m catching up on Walking Dead and Powers. My favorites are pretty typical, “Dark Knight Returns,” “Watchmen.” Also most of what Grant Morrison writes, like “All-Star Superman” and his runs on X-Men and Justice League.
–How would you say your affinity for comics influences your writing for Harlan and the cast of Justified? Which character would you most like to see in his/her own comic book?
I often see things through a genre prism, for instance viewing 310, “Guy Walks Into A Bar” as a super-villain origin story. Wynn Duffy could have a comic, for sure.
–What are some lessons that you’ve learned while shooting? What should a writer know before their first time on the set of their episode?
Make sure you understand the big picture, why each person is saying/doing what they are doing in that particular scene, because people will ask. Other than that just stay out of people’s way, but don’t be afraid to point stuff out to the director if you think they missed something. Just common sense.
–This episode takes place after everyone gets on the same page about Drew Thompson, but before he’s apprehended. What were the challenges of breaking this episode and stalling that get?
Mostly just keeping it from feeling like stalling for the viewer. Figuring out what we wanted to say about the various characters with this hunt.
–What’s your writing routine like? Are you a morning person? How do you balance family, writing, and hobbies?
I don’t have a routine. I write every weekday during hiatus, just normal 10-6 hours, but when the show is up and running I write at night, early mornings, whenever. Caffeine makes this possible. I don’t know that there’s a trick to balancing things, I just prioritize and do what has to be done at that moment, then figure out what has to be done the next moment, etc.
–What advice do you have for a person about to write a spec script in the hopes of getting staffed?
Make sure you fill out your portfolio. You can use the spec to try and get in fellowships, but you should have a couple of pilots as well. Prospective employers want to know you have more than one script in you and that you actually enjoy writing.
–When did you first begin writing and what was your path to Justified?
I began writing at a pretty young age, starting with letters to camp friends, to short stories, to trying a novel in high school. I began writing fiction seriously in college, and haven’t stopped.
My path to Justified began with a satisfying career as a novelist, but wanting to move into TV. I watched shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, and Yost’s Boomtown and began seeing the possibilities in this form. Then I read Graham’s pilot of Justified early on, knew Elmore Leonard’s and Graham’s work, and saw it meshing very well with my own. When I watched it I knew I had to write for Graham. It took three seasons but I finally joined the team.
–As the new voice in the room this season, how do you figure out on the fly how you fit into the larger mosaic of the group?
Every show is different, every writers’ room unique, but I had the advantage of being a tremendous fan of the show, so felt very comfortable with the language of Justified. I saw very quickly that everyone wanted to make a great show, no matter who was new or a veteran, and they all made me feel very welcome. I pitched in however I could, whether it was research, story ideas, even writing on the white boards despite my messy handwriting. I began to see that my background in crime novels and fiction writing was an asset, and contributed with that perspective when I could.
–How did you find out that you’d be writing an episode this season?
Graham took me aside and said said it was time. Dave Andron had advocated for me to get a script. Then Graham told the room and they applauded, which was actually touching. I felt like I was a true part of the team then. Taylor Elmore welcomed me as a co-writer, and we were off.
–Did you feel any extra pressure since you were following an episode that killed off a major character?
Not especially. Of course I wanted to do a good job, and Taylor and I both felt a responsibility to Raylan, to make his response true to his character, but I feel like I was given a tremendous gift: I was empowered to co-write an episode of my favorite show. Not many people get the chance to do that. So, honestly, I had fun.
–There was a version of ‘The Hatchet Tour’ where Raylan carted Arlo around rather than Hunter. When that switch occurred, how did your approach to the episode have to shift?
That was before the decision to kill Arlo was cemented. Quite frankly the relationship between Raylan and Arlo mirrors the relationship with my father, so that version was extremely cathartic to write. Kafka once said that writing is the axe to break the frozen sea within us, and I did a lot of ice breaking. When we decided that Arlo was going to die we just filed that old version away, Taylor and I hunkered down and we re-envisioned the story from the new perspective. Again, you must remember how much I enjoy this show as a viewer, so all that it meant was we got to write a new version of the episode, and I relished that.
–What was the division of labor like between you and Taylor Elmore? Was it an easy collaboration?
Taylor and I write very similarly. I think he could’ve been a novelist in another life because he liked pondering and mulling character and story as much as I did. Basically we talked, emailed and kicked ideas back and forth, then just started writing. The most telling moment for me was when we unintentionally overlapped, and unbeknownst to us we ended up writing a line almost exactly the same way. That’s when we knew it was a good collaboration.
–How did the reveal of Shelby as Drew evolve? As a novelist with plenty of experience in the crime/mystery genre, what were your instincts telling you about this reveal?
This was a point discussed quite a bit in the writers’ room, and there were more dramatic and violent versions bandied about, but in the end we all thought that a quieter revelation in the aftermath of chaos would have the most weight. I guess my instincts were pretty in tune with the other writers — we all didn’t want to wait too long because that kind of trickery gets tiresome, but we wanted to do it justice, with an eye toward who Drew was and who Shelby is now, authentic and organic to the story.
–Can you talk about your experiences working on the set? What were some learning curves that were specific to this show?
I liked set, especially in the more remote areas because I missed being outside. I also marveled at the collaborative nature of the shoot, since everyone from sound, props, wardrobe, to the actors themselves, wanted the very best for the show. The only thing specific for this show that I wasn’t used to were the long commutes. One night I got caught in traffic and spent over three hours getting home.
–Which character’s voice is your favorite one to write?
They all have their fun aspects. Whether it’s Raylan’s wryness laced with his uniquely complicated undercurrents, or Ava’s intelligent yearning. But I do especially enjoy Boyd’s cadences and lyricism. He has a neo-Biblical lilt that comes for his wild upbringing and background, shaded with his father’s rawness, his own criminal past, the regionalism, the eclectic reading, and the fact that he’s a fascinating character.
–Why did you decide to make the jump from writing novels to writing for TV? Can you talk about the pros and cons of the switch?
I’ve written a lot about social and cultural issues as they relate to crime, family and community, and saw that this was being done so well on TV that I had to be a part of it. The Wire, Breaking Bad and of course Justified are not just great TV — they’re great literature. The forms — TV and novels — are not that different for me. It comes down to telling stories about compelling characters in unique and moving situations. It’s focusing a lens on a community and seeing what that reveals about all of us.
–You were here every day before Jeff and myself and from what I understand you are pretty prolific. Can you describe your routine and the habits you try to keep in order to be such a productive writer?
Writing is an integral part of my life. I love to write. I can’t imagine not writing. So it’s very simple for me to wake up and think about what I’m writing that day. I wonder if what makes it difficult for many people is that they’re thinking about the product: the story, the novel, the script, or whatever they’re working on and what the final product will be and what it will get them — writing as a means to an end.
However, I tend to think about the process — what I will learn about the characters, the world, the stories, and, ultimately, about myself in the journey of whatever I’m working on. When you relish the journey, it’s very, very easy to get up at dawn eager to see what happens next in the story. You can’t wait to get out of bed. Seriously.
–What advice do you have for a person about to write their first spec script with the hope of writing for TV?
Well, consider my previous answer. If you’re writing a script as a means to get somewhere else, you’re not writing a script — you’re writing a vehicle for another goal. My advice is to change your mindset. You’re writing a story that’s meaningful to you and hopefully to others, and you’re infusing it with something no one else can do or even approach; you’re writing with your unique voice and perspective. No one else has had your experiences and perspectives. What do you want to see out there that you can’t find? How is it uniquely yours, and I don’t necessarily mean autobiographical, but singularly your voice. Learn how to capture that in your writing, your characters, your stories, and enjoy the process. Embrace the journey and everything else will eventually fall into place.
–I usually start these interviews by asking the writers how they wound up on Justified and how they got started writing, and we’ll get to that, but I have to address something else first… HOW COULD YOU KILL ARLO? HOW?!
[Laughs] That was something that went back and forth when the story was being broken. It was actually changed in a late draft where he wasn’t going to die. There was going to be an attack on him where he turns the tables on his attacker and he survives the attack at the end. But I believe it was Tim Olyphant who really wanted to have an emotional Raylan scene in the episode. He really wanted there to be something where Raylan basically breaks down, so the best way that we could do that was to have Arlo die. So even though it had been talked about, the final impulse seemed like it was Tim Olyphant, and it just seemed to really work out.
–So it sounds like having Arlo die was one of the only things left to do to Raylan to give us new insight to his emotional state?
It probably would have had the most impact. Raylan obviously doesn’t get along with his dad. They have had their differences in the past, but he is still his dad. So when his father dies, it’s going to hit him. The only person I could see hitting him more would be someone like Winona. Or maybe someone like Art. But yeah, having someone like Arlo die would really get him in a different emotional space for the final few episodes of the season.
–Was Arlo’s death something that had been in discussion since the start of the season or is it something that came up only once the room was breaking this episode?
There was always going to be an Arlo hit somewhere…when we did the big [start of season] grid. I think it bounced around to different episodes, but I think as far as him dying, I don’t believe we really talked about him dying until we got closer to the episode.
–Was there a debate?
For pretty much anything there are going to be two schools of thought and this was a huge decision to make… [Graham] called Raymond Barry. Typically on a show when a character is a major character and he’s been around for a couple of seasons, the showrunner will call the actor and say, “this is what’s happening to your character.” And typically it’s not that you’re not satisfied with the actor, it’s just this is what’s best for the show and what’s best for the story.
–Circling back, how did you become the writers’ assistant on Justified and how did you come to freelance for the show?
I worked on a show called Hellcats with [writer/executive producer] Fred Golan’s wife Anne Kenny. Hellcats was canceled and there was going to be an opening here starting in the third season. Anne recommended me… I had worked with Fred before on a show called Raines. I worked with Fred and Graham and Taylor Elmore and Dave Andron, so he knew who I was.
As far as getting a freelance, I gave Graham a spec pilot I wrote last year right before we were beginning to wrap and he read it and he liked it. He said it was very well-written, but I didn’t know what was going to come of that. I didn’t know if there were going to be enough spots open for a freelance. So we’re three or four months into the season, and Fred calls me and VJ Boyd into his office and he says, “I just want to let you guys know that if there’s a story we have broken that speaks to you and you want to write that script, let us know and we’ll have you write it.” And as soon as VJ and I were leaving the office, VJ says, “does this mean you’re writing a script? Why didn’t you tell me?” And I said, “I didn’t know!” So I went back to Fred and I asked him, “Am I writing a script?” and he goes, “Oh yeah, we were supposed to tell you at the beginning of the season.” And then later on, like the next day, I’m in the writers room and Graham comes in to get his soda, and I say, “Graham I just want to say thank you.” He’s all, “What’d I do? What’d I do?” I said that I wanted to thank him for the opportunity to write a script. And he said. “Oh… we were supposed to tell you at the beginning of the season.”
–What was the division of labor like with your co-writer Ben Cavell?
We split it up by storylines. I had a hand in the storyline that involved Colt killing the drug dealer, getting the money, and dropping the money off at the shed at the baseball diamond. Then I had a hand in the Boyd storyline, and Ben wrote all the Raylan stuff, the great Ellen May-Shelby scene and anything that had to do with the Deputy Hitman. I had a little bit in the first scene with Raylan and Hunter and then a little bit in the scene with Boyd talking to Frank Browning and then the Clover Hillers at the end, but that was mostly Ben, too.
–Raylan really rescues Ava and Boyd in this episode. Is there a begrudging symbiosis on the horizon for them?
There’s still bad blood. There will always be bad blood between those two, no doubt about it. There might be an uneasy alliance but not to the point where they’re ever going to be drinking buddies… They might always have to work together to a certain extent but we’re not going to see the Raylan and Boyd Buddy Show.
–Arlo’s fight scene in the teaser was a badass way to go. Can you talk about how that sequence was conceived and how it evolved?
When we were originally breaking it, there was going to be an attack on Arlo in the prison. He was going to get shivved. And we were trying to think of a different way to do it because Arlo’s in Administrative Segregation, “Ad Seg.” Pretty much just protective custody. He’s in a different area than everyone in general population, so how does somebody in general population go and get Arlo out of protective custody? There are ways you’ve seen in movies and TV shows before. They’ll get him in the dining hall or they’ll get him out in the exercise yard or something like that. So I called up a friend of mine who works for a sheriffs department and I asked him the same question: How’s a guy in general population get a guy in protective custody?” And he said, “Well he can get him in the barber’s.” And I was like, “Really? There are no guards in the barber’s?” and he said, “No. The guards will pick him up from protective custody, take him to the barbers, and they’re not going to sit there babysitting. They’ll just drop him off and come back fifteen minutes later. The barbers they have in jail are convicts, they’re just convicts with a certain skill set and they’re all vetted.” It seemed like a new awesome place to have somebody go after him because you don’t really think about convicts doing mundane ordinary things like getting their hair cut or going to the dentist. And plus, we’re going to a place that already has scissors. He doesn’t have to bring in any makeshift shivs, which we’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows.
–It seems crazy to me that they allow inmates to wield sharp objects on one another without direct supervision.
It’s just one of those things where truth is stranger than fiction. That’s the way it works. One thing they don’t have that we kind of used poetic license with just because I thought it was a cool idea was that in the episode there’s a jar of barbicide; that blue sterilizing liquid. You won’t see that in a prison barber shop because it’s a glass jar with sterilizing liquid that can burn your eyes, so we took a little license with that.
What moment are you most proud of in this episode?
I like the scene where Colt goes to the drug dealer. I think the actor that played Tim Gutterson’s friend Mark did a fantastic job. You really felt for the guy. He’s just a guy who just got in over his head. He can’t beat this addiction and he gets killed because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time… It could have gone either way. Colt could have let him go. In my mind, I don’t think the guy would have said anything. He was just too scared.
–Boyd pulls a really savvy move this episode with his doublecross. Is he biting off more than he can chew? Is he ready to play at this level?
He’s not a master criminal. We’ve said that in the room plenty of times. He’s just not at that level. And these are powerful people, so for Boyd to go against them Boyd probably has to have the feeling that he can take care of his own, but he maybe didn’t quite think things through.
–What are your duties as the writers assistant?
Every day stories are broken by the writers in the conference room and I’m taking down notes of what people say. You don’t really want an official transcript or anything like that because if you did that it would just be a hundred pages and a lot of them would sound like gibberish. You have to distill what is important and what isn’t important and I try to highlight things that were landed on that might be used in an episode. I try to get dialogue if I can because that’s dialogue that may be used later on. There’s no one tried and true way. You just have to get a sense of what the room responds to… It’s basically just paying attention and having your brain on the entire time. You can’t give your brain a rest. It would also be extremely difficult to take notes and be trying to think and pitch ideas because you’re in note-taking mode. You’re trying to get everything down as fast as you can. That takes up pretty much all your brain space. So when I was breaking this episode I had to have you guys take over for me because I just wouldn’t have been able to pitch ideas.
[Editor’s note: While Keith was breaking this episode and writing it with Ben Cavell, Jeff Wang and myself traded off doing writers assistant duty so that Keith could participate in constructing the story.]
We’re lucky here because the hours aren’t that bad. The hours are about 10 to 6, but you’ll get on some dramas and the hours will go to 9 or 10 o’clock. On some shows writers assistants will do research. Not so much on this show because we have a technical advisor.
So after you have a full day of taking notes, then you have to stay another hour to clean up the notes because even if you’re trying to make sense of it when you’re in the room, you look at it afterwards and go, “oh, this could be written by a serial killer,” it’s just all over the place. I don’t like anybody to see the notes I take right after the room because it looks like another language.
–Did you study writing in college?
Yeah I went to Southern Illinois University to study screenwriting and originally came out here wanting to be a feature writer, but then I started watching TV and getting into that and realized that TV writing was better than 80-90% of the movies out there. Plus, if you’re going to be a feature writer, feature writers aren’t really the star of the script. They’ll bring in a number of different writers in for anything, but in TV the writers have significantly more power. Writers run the show and directors are brought in as hired guns.
I think if somebody wants to be a TV writer, they’re going to have to write a lot of specs as practice. I always heard experienced writers say that before they got their first job they had written ten TV specs and that’s not far from the truth. There are definitely exceptions but you have to write a lot, and getting in as a writers PA or as a writers assistant is a great way to break into it. Writing assistant jobs are some of the most coveted jobs in Hollywood, no doubt about it. You get to be in there and a lot of the time you get a freelance, so for anyone that has aspirations: try to do that. If you can somehow get on a staff without having to do that, good for you.
–You’ve been in the room for two seasons now, but was it nerve-wracking the first time you were pitching on your episode or sending pages out?
Yes. Very much so. Yeah. It’s hard going from being an assistant to being a guy who has to pitch out ideas or being the guy that’s writing pages. You’re not quite staff-writer level, but you’re a little bit more than a writers’ assistant level. You’re hoping your ideas are good and the only thing you can do is just do the best you can and hope other people like it. Fred Golan gave me some good advice for anyone writing a freelance which was to go through previous scripts and just read [a specific character’s] dialogue exclusively… It gives you a sense of who that character is and how that character speaks, as opposed to just reading each full episode because you don’t get as much of a flow as you would if you had just read one character’s parts.
In TV writing, not only do you have to bring out your own voice, but you have to write it within the confines of the show, so you almost have to be a copycat in a way. You have to write something that feels like the show and still have a little bit of your own writing style in there.
–What were some of your favorite shows and movies growing up?
Star Wars is my favorite movie. When I started watching TV I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Shield. I like Breaking Bad a lot. That’s probably one of my all-time favorite shows. Mad Men, Sopranos, shows like that. A lot of stuff on cable. I have to catch up on The Wire. One of these days I’ll sit down and watch all five seasons of that. That’s what hiatuses are for.
–What advice do you have for someone who is trying to become a writers assistant?
It’s tough because they don’t advertise… And if they do, I’d say about two hundred résumés come in in about an hour. It’s mainly about hearing it from other people. If somebody is just coming out of college looking for a way to get in, coming in a PA is probably the best thing you can do. I would say try to get a job at an agency but don’t stay there for more than a year. Only do it for a year because you learn a lot about the business and they’re the information brokers. So a lot of times they’ll hear about a writers assistant position on a show and that means that you hear about it… If you want to be a TV writer make sure you work around an agent who reps TV writers.
I’d also try to get a job as an assistant – this is if you can’t get a job on a show – try to get a job as an assistant at a studio or a network. I worked for Paramount Studios – now CBS Studios – as an assistant and that’s how I got my first writers assistant job… Once you start to know more and more people then it gets easier. Getting your foot in the door the first time is tough, so do what you gotta do to get in there. If you can’t get a job as an assistant right away I would say go through temp agencies, but only temp agencies that do it for the entertainment industries. A lot of time that will lead to a full-time job. There are so many different ways. So many roundabout ways. And always be writing when you’re doing it. It’s tough when you’re working a job with hard hours but if you really want to be a writer you have to find the time to do it. It’ll take a few attempts to find your voice.
Welcome to week eight, loyal viewers! We think those of you who haven’t had your fill of Harlan firepower will be plenty satisfied with the goings-on of tonight’s episode, titled “Outlaw,” directed by the great John Dahl and co-penned by the formidable Ben Cavell and our super writers’ assistant Keith Schreier.
Bodies start dropping and no one is safe as the search for Drew Thompson enters its home stretch.
Come back later in the week for behind-the-scenes chatter on what’s sure to be our most-talked about episode of the season!
-Nick and Jeff
Assistant Props Master Doug Poole gave us an inside look at where Raylan and company get all their wonderful toys. Enjoy!
-Nick and Jeff
–How did you become a television writer and how did you come to write on Justified?
I went to film school after much pondering over what I was going to do with my life. I thought I was going to be a doctor, thought I was going to be a lawyer… but when I was in undergrad I took a class on comedy and I took a writing class and sort of remembered that I used to win awards when I was a kid – writing short stories and whatnot – and I had sort of gotten away from that.
–What age was that?
All through elementary school, actually even into junior high I dare say. But then I hit the antics of high school and just sort of forgot. And then when I took the MCAT, I did pretty well on everything but I got a point away from perfect on my writing sample. I was like, “oh yeah, I used to write stories and stuff.” It was all the typical early 20s “I don’t know what I want to do with my life, I don’t know what I want to commit to…” So I ended up taking a few years off. Decided I didn’t want to go to medical school… applied and got into law school, then didn’t go to law school… my mother was ready to disown me. I finally came to terms with the fact that I wanted to be in entertainment, so I applied to film school and got into USC.
–Were you in the writing program at USC?
I was actually in the graduate production program. Everybody wants to be a director in film school, but I saw all of my classmates sinking thousands and thousands of dollars into thesis films that would go nowhere. I took the “prep for thesis film” class taught by Brenda Goodman, and I remember Brenda looking around and saying, “this is a learning project. It’s not going to get you a 10-picture deal at Dreamworks. You’re no different and you’re no different and you’re no different.” It was super harsh but I took it to heart. I decided that I wasn’t going to make a thesis film: I was going to write a script for free, and then have something that I could possibly sell.
I ended up writing a couple of features with a partner . After graduation, we got little bites here and there… My friend Dana, who I had worked with, is now an executive over at 20th, and she’s the one who said, “I want you to write a couple TV samples. I can help you and I think you have a really good voice for TV.” At the time, I was writing comedy, so on my own, I wrote a Scrubs spec and a Curb Your Enthusiasm spec and long story short, Dana gave it to her friend who was a manager and he ended up signing me and then he got me my agents and my agents got me my first job on Hannah Montana…although, that took several years to all happen. After Hannah, I went on to ABC’s Better Off Ted and I realized I loved comedy but there was something missing for me. And I also came to realize that I was not the quick joke-maker like everybody else in the room and that bothered me considerably – to not be good at all parts of my job. So I talked to my manager about moving into drama and I ended up writing this pilot about the LAPD bomb squad… that was what Graham and Fred read. They gave me my first shot in drama. Really changed my life.
–You were able to brand yourself three times: From writing for kids, to writing adult comedy, to writing for drama. Was that a challenge?
Y’know the nice thing about Hannah Montana was that it was actually pretty funny and it’s not quite as silly as a lot of these kids’ comedies can be. It was a year after Hannah Montana that I got a job on Better Off Ted, which was a 20th show, so my friend Dana helped. The whole “who you know” thing is definitely important. I think that was a part of why, growing up, I never really thought of working in Entertainment as a real possibility. When I was a kid and watching all my John Hughes movies and 80s comedies over and over… I thought the idea of “who you know” meant like you had to know a network president or it was certain families that ran all this. I never realized that that meant that you knew an executive because you were assistants together and moved up together. For some reason that networking never occurred to me. It always seemed like this bigger, “you need to know the king,” thing.
–You’re the only female writer on the show this year. How’s that working for you?
You want the honest answer?
Uh, I don’t think I can give you the honest answer. [Laughs] No, really. I love these guys like they’re family. Every one of them is like a brother …or a second cousin. But it’s most definitely a challenge. You have to have a thick skin and you have to speak up for yourself. I do think unfortunately there’s a double standard in general for women, that if they speak up for themselves it’s not necessarily seen positively. They get branded a bitch or a nag or whatever. Whereas- [At this moment, “Foot Chase” co-writer Dave Andron is spotted poking his head in the room to eavesdrop on the interview.]
Dave: [feigning outrage] Oh is that how it is? [Dave tries to wedge the door off its doorstop, but it’s stuck.]
Ingrid: You know what he asked me? How it was being the only girl in the room.
Dave: Yeah. What’d you say? “It’s terrible. They’re awful to me.”
Ingrid: I would like to have the record reflect that Dave Andron came in and [tried to] slam my door and is having trouble figuring out how to do it. [Laughs]
Dave: Yeah I was going to but I can’t get it to—[Tries playing with lock]
Ingrid: Dude, it’s not like we’re going to be locked in here.
[Dave mimics Ingrid’s words back to her. Ingrid reciprocates with her own mimicking tone.]
Dave: I just wanted to do it for effect.
Ingrid: [to me] You have to put this in the interview.
–That leg stump in “Foot Chase” was pretty grisly. Were you a little shocked the first time you got to see that? At what point did you know you were cutting a foot off this season?
That was grisly even on set, it was like, “oh my god,” and then he took the torch to it… yeah that was brutal.I think [in the writers’ room]Taylor Elmore may have pitched it as a joke, and we were like, “let’s do it!” As soon as we knew we wanted to involve Josiah and that he had a tether, that foot was coming off.
–Ava has a great blackmailing scene in this episode, and the callback to the bear suit is perfect.
Yeah the Arnold stuff. I was actually really proud of the way that turned out… I can tell you this: those pictures that they had were actually the actress that was playing April. Those were her pictures from high school. [Prop Master] John Harrington was so excited to show me that mascot picture. It was some serious kismet.
–How is the room approaching Ava this season? What do you think her arc is?
She’s a full-blown member of Boyd’s crew and her arc is all about really learning and seeing in stark reality what it means to be a criminal, and the price you need to pay and the steps that you have to take and it really hits with the Ellen May stuff… At first she thinks that she can handle them until she’s faced with them… She didn’t think twice about killing Delroy. He killed two women. And Bowman used to beat the hell out of her, but Ellen May was an innocent. She was her charge. She saved Ellen May’s life… To have this come back on her in the way it has is brutal.
–I understand you took a trip to Harlan before you began this season. Did you get any new material from that trip?
This is the second time that I’d gone to Harlan and I went out there wondering what else we’d be able to get because we had gotten so much material from our original trip. I love it out there, man. The people out there are so real and so genuine… And their stories. I mean you couldn’t even write this stuff. It’s incredible. Constable Bob for example… I was driving along with a KSP trooper, doing a ride-along, and I kept seeing this car that had bar lights on it, but it was just white. I was like, “who is that?” and the officer I was with grinned at me and said, “oh, Ingrid… that would be the town constable,” and I got the whole rundown of how the Harlan constable operates…Obviously we took creative license with our constable, but that’s where it came from.
–Is there any one meal you have to get when you’re down there?
I always have to get chicken and dumplings… Imagine the inside of a pot pie but with clumps of dough that’s been boiled almost like gnocchi. It’s heavy as hell but it’s fantastic.
The whole reason for the timing when Chris Provenzano and I went up there this year was for the Polk Sallet Festival. Polk sallet is a weed that grows in the mountains up there that you can cook and eat. It’s a regional thing. If you eat too much of it… I don’t know if it can actually kill you but it can make you very sick. But if you cook it in small doses it’s okay… People had been warning us: “it’s an acquired taste, it’s an acquired taste,” but I thought it was delicious.
–Are there rides at the Festival?
Yeah it’s like a full on town festival. Rides and a big stage with musical guests. They actually had one big stage and then two smaller stages… I would say it was maybe eight city blocks. It’s huge.
–Have you ever pitched setting a season finale set at the Polk Sallet Festival?
I’d love to but I think [our producers] Don Kurt and John Vohlers would have heart attacks.
Writers Fred Golan and VJ Boyd sat down with us to talk about their episode “Kin.”
-Nick and Jeff