Justified is one of television’s most satisfying shows. The perfect blend of violence and humor combined with a dynamite cast make for a very fast hour of late night viewing. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins dominate, but Justified also has some of the best supporting actors on TV. Olyphant and Goggins anchor the show, while the supporting actors have helped to expand it into a modern western with broad appeal. Women have been central to this process from the beginning, though the misadventures of Raylan and Boyd tend to overshadow everything else.
The women of Justified are universally smart, tough, and beautiful. They have to be because they live in a world controlled by devious, angry men. The standard debate about the under-representation of women in television can also obscure the success and popularity of some excellent female cast and crew members. No, Justified is not a study in gender equality, that’s not the point. The female characters in the show have agency. Their thoughts and actions are not defined by their relationships with men; they make their own choices. That’s why we enjoy watching them. With that in mind let’s take a look at the women who’ve helped to make one of the manliest shows on television so successful.
1. Natalie Zea/Winona
Justified has shifted its focus this season to Raylan’s battle with the Crowe family and Boyd’s battles with everyone else. Winona, the mother of Raylan’s child isn’t likely to get a lot of screen time but the actress who plays her already has her own show on Amazon.com’s Development Slate.
The Rebels stars Natalie Zea as the newly widowed owner of her late husband’s pro football team (you can watch the pilot here). I was initially unsure about this Any Given Sunday/Modern Family hybrid but a couple of things sold me on it: The FCC’s edicts don’t apply to bad language in online shows, so this seemingly benign family comedy is littered with F-bombs. Natalie Zea has strong comedic chops, something we really haven’t seen before. Also, Lando Calrissian is the coach.
2. Linda Gehringer/Helen Givens
Helen Givens was probably the closest family member Raylan had, though that isn’t saying much. Helen was also the prototypical Harlan County woman: able to handle the meanest rednecks including her husband Arlo. Helen almost always gave better than she got, up until she lost a shotgun duel to Dickie Bennett.
Linda Gehringer has had better luck and you’ve probably seen her on at least a half dozen shows over the last three decades. Oddly enough, she had a bit part in American Pie, while Justified cast mate Joelle Carter can be seen briefly in American Pie 2.
3. Abby Miller/Ellen May
Life’s hard enough for a prostitute, but Ellen May had a heart of gold and this made her especially susceptible to coercion. Things turned out alright in the end but I sure do miss the character. Justified is a goldmine for gifs, but this one of Ellen May shooting a John wearing a bear costume is arguably the best.
Abby Miller’s country girl persona in the show was no act, she’s part of the folk duo Jen & Abby.
4. Alica Witt/Wendy Crowe
It’s kind of hard to tell where Wendy Crowe will end up this season. She’s conflicted about her responsibilities to her family of criminals, and it remains unclear what will happen with Raylan. I’m just glad to see Alicia Witt back on TV.
Many of us first became aware of Witt during her stint on The Sopranos. Since then, she’s acted intermittently while devoting much of her time to her music career. I don’t know what exactly constitutes being a “genius”, but Witt learned to play the piano by age 7, received her high school diploma at 14, and was supporting herself with her music by the time she became a legal adult. This music video is worth a look:
5. Executive Producer Sarah Timberman
The actresses of Justified have always had a strong female advocate behind the camera. Sarah Timberman co-founded Timberman/Beverly Productions, which received the original option for, and now produces the show. Timberman’s company also produces Elementary and Master of Sex, two shows that feature impressive female leads. Before that, she served as the President of Universal Network Television and was an Executive VP at Columbia Tristar Television. CBS recently ordered two pilots from Timberman/Beverly, including one starring John Cusack in an unnamed Wall Street drama.