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Over the course of Justified’s fifth season, actor Michael Rapaport has done his bloody best to rank Florida criminal Darryl Crowe Jr. among the classic villains who have come up against Timothy Olyphant’s Marshal Raylan Givens. That’s quite an achievement, too, considering the FX drama’s antagonists have included crime-family matriarch Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale in an Emmy-winning turn), psychotic Detroit hitman Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) and, of course, ever-present charger Boyd Crowder (the Emmy-nominated Walton Goggins)
As Season 5 moves into its final four episodes with tonight’s “Weight,” Rapaport spoke about Darryl’s life, and possible death, in a call with Spinoff Online and other journalists.
“That’s what attracted me to it, because I know the pedigree of actors that they’ve had on the show and I’ve been a fan of the show before I got there,” Rapaport said of taking a season-long role that invites comparisons to previous guest stars. “It made me excited and want to be a part of it. I think they have a really good standard and a bar that they set so far.”
With “Weight,” the tenuous ties that Darryl has to the Harlan Country, Kentucky, heroin trade are tested after his idiot cousin Dewey absconded last week with a shipment from Mexico. “Darryl is not playing around,” the actor said, playing coy. “I can just say this: He’s not taking any prisoners going forward. He’s getting more and more impatient as things go along. So the best I can tell you is that Darryl Crowe Jr. is definitely coming in — he’s ready to get what he wants to get.”
Throughout the season, Darryl has been both ambitious and somewhat blind in his mission to become drug kingpin, all while his family members tear his chances apart. Rapaport said he feels like much of the fault in the Crowe family comes originates with Darryl himself.
“I think that he’s turning a blind eye to them because they’re family,” he explained. “I think in his head he thinks he’s doing the best thing for his family. He’s running the family and he has taken on this responsibility. So I think in his head he thinks he’s doing the best thing for everybody, but as the season keeps going on we’ll see how that plays out.
“It’s been one of the more fun jobs that I’ve had in a long time as an actor,” Rapaport continued. “To be able to play somebody that says and does pretty much whatever he wants, he’s manipulative and I think he’s very self-serving, although I don’t think he’s aware of it. It’s just been a lot of fun, and sometimes it’s been like venting. You go. You scream and yell. You punch people. You smack people and all that stuff. So it’s fun to do.”
Of course, the Crowe family tendency to fly off the handle or take matters into their own hands raises the question of whether Darryl will live past the season finale. Rapaport played both sides of the question in the interview, teasing, “There are a lot of big twists and turns at the end that are going to be, I would say, kind of shocking. There are a couple of scenes that are like crazy.”
He added of his character’s survival chances, “I know that I had to accept my fate going into it. I know that a character like this is living on the edge. So it’s really week to week. You didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen until we finished shooting. … So I finished shooting. You don’t really get a heads up [on when you might be killed], but I knew that the way that he’s behaving and the fact that I’m a bad guy stepping into a world of other bad guys that there was a risk to take, but I didn’t have any problems with it because it’s just been fun while it’s lasted.”
Later when asked if he’d be using a Southern accent in the near future, Rapaport replied, “I might be doing something else. I might be doing something else, but for right now I’m done with Justified. We finished shooting; I’ll tell you that.”
For the time being, Darryl has plenty on his hands in the world of the living as he angles to take on Goggins’ Boyd Crowder for Harlan County supremacy. Rapaport spoke highly of the series co-star on and off set. “Walton is honestly one of the best actors I’ve ever had a chance to work with,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure working with him, and him and Tim’s insistence and persistence on pushing the envelope, not just for them but for the show and for all the other actors, has been a real pleasure. … Obviously Boyd is the most fleshed out of all of the bad guys, and I think he’s very humanized. So he’s really a bad guy you could get behind in the character. He just brings a lot of color to the character. … Darryl wants the same thing Boyd wants. They’re both criminals, and at the end of the day they’re just trying to find their way and make their way. So that’s definitely something we talk about.
“My favorite moment between Darryl and Boyd was probably the first scene when we met in the bar,” the actor added of a recent, memorable “Who’s Who?” moment between the two characters. “That was probably my favorite. It was a really long scene. It had ebbs and flows and twists and turns. I’m a real fan of Walton, and he’s just really a perfectionist. He really just is a very intense, really pushing himself and pushing everybody else. He’s very encouraging of all the other actors around him and just a real team player and a really inspiring actor to work with.”
Overall, as many actors on the show have, Rapaport laid the success of Justified at the feet of its stars. “Tim and Walton really set the tone of, I think, excellence,” he said. “They’re both great. I hope that they get Emmy nominations and win them. They both deserve them, and I think it’d be a little overdue. I think that they’ve done as good of work as anything that’s been on television in the last five or six years.”
Of course, there are plenty of other guest stars this season as well, and Rapaport spoke about working with his on-screen sister Wendy (Alicia Witt) and “brother” Kendal (Jacob Lofland).
“I have to say that I’ve been enormously impressed with Alicia’s work and her intensity, and you’ll see in the last few episodes what I mean,” he said. “She’s done some incredible work. We’ve had some days that couldn’t have been more intense, coming up in these last few episodes, and they’ve been a pleasure and very impressive. She really gives the show some really special talents and skills, as the episodes go along. There are some scenes towards the end of the season that are just great, and working with her she was just really special, special work.
“He’s been great,” the actor said of 17-year-old Lofland. “He’s a really sweet kid. He’s a young kid. He’s from Arkansas. He’s really a kid. We’ve had a lot of fun with him. He’s another really good talent.”
Talent was the name of the game in last week’s episode, which finally placed all of the season’s antagonists in one room with Olyphant and a DEA agent played by guest star Eric Roberts. The so-called “United Nations of A-Holes” proved to be one of Rapaport’s favorite moments from the season. ”
“It was a lot of fun. Everybody was aware of the amount of talent in the room and the body of work of the collective group of people,” Rapaport recalled. “We were all sort of very excited to work with each other. I’ve been friends and a fan of Wood Harris for a while and Steve Harris, and then of course Eric Roberts has done some of the most great work in films. He’s had a handful of really, really, really special performances. So we were all excited to work with him.
“For me, I was just trying to find a time to do a monolog from The Pope of Greenwich Village for Eric Roberts, which I never got around to,” the actor laughed. “There were a lot of pictures being taken. Everybody was taking pictures of each other because everybody was kind of like, ‘Oh … I’m a fan of yours.’ It was just kind of like a fun environment.”
Justified airs tonight at 10 ET/PT on FX.