In Slate’s Justified TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM each week with a different fan of the FX drama set in Harlan County, Ky. She dissects Episode 4 with Jenn Lyon, who plays Lindsey Salazar. Disclosure: While Lyon plays Raylan’s girlfriend on television, in real life she’s the girlfriend of Slate video producer Taige Jensen.
Rachael Larimore: Jenn, thank you for chatting with me. It’s fitting to be discussing Justified with someone who is affectionately known around the Slate offices as “Raylan’s hot bartender girlfriend,” because tonight’s episode might as well have been called “Ladies’ Night.” Lindsey and Ellen May were both in the spotlight. I have a million questions for you about Lindsey.
Jenn Lyon: You’re welcome, and thank you for having me.
Larimore: In the big story line, Lindsey has disappeared with Randall (and Raylan’s money), and we catch up with them at the slimy fight promoter’s house. Lindsey had a moment where she seemed to be there reluctantly. Randall gave you a big hug and you turned away, a little distracted or conflicted. What was going on with Lindsey’s emotions?
Lyon: The script said: “Lindsey smiles, allowing herself to be manhandled by way of affection. But her eyes are on the money and nowhere else.” It was clear to me that they wanted the ambiguity and the distance between these conflicted actions she’s taking. You see her at the party and just think she’s bad, but then she makes that phone call from the gas station: Is she leaving clues for Raylan to follow or just flying by the seat of her pants? The writers don’t say one way or the other.
Larimore: I definitely felt that ambiguousness. Even up to the end, when Lindsey shot Raylan with the bean-bag gun but then turned and shot Randall, too. What does Lindsey get out of this adventure, besides Randall’s car, which admittedly is a pretty great car? I feel like she got her freedom—Randall won’t be able to bother again.
Lyon: I know! She’s pretty inscrutable and I like that. As the lady playing her, I had to make decisions as to why she is doing what she is doing, but I probably won’t tell those. It’s more fun to wonder: Did she love him or is she even capable of that? Is she just a predatory creature or is it a mix of appetites within one person? I will, personally, always go with the last one because its more interesting and gives you an obstacle to play. But yeah, she escapes with her freedom for now because the money has already been turned into fowl.
Larimore: Inscrutability is a great trait for Lindsey, but geez, but I’m talking to Jenn! Can you tell us a little bit about your take on Lindsey?
Lyon: OK, OK! Maybe I’m being too precious about all that. For me, Lindsey was falling for Raylan and was working hard to live on the straight and narrow. She imagined being a good woman, the right woman for Raylan, but then her old life came for her, and she had to do what she had to do to escape it.
Larimore: Lindsey’s escape kind of hits that note. We think she’s being sweet and good, when she tells Raylan his money was in the van, and then he makes his way over to the van and finds the chickens! That was a great comic moment, by the way.
Lyon: Dude, the whole episode is so funny. I laughed a lot watching it: the scene where Ellen May is trying to tell Ava that she would never let it slip that she killed Delroy and people keep walking past, or when Shelby hangs up on Boyd while he’s still talking, or Randall and Raylan’s repartee, or Rachel and the chicken breeder.
Larimore: Justified’s comedy is underrated. And the best moments are when the characters aren’t supposed to be funny. Like Ellen May with Ava, and all the people walking by. I’m sure that nailing the comedy aspect is as hard or harder than the drama. What are some of the other challenges you’ve encountered playing Lindsey?
Lyon: One challenge was wearing so little clothing: It was my first time ever making out on camera or just standing there half-naked and that’s real vulnerable and strange. Oh, and kissing Timothy and Robert was also a hardship that I had to endure for art.
Larimore: My (cough, cough) sympathies to you on all that making out with ruggedly handsome actors.
Lyon: if my boyfriend is reading this: “It was awful. They reeked of Chipotle.” (It was great!! They smelled like dreamboats!!)
Larimore: A lot of actors and actresses mention that all that staged making out is awkward/boring/uncomfortable, but I’m sure that doesn’t stop the folks at home from thinking it must be simply dreamy. How do you prepare for those scenes?
Lyon: I prepare for those scenes by listening to hardcore rap and furiously brushing my teeth, both of which give me a false sense of confidence.
Larimore: I’ll file that advice away! What would fans of Justified be surprised to hear about from behind the scenes? What is the creative process like on set?
Lyon: The speed and virtuosity of every department is crazy. From sound to lighting to art direction to props to hair and makeup/wardrobe, everyone is so on the ball and ready to collaborate, not just tell you what to do, which I’m told is pretty rare. The writers are constantly revising: The script you have worked on and memorized the night before could be totally different by the time you get to set, or they could change it while you’re rehearsing the scene. Tim might say that it feels clunky or the director doesn’t feel the right information is getting across, so the writers take that and go into a trailer and in five minutes you have a completely new monologue or they have pared down and reversed the order of things. On Tuesday you can get a version of a scene that has an armed robbery and a hostage crisis, and by Thursday, it’s been turned into a sweet conversation and a standoff. So, everybody has to be on their toes and the speed with which the regulars on the show can adjust and memorize new material is astounding.
Larimore: The show comes across as so carefully done, especially the dialogue. On the one hand you can imagine it going through a lot of rewriting; on the other, it’s something else to think that it has to be relearned so quickly.
Lyon: It’s such a specific kind of dialogue, too, and these writers are brilliant at it.
Larimore: Justified loves having parallels between its story lines, I’ve noticed. And in this episode we saw Lindsey disappear, and in the other storyline, Ellen May disappeared at the gas station after she wised up to the fact that Colt wasn’t taking her to the bus stop. Ellen May has always represented to me a kind of “innocence lost.” We see Boyd with his crime-lording and Ava with her brothel, and you don’t necessarily think about how their actions trickle down to the people in Harlan. But then there’s sad little Ellen May, who is an addict and a prostitute, but who somehow hangs on to this sweet naïveté.
Lyon: I love it when you talk about the parallels and when people appreciate the show for how layered and multifaceted it is. I’m fucking nuts for Ellen May, and the actress that plays her is so wonderful both on the show and off. She plays her with such a lack of guile but at the same time, she is a survivor and has scrapped her way to staying alive many times.
Larimore: What do you think made Ellen May wise up to Boyd and Ava’s plan to kill her? And do you think she’ll be OK?
Lyon: Ellen May may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but she is sensitive and observant, and when you have always been dependent on someone else for your survival, you watch them for signs of pleasure or disapproval or abandonment, not to mention she has been sober since the church stuff happened and that heightens her senses. I think she could tell by the way Ava was saying goodbye to her and the way Colt was treating her. It was all too good to be true.
Larimore: I wasn’t totally surprised to see her gone when Colt came out (He’s turning into a real liability for Boyd, I think), but I was glad. I have a feeling will see her again. I wish I could say the same for Lindsey, but I suppose that is up to the writers, isn’t it? They have left themselves some wiggle room.
Lyon: The writers say that if you don’t take a bullet you could always come back, so maybe Lindsey could figure in later, but Raylan needs to be a lone wolf, I think. I’m incredibly grateful to have gotten to work on it at all, so I don’t mind disappearing into the ether.
Larimore: That is something to look forward to. In the meantime, it’s time for us to escape. Thanks for chatting and for not taking $20,000 money from my sock drawer or shooting me with a bean-bag gun.