“I can’t believe it sometimes. My God, it’s a lot better than what I would have written,” Elmore Leonard said of Justified before an audience of TV critics in 2012. Always modest when discussing his work, Leonard failed to note that there’s a good reason the writers of Justified earned his respect: They tried really hard to live up to the standard he set. So much so that showrunner Graham Yost gave the writing staff wristbands with the letters WWED: What Would Elmore Do?
As examples, they had years worth of Leonard’s lean, witty stories from which to draw (to say nothing of one of the best modern writing guides). The best Justified episodes, of which there were many, sang in the same voice as Leonard’s fiction, in which dialogue could be a kind of flirtation, or combat, or occasionally both at once.
Justified ended its run after six seasons earlier this year and a new box set, Justified: The Complete Series, collects every episode into a handsome package that also includes a flask. It also features a slew of special features, the best among them “In Elmore’s Words,” in which members of the cast and other Leonard fans (like Jackie Brown star Robert Forster) read from Leonard’s writing. In this clip, provided exclusively to Uproxx, star Timothy Olyphant reads from Riding the Rap, a 1995 novel featuring his character, Raylan Givens.