How A Guest Role On Damages Led To Timothy Olyphant's Justified Casting

Across six seasons of the FX neo-Western "Justified," Timothy Olyphant gave one of the most indelible TV performances of the past decade. As ambivalent U.S. marshall Raylan Givens, the actor put an effortlessly charismatic spin on an archetype that audiences were already quite familiar with. The series is based on an Elmore Leonard story, and Raylan is a Leonard character to a T: daring, clever, sexy, and more than a little bit haunted by the demons of the Appalachian hometown he's forced to return to at the series' beginning.

Olyphant has carved out a satisfying niche for himself as a performer since temporarily hanging up Raylans' hat and badge, playing cowboy types and lawmen in shows like "Fargo" and "The Mandalorian" as well as in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." But he also played a character who shares some DNA with Raylan years before "Justified" in HBO's Western masterpiece "Deadwood." You'd think with his knack for playing morally conflicted arbiters of justice, Olyphant would've landed the "Justified" role thanks to his turn as Seth Bullock on "Deadwood," but it was actually a much shorter TV stint that got him in the door at FX: his guest spot on "Damages."

FX's legal thriller "Damages" started in 2007, during a boom era for original programming on the edgy cable channel. The show starred Glenn Close as ruthless, possibly murderous lawyer Patty Hewes, while Rose Byrne played her counterpart, a young law school graduate named Ellen whose initial naivety quickly evaporates when she goes to work with Patty. The series would run for five seasons, switching networks part way through, but during its heyday, Olyphant joined the cast to play a character named Wes Krulik.

From one FX show to another

Though Wes isn't the most memorable character on "Damages" — he's a maybe-shady guy who meets Ellen in grief counseling in the second season and mostly disappears after that season's finale — he certainly added new layers of drama to the series' slow burn mystery. The character also, apparently, got Olyphant the gig on "Justified." According to The Guardian, the relationship the actor built up with the network while working on "Damages" is what eventually landed him the pilot for Graham Yost's Western series. "I had a good time on 'Damages,' and the more time I spent talking to the 'Justified' people, the more I felt they understood how to let really good drama happen," the actor told the outlet during the first season of "Justified."

According to Business Insider, the two shows even shared a studio in Sony, and at one point "Damages" co-creator Todd Kessler talked about bringing Olyphant back for future seasons. "That pilot that he's in is actually for FX," Kessler said when news of the actor's casting in "Justified" was announced, "so it couldn't be more conducive to bringing him back for our season as well."

That pilot ended up keeping him busy enough. In the end, Olyphant only appeared in two more episodes of "Damages," but "Justified" went on to make its own mark on cable TV, earning eight Emmy nominations and a whole heap of praise across its six seasons. Although the show pulled off a nearly perfect ending, it's also set for a return: the series will continue in miniseries form with "Justified: City Primeval," which is currently in production.