Graham Yost on ‘Justified’ Season Three

One of the executive producers and writers behind the hit FX series shares a few thoughts about the current season.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I knew that I was going to go after Elmore Leonard after the "Justified" panel for the Television Critics Association. So I couldn’t get Garaham Yost at the same time. We want to know about the third season anyway so he would cover that on his own. Here are the spoiler light tidbits Yost told the TCA about the new season.


Robert Quarles is the new Mags Bennett.

Coming off the last season, we had such a good time with Mags Bennett and that whole story. We wanted to switch gears a little bit and try a different kind of antagonist this year.  Part of the whole thing with Mags is she was from where Raylan was from, and they knew each other. We thought it would be cool to come up with someone who in the writers' room, we called him the "carpetbagger," and we didn't know where he was going to be from. 

Initially, we started thinking of Neal [McDonough] very early on, and I thought of Boston because Neal is from that area. But then we thought, no, let's make him from Detroit to keep it as part of the Elmore world. And we just thought it would be interesting to bring in a guy from the outside, again that carpetbagger character who thinks he's going to come down to Kentucky and show these backwoods hicks how crime is really done, and we'll just see how that goes for him.

Episode 2 will pay off later.

Elmore was generous enough to say, ‘Just hang this book up, and strip it for parts.’ We've got a couple stories that we've pulled from the book. Now, in terms of standalone episodes, you'll see in the first four, the second episode doesn't relate directly, the main part of it, the A story.

That's that episode, but other things are kicking off in motion, particularly in that case, the story about Boyd and what Boyd is doing. That is going to be part of the whole ongoing thing, and we play with that in the second episode.

So you'll see that throughout the season, that the A story might not be directly on the Quarrels and the Limehouse aspects of our season, but there will be always elements that are relating to that. We're always pushing that forward.

Carla Gugino was NOT Karen Sisco.

I don't think you ever hear her first name. She is a deputy, we tried to get it in. Deputy Director Goodall, is that what we settled on? Michael Dinner and Sarah Timberman, and even John Landgraf had all worked on "Karen Sisco" so they knew Carla. Michael's wife insisted that there not be a scene of Carla in the bathtub with lots of candles burning. She got tired of that.

We thought it would be fun to bring her back, and just for legal reasons, well, not just for legal reasons. We didn't want [her] to be absolutely Karen Sisco. We just wanted it to be Carla Gugino playing a U.S. Marshal.

What’s up for Brooks and Gutterson?

I think because the arc is more sort of prominent, and we kick it off in the first episode, like we did last year in the first episode of Season 2, they are involved. That's been part of finding the show is what fun can we have with Jacob and Erica. And there's a lot. It's interesting as the show has developed. Raylan was the new guy.  He was the new guy in the office and in a way, as he became more integrated in their lives, they've become more part of his.

We see their relationships, this sort of far-more warm friendliness between Raylan and Rachel. Something that's far flintier and more combative between Raylan and Tim. It took us a while to find that and I do believe that mirrors just the arc of the show.

Sorry, he had to let Mags go.

You know, we can't just accumulate bad guys over the years and have them all sitting around in a room like teachers on probation in New York, just waiting to get back. I don’t regret that we killed Mags, I do regret not having Margo around. She's just a great person and a great contribution to any cast and just has a great attitude and really got a kick out of being part of the world. 

So I miss that. You know, the desktop background on my computer at work is a picture that Sarah Timberman, one of our executive producers, [took.] Margo is in one of Sarah's new shows, "A Gifted Man" and they were back stage at something. So she clicked a picture on her phone to send me, and that's now my desktop background. And it is a picture of Margo giving me the finger. So I'm always reminded when I turn on the computer.