It would be fair to call Joelle Carter’s character on Justified a femme fatale – after all, she started the show by killing her husband. But Carter’s Ava Crowder is a little more innocent than that, even if she does have eyes on Timothy Olyphant’s character. In the first season Carter was hot to trot for Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, and the two entered into a possibly career-jeopardizing affair. Raylan still had eyes for his ex-wife, who he’s been with for most of Season Two. For an actress that has to be a bit terrifying when you’re no longer dating the lead, but the writers have managed to work her in to the second season, and from what she says there’s meat on those bones. We got a chance to chat with her while she was taking a break from shooting an important scene in the twelfth episode.
Do you get between Boyd and Raylan in this next scene?
Joelle Carter: Yeah. There is some stuff going down and he’s in there looking for retribution. I’m kind of like “why are you f-ing here? Go out and get the bad guy.”
In season one you were in a relationship with Raylan, are you disappointed that you’ve broken up as Ava and as an actress?
Well, he is the lead. When you are in a relationship with the lead you know that you are going to get some screen time. I think there is a mourning for that relationship and then happiness for what is coming for Ava. They are really taking care of me on this show so I am excited for the future for Ava.
Were you concerned after season one that your storyline might be over?
I was wondering what might happen. They could have done more of a triangle I guess but I’m glad they didn’t because it’s kind of expected.
How far ahead do the writers discuss with you their ideas?
Not very far. I went in at the beginning of the season and asked the writers what is going on with Ava because it was pretty clear after the first couple of episodes that Raylan was going back with Winona. Then magically Boyd was living with me. We are kin; we are family so it makes sense. They reassured me that some good stuff is coming for Ava, a potential relationship, love, coming back to her home and being comfortable with that. Also for next season potentially or not, I’m not sure.
So Boyd has forgiven you for killing his brother?
He was never mad at me. Remember in the pilot he was like, I guess she’s mine now basically. When we ended season one he did come and say that he was sorry for never trying to stop it.
Your character is a damsel in distress but she is a fighter too, does that make the role easier to play because she is such a strong character?
Yeah, I love that I can pull all the strength out of myself to be as strong as Ava. She chose life, potentially prison to stay alive because her husband was going to kill her now she’s like “I’m here now and lets see what we can do.”
What are the pluses and minuses of playing a smoker on TV?
Well I’m not a real smoker as you can see because I’m not very good at it. I know this country and they smoke and they like it. These are real cigarettes because the fake ones mess me up more. I try to have someone else smoke half for me so I’m ready to go when we are filming.
Are you from the south?
I’m originally from Georgia. I was born in Thomasville Georgia.
How well do you think the show is depicting the south?
Really well – people think we really shoot in Kentucky. You don’t know how many interviews I’ve done where people ask “what it’s like to shoot in Kentucky?” and I have to tell them that we shoot in California.
Walton Goggins feels a responsibility to not let the show become stereotypical because he is from the south, do you feel the same way?
There are a lot of stereotypes in all different regions even in just the US so I don’t think anyone plays a character that is discriminating. I love Ava. I love that she’s a little simple, she lives in the moment and she doesn’t really plan for the future. So I feel like I’m doing her justice. She’s simple and she’s not that educated but that is who she is. She is a great character. This is how these people are and they are amazing characters. I think Walton was very adamant about saying that he wanted his southern boy to be smart, and he is. A lot of our villains are smart as a whip.
Can you talk about the different directors that you have had on the show?
It’s been nice. I think we’ve had about four or five that keep coming back and rotating out. They are all very established and slightly different in their directing but it makes it nice for each episode. You can expect one to direct things a certain way and one to do things another way so it keeps you on your toes.
With all the directors and actors who participate regularly in films working on the show do you feel like that ups the quality of the series compared to other shows?
Sure because like Adam (Arkin, the director she was working with that day) – who is an actor and a director – is an actor’s actor because he knows the other side of the camera and it makes a big different.
We saw you blocking out the scene a minute ago, how intricate do the rehearsals get before you do a take?
Sometimes more than others like in the pilot with the scene with Timothy in the kitchen, there was a ton of stuff that she was doing. It made sense because she was nervous, she wanted to tell the story, make sure he was okay, and she was being southern with hospitality by getting him a drink. With other scenes you just don’t have a lot to do you just have to stand there in the moment. So I think a scene is more interesting when it is moving so when a director puts a little more action or do something helps.
Ava stands up to Raylan a lot, is that something specific that you talk about?
It’s kind of written that way but also because Ava is a survivor of that moment, that beating or that day, it’s kind of like that’s how it happens for her. I’m in love right now, I just am. I’m not going to analyze it, I’m not going to think about it, I’m just going to be in love so she really lives life with her heart on her sleeve.
What does Ava think about Raylan getting together with his ex-wife?
Well, you guys get to see all of it but she knows that he’s gone back to his ex-wife. She’s not seeing all the love scenes and him sticking up for her but she’s definitely not happy about it. He broke her heart. She said “if you want to come back into my life you can let’s talk about it and I’ll think about kicking Boyd out. My bedroom is upstairs.” He thought about it for a minute, I saw it and then he said he better not. So she says “don’t worry about what I do, I’m not going to worry about you.” Again, that is classic Ava. There is something there between them, but if he’s not in her life she needs to continue hers.
Justified airs Wednesday night on FX at 10.