JOELLE CARTER (Justified) Exclusive Interview


I recently got a chance to talk to Joelle Carter who plays Ava Crowder on FX’s original series Justified.

In the first episode, Ava shoots and kills her abusive husband, who also turns out to be Boyd Crowder’s (Walton Goggins) brother. She also becomes a love interest for Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), and that’s only the beginning.

Joelle Carter talked about what’s coming up for Ava, preparing for the part, her other projects, and much more. So enjoy the interview and don’t forget that Justified airs Tuesdays on FX at 10pm.

What attracted you to ‘Justified’ in the first place?

Joelle Carter: Well, I kind of say that it was always a win-win situation. The original short was created by Elmore Leonard who I’m a fan of and Michael Dinner directing, Timothy Olyphant starring. This was kind of a no brainer that it was going to be a great project, but then when I read the part of Ava I was just sold. She’s just delicious.

Can you talk about how things evolve between her and Raylan? What kind of relationship do they develop going forward?

Joelle Carter: Well, obviously it’s two people attracted to each other and I think for both of them there’s an attraction to a little a bit of a risk in this relationship. I don’t know what’s going to happen. You’ll have to watch to find out.

Does she get involved more in his personal life or his work life or both? She was there when he shot Boyd.

Joelle Carter: I’m not sure how much I can tell you ahead of time as far as that. Raylan is a good guy. I think he’s going to try to be there for her as much as he can.

So she does get involved somehow?

Joelle Carter: She does somehow, be it friendship or more.

Can you talk about what else is coming up for her, maybe more problems with Boyd’s family?

Joelle Carter: Well, I think you’re dealing with a character that was suppressed for so long by her husband. He beat her for so many years and she took it upon herself to free herself from this life because it was going to be potentially facing prison or potentially facing death. She chose that whatever happened she was going to go for it. I don’t know if it was such a thought process or it just happened one day and she decided, ‘This is it. This is all I can take and I’m willing to deal with the consequences.’ That being said I think she’s kind of a free spirit on a journey that could take her anywhere. I’m not sure that these are the kind of people that let a kinfolk being killed lay pleasantly there and not have any consequences.

I thought it was interesting in the first episode that she didn’t seem concerned about Boyd coming after her. Was that in the script or was that a choice that you made, that she was just happy to get rid of her husband?

Joelle Carter: I think she’s a very black and white kind of person. She’s like, ‘This is life. You die or you survive.’ So I think within her survival in life she’s like, ‘Well, whatever comes we’ll take it when it comes. Right now I’m going to live it day by day and go for this new found freedom.’ She doesn’t know – she even has to go to court in the pilot – what they’re going to do to her, whether they’re going to send her to jail or let her off on parole. So in that sense I think right now Boyd is not the biggest of her problems.

How do you prepare for a part like that as an actress? What’s your process?

Joelle Carter: Well, you get the script and you’re given the flavor, the tone, the other characters and I just try to play the moments as truthfully as I can. Who am I and who is this character and what do I want in this scene? What do I want in this scene, what’s keeping me from getting it, how do I get it, who am I getting it from; everything else you digest the character. You build on her past what you’ve been given, what you give her and the way that you think you want her to be. Then I’m from the south and a lot of that flavor comes back. I get to use that.

Do you rehearse the scenes before shooting or do you just dive right in?

Joelle Carter: The script just constantly change and I’ve had a lot of people on the set and in the office who’ve said they’ve never been on a show where the script changes so much. So even up to walking on the set to get hair and makeup, they give them to us. ‘This is the new rewrites.’ Then you go in and rehearse the scene with the director and the other actors and then you talk about it and potentially it can be rewritten right there. Then you have to shoot it. So there’s not a lot of time for rehearsal.

Since the script changes so much is there any room for improvisation?

Joelle Carter: Not so much improv. I think there’s some loose some improv but you try to stick to the words given or the words decided on during the rehearsal.

Who’s your favorite character on the show apart from yours?

Joelle Carter: I really love Boyd’s character. He’s got a journey coming. In the pilot Boyd was my favorite character.

Does that change in future episodes?

Joelle Carter: Maybe not.

How is working on ‘Justified’ different from other shows you’ve done?

Joelle Carter: I think this is the fullest, most well rounded – in a sense – character that I’ve played. I’ve really gotten to dive into Ava and make her mine and pull from what the writers give me and live with the character, as far as TV.

I’ve often heard that they throw you a lot of last minute curveballs in terms of character in television. Do you find that to be true and how do you adapt to that?

Joelle Carter: It’s interesting. I was talking to a friend yesterday and they didn’t know and I think sometimes the writers don’t know where the characters are going to go. So you’re on a journey and you get that next script and you’re like, ‘Wait a minute. I justified this other journey.’ You kind of have to just go back in and justify it for yourself, why you’re on a different path. It can be difficult but after you work it out I also think it’s interesting to not know because then you might’ve played the end before you’d gotten there in other episodes.

Is it ever frustrating, like, ‘If I had known I’d have added that other layer on top and it would’ve been great –’?

Joelle Carter: Yeah, it is frustrating. It’s not like when you get a full, written, developed film and it’s like, ‘Okay, in three months you’re going to shoot this,’ and you get to think of everything and then you get to play when you’re on the set. You get to think of every scenario. But that’s exciting, too, in its own way.

What do you like better, TV or film?

Joelle Carter: I like this kind of TV and then I like film. This is character driven and so it’s a lot of fun.

Can you talk about some of your upcoming projects?

Joelle Carter: I do have a film that I did right before we started shooting ‘Justified’ called ‘To Be Friends’. That was written and directed by Jim Eckhart and produced by Aaron Eckhart. I haven’t seen it yet but I was proud of the work that we did and the script was more of a poetic art film type of script. It’ll be interesting to see. It’s completely different from this part. So that’s nice. ‘

Who do you play in the movie?

Joelle Carter: There are just two characters. There’s Her and Him. I play the she.

What’s the storyline of the film?

Joelle Carter: It’s basically two friends and they take a trip and she’s trying to help him become more in touch with life and to take risks and live. I don’t know. I can’t say too much because it’ll totally give the whole thing away.

Is there a release date for the film or is it going to festivals?

Joelle Carter: Yes. They’re supposed to do a screening any day now. They just had the picture locked and so I’m going to see that and then I think they definitely, since they just finished the film, are trying to get it into some festivals.

Is there a dream role that you’d love to do one day, or maybe you’ve already done it?

Joelle Carter: Ava is a dream role. I do. I have a script that I’m developing that’s based loosely on my childhood and I’d be playing my sister, actually. So that is a dream role for me, a dream project to get done.

Any idea about who you’d like to play you?

Joelle Carter: I don’t know about me but my mother, I was thinking of Blythe Danner. She’s just wonderful and would fit the part great.

Is writing something that you enjoy in addition to acting?

Joelle Carter: I wouldn’t say that I like writing. This story I don’t think can be written by anyone else and I’ve learned so much from being on set and these scripts that I want it to be made. I do like the process of working with writers. For the future I’d love to have a writing partner that does most of the writing and I’d be pitching all the ideas.

If you could guest star on any other television show which one would it be?

Joelle Carter: Ooh. ‘Breaking Bad’.