Timothy Olyphant (‘Deadwood: The Movie’) on the ‘genius’ of David Milch [Complete Interview Transcript]

Timothy Olyphant returned to his role as Seth Bullock in the long-awaited “Deadwood: The Movie” on HBO. The actor is a previous Emmy nominee for his work on “Justified” and was nominated at the Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the cast of “Deadwood.”

Olyphant recently spoke with Gold Derby managing editor Chris Beachum about reuniting with the “Deadwood” cast after all those years, what it would mean to earn Emmy nominations for the movie and what to expect from his appearance in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Watch the exclusive webchat above and read the complete interview transcript below.

Gold Derby: Timothy, after a dozen years, why was this the right time to get everybody together and bring it back?

Timothy Olyphant: I don’t know but I was free and I’m glad it worked out.

GD: What was it like the first day when everybody gathers together?

TO: It was just so lovely to see everybody. Those people, so many of them had such an impact on my life. They’re all just true originals, true craftsmen. It was just lovely to see them. You immediately felt like you do in the movie. You felt the passage of time.

GD: Was there anybody, in particular, you hadn’t seen in a long time that it was particularly exciting to see?

TO: For the most part, I hadn’t seen hardly any of them in a long time.

GD: You were also a producer on this as well as the lead actor. I know you produced several projects recently. Why did you feel the need to be a producer on this and have some input in that way?

TO: I don’t think it was that I felt the need for it. They’d be fine without me but I do enjoy the process so it’s nice to be a part of it.

GD: David Milch, we got to meet him the other night at your premiere event as well as you and other cast members. What is it about him over his career that makes him incredibly special? He’s written some of the greatest television of all time.

TO: He’s a genius, so there’s that, and I don’t use the word lightly. David Milch is a genius. He’s one of the smartest people, most brilliant people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. Not that I’ve spent too much time hanging out with geniuses but my understanding is not too many of them have had quite the life experiences that David Milch has had. That guy, he’s had a very full life. He’s just unlike any man I’ve ever been around.

GD: As an actor, when words are so precise and rhythms are so precise, which is always the case with his work, is that harder as an actor or easier as an actor?

TO: Easier. The words, they’re so memorable, they’re so specific. They do all the work for you. There’s a scene in the movie with Dayton Callie and I on the boardwalk. That speech, that rhythm back and forth with him, is so delicious. It’s just so fun to do it over and over again. When it really cooks, you can’t wait to do it. You can’t wait to keep doing it. You just can’t wait to do it, as opposed to, quite frankly a lot of jobs you’re just trying to elevate crap to mediocracy. They should give awards for that, by the way. Best Actor Who Elevated Crap to Mediocracy. That should be a category. Where, these are just, it’s easy to remember, they make such an impact on you the first time you read them, and then the more you work on them the more you discover, the more different ways there is to do it. It’s a joy to work on it.

GD: When you were getting ready to return to the role, how did you prepare? Did you go back and watch some previous episodes to get in the rhythm? How did you prepare to return to this character?

TO: I haven’t seen the old series since it aired, I guess. I did what I usually do which is spend a bunch of time with the material. I show up prepared, I show up early and see what happens.

GD: Let me ask you about a handful of people that you work with on the series as well as on this show. Talk about Ian McShane. What’s it like working opposite of him?

TO: He’s something. He’s quite the colorful character, a lot to learn from. He’s like, I imagine, a lot of those Brits. He’s so good with language, so good with technique.

GD: What about somebody that was only in the third season but has a huge role as the villain in this piece, and that’s Gerald McRaney?

TO: Gerald’s wonderful. I had the chance to work with him a couple times now. Since the “Deadwood” series, I had the pleasure of working with him on “Justified” and then again on “Santa Clarita.” That guy’s as good as it gets. He’s a pro. He’s a legend, as far as I’m concerned.

GD: We had him on an interview like this. Actually, it was in the office a couple years ago right before he won his Emmy and I told him, I’ve been following him since “Simon & Simon,” 35 years or more, he seems to be one of these guys that just gets better and better as time goes on.

TO: Yeah, I can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s a pro. He’s so respectful of everybody the set. He’s one of those guys who, as I like to say, gets it. You’ve seen the movie. We put him through quite a bit on this thing, wee hours of the night, not comfortable by any stretch. I’ll tell you, he handles it with such class. I’ve worked with him a number of times now. He’s what I like to call a pro.

GD: And there might be another ear tug in store for people that are about to watch this movie, right?

TO: They threw a little something in there.

GD: You know who else had a big role in this? Going in, you’ve got two hours and all these characters to fulfill but Paula Malcomson just kills it in this movie, doesn’t she?

TO: Isn’t she wonderful? She’s a hoot. She’s a blast to work with. She’s in it. They broke the mold after that one.

GD: Talking Emmys, we’re an awards website, you’ve joined us before for some of these for “Justified,” like I said before, you’re a producer so you could not only be nominated for Lead Actor but also if it gets in for TV Movie, which a lot of think it will, you’ll be nominated there as one of the producers. You’ve been nominated as an actor before but what would that mean if you got nominated along with all the other producers for TV Movie?

TO: Any nomination would be lovely. I’m not gonna kid you. It’s nice to be invited to the party. I’ve very proud of this piece. I’m very proud of the work we did, all of us, and very proud of my work. I’ll take whatever they give me. I consider it an honor. I don’t think I’m ever gonna get much better so I hope it gets it done. This is probably about all I’ve got.

GD: You don’t see another return to “Deadwood?”

TO: No, I just mean I don’t see myself getting much better as an actor or a producer so if this doesn’t get it done, I don’t know what will. I don’t know, I had a good time on this one. The work was great and it’s always nice when you’re part of something that you’re proud of.

GD: I wanna ask you about a couple of moments. Talking about David Milch’s language and dialogue, there’s one moment in this movie where you say one word and it has such an impact on me, I rewound it and watched it a couple times, and that’s the word, “Without.” You find out something’s going on in the jail cell and Dan’s gonna follow you out the door of the bar and you say, “Without,” like, “I’ve got this alone.”

TO: You know, I hate to say this, but that just might be the difference between me and McShane right there, is language. I think the line is, “With Al.” I think I’m telling Dan to stay with Al.

GD: Okay, I thought you were saying, “Without,” like, “Without any help, I can go do this.”

TO: Well, I think it’s either bad acting or bad writing. I don’t know what the problem is there.

GD: I’m gonna choose to believe it was “Without” because I loved it.

TO: It might be, “Without.” I can’t remember. Maybe I did both. I don’t know, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

GD: I did rewind it two or three or four times. I couldn’t do that in the theater but I did when I was watching it in advance.

TO: I appreciate you.

GD: Another scene that I just thought, “This is just as good as any feature film, anything I’ve seen in years,” is the scene where you’re in the streets, you’ve got the guy by the hangman’s noose and Gerald McRaney and his two guys are on the roof, the back and forth, the way that’s directed, the way that’s edited, the way that’s acted, I just thought that was an amazing scene.

TO: I’ll just say thank you and then shut up. I really appreciate it.

GD: Let me ask you about two other quick things. By the way, happy birthday yesterday. I don’t know when exactly we’re gonna publish this but we just had a birthday. Tell us about any teaser you can give on the Quentin Tarantino movie. I know it’s about to debut overseas.

TO: What do you want? It’s Quentin.

GD: The whole plot. Tell us everything you can tell us and we’ll get a lot of clicks that way.

TO: (Laughs.) You expect me to give you the plot? Let me tell you something. You don’t want the plot.

GD: I do not like spoilers myself.

TO: I’m not trying to be a smart-ass here. I’m doing you a favor. Anyone who likes filmmaking, anyone who likes good movies and really good stories, this is one you don’t wanna know anything about it. You just wanna go in there. I don’t wanna know. If I go see a [Martin] Scorsese film or if I go see a Quentin film or if I buy a Bob Dylan album, I don’t want anybody to tell me what to expect. I just wanna turn it on and discover it. That’s the difference between artists like that and the rest. The rest, you’re like, “Is it any good? Because I’m thinking of going.” But then there’s certain people, you don’t wanna know. You gotta go see it. You wanna go in with nothing and just be swept up into it.

GD: Well at least tell us you had a really good time doing it.

TO: Oh my god, I can tell you anything you want as far the process goes. You know how we’re talking about these awards and whatnot, I’m not gonna kid you that that’d be lovely, but getting invited to go work with Quentin, that’s as good as it gets. It’s all you wanna do. You don’t give a shit about anything else. You just wanna show up. I think at the end of the day, you hope that your work reaches out to people like that. You hope that you’re doing something that you’re trying to communicate, have a conversation, have a dialogue with filmmakers like him, so when you get the call, it’s just the most rewarding experience and every day on the set with him is just pure joy. I’m not gonna say he ruins it for you because it’s just gonna be really tough to match that kind of experience. He’s unlike anything I’ve ever been around. He shows you ways to make films that you didn’t know were possible. You didn’t know a set could be like that. You didn’t know the process could be like that. He’s really, really special and his love and his passion for filmmaking is just evident in every moment you’re on that set. I’m really lucky between people like David Milch or Quentin, did a play with Kenny Lonergan two years back, worked with Larry David last year. All those people, I put them in the same kind of bunch. They’re very special.

GD: Well, good luck with “Deadwood.” I know everybody’s about to watch that on HBO. We’ll see you with Quentin later on in the summer. Thanks so much for joining us today.

TO: You’re very, very kind. I appreciate your time and I appreciate the kind words. It’s nice to hear. When you make these things, you know you’re making them for an audience so it’s nice to hear that the audience appreciates it. It means a lot. Thank you.

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