Joining the FX drama "Justified" for its third season, Neal McDonough wanted to make his co-stars as uneasy as their characters. He plays Robert Quarles, a mid-level Detroit mobster sent to the backwoods of Kentucky to take over the drug dealings. Since he was playing an outsider entering this close-knit world, he didn't want to cozy up to the actors at all. "Quarles thought he was so far above the hillbillies, he would just look at them and laugh at how easy this was going to be," admitted McDonough. "For the first couple of episodes, it was a lot of fun making people really uncomfortable."
He follows in the footsteps of last year's season villain Mags Bennett, a role for which Margo Martindale won an Emmy. In a video chat with Gold Derby, McDonough revealed that though he had seen moments from "Justified," he "purposely didn't watch" Martindale's performance as he didn't want it to influence his own choices.
He had previously worked with "Justified" showrunner Graham Yost on the NBC police drama "Boomtown" and the HBO military miniseries "Band of Brothers." For that reason, he accepted the new role without any reservation. As he explains, "I had no idea where I was going or who Quarles was. I knew nothing. But there's an old saying of 'In Graham I Trust.' For me to do all the films, movies, TV, and everything I've done over all these years, this was without question the trickiest because if I made him too big or too small, it wouldn't have been interesting, but I also had to figure out how to make him entertaining, too."
McDonough will be on the 2012 Emmy ballot in the category of Best Drama Supporting Actor even though his billing on the show would have allowed him to submit as a guest actor. One episode under consideration if nominated is "Guy Walks Into a Bar," which includes a showdown between Quarles and U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) in a bar and a chilling, revelations-filled encounter between him and a young man who he eventually takes captive.