Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens doesn't shy away from killing people in FX's "Justified," but does it ever bother him?

"The answer is I have no idea," Timothy Olyphant, who plays Raylan, told me during a conference call Friday. "I just know that he does kill folks and he seems to be getting along nicely."

Olyphant later added that the reason he can't answer the question is because characters like Raylan "don’t talk about shit that much."

"I can speculate, but who really cares?" he said. "I mean, guys like this basically—they move on. What, are we going to sit and talk about our feelings? As soon as you start doing that you just betray the character and the tone of the show and the type of stories you're telling."

Olyphant did admit that Raylan surprised himself in the "Thick As Mud" episode when he shot a woman. The actor said Raylan shooting a woman is the equivalent to a man hitting a woman, which has happened more than a few times in "Justified."

"Guys, you just don’t do it. ... You could hit a couple dozen guys, but you hit one woman and you’re going to think about it and everyone’s going to talk about it," he said. "And I think it's kind of in the same ballpark."

Olyphant, who said he feels like he's starring in a comedy, answered more questions about Raylan, Boyd Crowder, Winona Hawkins and what might happen in upcoming episodes. Here are some excerpts.

In "Thick As Mud," Raylan seemed to surprise himself when he shot the nurse. Why? Is it just because he’s never shot a woman? And how will that affect him going forward?
I think that definitely played a part. Not to spoil upcoming episodes, but the fact is women aren’t often involved in crimes where they get shot by people in law enforcement. So law enforcement, you know, don’t have too many opportunities to shoot at women. So I think it’s a big deal. If you talk to cops it’s a big deal to shoot a woman. Really it’s essentially the equivalent of hitting a woman. Guys, you just don’t do it. And if it happens it’s quite the topic of conversation. You could hit a couple dozen guys, but you hit one woman and you’re going to think about it and everyone’s going to talk about it. And I think it’s kind of in the same ballpark.

This season is all about crossing lines. I am wondering if there’s a line that Raylan would never cross?
We’re going to try to find out. [Laughs.]

Speaking of the comedy in “Justified,” in the last episode when Raylan’s explaining to the other nurse about Dr. Blowjob in “Thick As Mud,” that hand gesture you did, was that kind of something you just threw in there?
I appreciate you noticing. It’s trying to have as much fun as we can on that set.

So did you just do that?
I don’t think that gets written, yes. Look, my head gets a little foggy. I can’t tell you who comes up with what day-to-day. And quite frankly, I’m guilty of having a—I don’t know who to blame for this, but I tend to take credit for everything unless it doesn’t work, and then I just point fingers.

But the fact is [our] set is a very collaborative set and we’ll take ideas from anyone and everyone within earshot of the set. There’s not a scene that’s being shot that, you know, there’s a director and there’s a writer and there’s other cast members and we turn these things around and look at them in every single direction and look for the opportunities. Oftentimes we’re writing on the spot.

As I recall it now, I think we had many gestures that we all discussed and tried to figure out which ones were too far and which ones were too inappropriate. And so I’m sure there are some pretty good dailies on that one.

The Boyd and Raylan scenes always are my favorites, when they are being very polite to each other and sort of gentlemanly, but still trying to get information from each other. I was wondering if they’re ever going to be able to sit down and have a drink without having an ulterior motive?
Well it’s a lovely thought. I don’t know if there’s much of a show there. You know what I mean? The nature of drama is conflict. And if there’s no conflict there’s no scene. I love working with him too, but as soon as they are in a position where they can go out and just have a drink and shoot the shit, I don’t think you have a show anymore.

QUESTIONS FROM OTHERS

What do you as an actor enjoy the most about playing Raylan?
The humor is the most fun. It's a blast being able to do comedy. And I always feel like we're kind of doing a comedy show. And it's just Elmore Leonard's cool, all his characters are cool. It's fun to pretend to be that cool.

In this third season will we see Raylan change or stay the same?

It’s always a little tricky to figure that out. The challenge with a character like this is that generally speaking these kinds of characters, they change very, very little. And what you hope for is if you do your job right, but the slightest change has a bit of an impact. ... So it’s very tricky. ... I imagine he will change very little.

The moment at the end of "Thick As Mud” when Raylan opens up that letter in the kitchen. Are we going to learn what’s in the letter?
Wouldn’t it be sad if we just dropped it and just next day, just a case of the week. Wouldn’t it be bad?

That’s be very sad.
Yes, it would be very sad. My gut is—and I say this with some insider information—that he’s not going to let that rest. I think that we’re going to get to the bottom of that.

When Raylan and Winona got back together, it seemed like that was just a nice, quiet portion of his life. Will he strike a balance to try to get that back? The season is so conflicted and so violent, it’s just nice to have a place to come home to.
I can’t promise you that everything works out rosy. I can tell you that one of the many things I like about the show and the story, that relationship feels like a real relationship and it feels complicated. And because of that I’d like to think that it will continue to exist in some capacity. She’s a woman who has great meaning to him and she’s pregnant with his child, and I think that somehow she is always going to play a part in who he is.

And besides, Natalie [Zea] is awesome. And so I don’t see us ever getting rid of her.

Can you discuss in broad terms about how the various pieces we've seen so far are going to play out in the coming episodes?
Well, it doesn't get any easier. We've got a lot of people with the capacity for violence and we got a lot of people that have conflicting wants and needs. And they all keep running up against each other.

It's a violent season and it's kind of a fun, twisted, violent season. And then the key to it is hopefully we can continue to sort of ground these people to make you feel like, "Wow, they're actually quite interesting, complicated folks." And it's been a lovely season. It feels like it's totally different than the first two, and yet feels very much like our show. I couldn't be more happy with it.

It seems like the season--because the other characters have become so well developed--that they're able to spend more time away from whatever Raylan is up to and focus on some of these other folks, like with the Dewey storyline the other night.
Well, it's some combination of the fact that we have amazing writers, we have an amazing cast and I want days off. And you put it all together and it lends itself nicely to allowing everyone to show off a bit.

From the beginning when I took the job, I was pretty clear that the show was about the character I was playing, but I'm less interested in a TV show that just focuses on that guy so heavily. I think it's a tough thing to pull off. I don't know how you don't get bored of that as an audience, and to some degree as an actor.

So when you have someone like Damon Herriman, I knock on the writer's door and say, "Listen, this guy's great. You know, send me home. He can carry this thing for as long as you want."

And because of my position on the show--quite frankly I have been allowed to participate in that process and the storytelling. So I still get a great deal of satisfaction whether I'm in the scene or not. It's really one of the great joys of the job for me.

I feel like either way it's a win-win for me.