TV

10 Things You Might Not Know About The Wonderful Women Of ‘Justified’

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.

6. Margo Martindale/Mags Bennett

Mags Bennett was the best villain to appear on Justified. She presided over a clan of pot dealers and dealt with her enemies by giving them a nice helping of “apple pie”. Margo Martindale’s portrayal of the backwoods crime-queen won her an Emmy and a slew of roles in shows like The Millers and The Americans.

A friend of the site, Martindale has been a working actress for decades and gets more popular with each passing year. She seems like a genuinely good person too, so there aren’t many bombshells to be found in her personal or professional life. That’s probably the biggest surprise about Margo Martindale: in the notoriously cutthroat entertainment business, she never had to step on anyone’s fingers on her way to success. Sometimes hard work is hard to beat–that’s something Mags Bennett would probably agree with.

7. Amy Smart/Alison Brander   

Alison Brander is more than just another one of Raylan’s girlfriends. The pot smoking social worker doesn’t seem to have much patience for Raylan’s poor parenting and relationship skills. Amy Smart is a great actress, and she’s set to appear in at least one more episode so…that might be a bad sign for the Alison character.

In any case, Amy Smart always has a lot going on. She’s signed on for the lead in an ABC pilot, and a comedy film with Adam DeVine and Jeremy Sisto. If you haven’t been able to get your Smart fix lately, you can check out an interview with her from the Justified production blog here. Or just wait for the tidal wave of her upcoming projects to smash over you in the next few months (at last count she already has over half a dozen projects for 2014). I had more to write about Amy Smart, but in the course of researching this entry I ended up on a blog dedicated to her feet. At that point I figured it was time to move on.

8. Jenn Lyon/Lindsey Salazar, aka The Bartender

via Chet Manly

Last season Lindsey, (better know as The Bartender) developed an intense cult following. She was mysterious, sexy, and a bartender. These are qualities that men consider very attractive, especially men who like to drink. Raylan Givens found himself under the spell of, and ultimately robbed by, Lindsey. It was a classic “guy meets girl, girl robs guy and shoots him with his own gun” love story.

Jenn Lyon has been honing her acting skills for years with the internet comedy group POYKPAC. She played the princess in the popular Mario: Game Over video and also makes a delightful witch:

9. Joelle Carter/Ava Crowder

With Ava stuck behind bars this season it’s easy to forget how important she’s been to the show. After filing for a Harlan County Divorce from her abusive husband she rapidly transformed from battered woman into a criminal on par with her new fiance, Boyd Crowder. Ava and Boyd have had to do increasingly terrible things to remain on top of the local drug racket, but neither one has lost the qualities we love about them in the process.

Like several of the women on this list, friend of the site Joelle Carter has a series upcoming projects. As was the case with Amy Smart, I stopped probing her personal life when I came across the foot thing again. There may be a little more to the whole objectification of women thing than I originally thought. Or perhaps these ladies just have awesome feet and I’m the crazy one for not getting it. Either way, someone deserves to get hit in the face with a frying pan.

10. Erica Tazel/Rachel Brooks

Even in the character-dense world of Justified, Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks stands out. She’s one of the few people who’s had any success keeping Raylan in line and doesn’t take any lip from the yokels. It’s been fun watching her throughout the show’s run, but we never get enough of her. I say Rachel gets more screen time or her own spin-off when the show wraps next year.

Erica Tazel seems poised for wide-spread success. She beat out hundreds of other students for a full acting scholarship to NYU and has extensive theater experience. Tazel is as enigmatic as the character she plays, so until she gets that spin-off enjoy this video of her talking about a “shocking” death that’s coming up this season. Who’s it going to be?

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