Best-selling author Elmore Leonard passed away in August, but his spirit remains ever-present on the set of FX’s Justified, according to the cast, who spoke about Leonard’s death Tuesday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour.
“I loved the man. He’s going to be greatly missed – he is,” said star Timothy Olyphant. “I feel blessed to be able to do the show and that he got a kick out of it. I feel lucky to have known the man.”
Currently in production on the show’s sixth and penultimate season, co-star Walton Goggins said Leonard’s absence on set has been felt; they honor him with an empty chair in front of the filming monitors. The mini monument, he says, has at times been a source of strength. “There was one day in particular that was really kind of hard…there was this one scene and I just couldn’t get it right. I was tired because it was the end of the day. And I just said, ‘F— it. I’m going to sit in your chair, Elmore. I’m just going to sit down.’ And it was, for lack of a better word…special and comforting,” he said. “I think when it’s all said and done, we will be a small piece of cloth in Elmore’s coat. But it’s something I think for all of us…that we’re really going to hang our hats on. It’s a big thing at the end of your life to say you were part of a literary giant’s career.”
Leonard died at the age of 87 three weeks after suffering a stroke.
Earlier Tuesday, FX announced that Justified would conclude its run after its sixth season, airing next year. Executive producer Graham Yost explained the decision during the panel, saying, “A lot of it was just figuring out how much story we had left. Our biggest concern in telling these stories is that we don’t run out of stories and don’t repeat ourselves.”
Though presented with “financial incentives” to keep going, Yost said, “it really felt in terms of the story of Raylan Givens in Kentucky that six years felt about right.”