“It’s entirely baffling to me that anybody sees me as a tough guy type character.” And yet, here you are, Jacob Pitts, playing one of TV’s best sarcastic bad asses, Tim Gutterson on FX’s Justified. Pitts, who got his start on Strangers with Candy and big break in EuroTrip, before switching over to dramas with HBO’s The Pacific and now Justified, is exactly the kind of guy you’d imagine him to be: witty, sarcastic, well spoken, and a fan of karaoke, obviously.
I recently spoke to fantasy-novel enthusiast Pitts over the phone about this season of Justified, handling sniper rifles without looking like a fool, and EuroTrip (can’t sleep ’til I write an oral history about that movie). Also, he divulged one bit of information that will completely change the way you watch Justified.
During a conversation with Raylan in a recent episode, you offhandedly mention being too young to shoot at the Taliban. Will we learn more about that this season?
Not about that particular instance, but there will be a lot more coming from that point of view.
It feels like Tim’s a bit of a time bomb waiting to go off, which I believe is even how he’s referred to as at one point during the show.
I think, so, yeah. I’ve been having some fun the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if it qualifies as a time bomb, but I’ve been having fun.
You also had a pretty key scene with Colt in “Kin.” Will we see more of you guys together?
Oh yeah, I’d say it’s pretty much me and Colt from episode nine on. We just shot on Friday what I think is the best dialogue I’ve ever had in anything ever, and I think that goes for everyone else, too.
Has Justified spoiled other roles for you, because of how good it is?
Oh yeah, completely. We’re completely spoiled. This is a life raft I’m going to cling to as long as I can. It’s nice to have a job where you don’t feel like you’re lying about the material.
Tim spends so much of his time in the Marshall’s office, particularly at his desk. Are there any Easter eggs you guys have scattered around the set?
No, other than the idea that every time I’m at that desk, I’m playing it with the thought that Raylan is essentially a fictional character and he’s Tim’s Tyler Durden. That’s essentially how I play that stuff. The whole show is just what’s happening inside of Tim’s imagination as he stares at that boring computer screen.
Is it fun for you, as an actor, knowing that you’ve got a new Big Bad every season?
No, ‘cause I don’t get much to do with them historically. The fun for me is…I don’t think there’s a single reference, single idea that whether it’s the writers coming up with it or me pitching it to the writers that we’re not on the same page with. For instance, the Hill People, I think at one point there were Deliverance references, maybe Honey Boo Boo, and you didn’t have to explain it to anybody.
Did you learn from a professional how to handle a sniper?
I learned from the professional, Captain Dale Dye, Marine Corps retired. He’s the technical adviser to most Hollywood military productions. We worked together on The Pacific. Not so much handling sniper rifles, specifically, but handling firearms in a way where I don’t look terrified. He gave me the confidence to handle it. And then we have one of our camera operators, he’s a former, maybe current, he’s a very friendly and amiable sort, but also a genuine Special Forces bad ass, and he will tell me, “Jacob, you need to get a better cheek weld on this.”
I’ll pretend I know what a cheek weld is.
We talked a bit about Tim’s history earlier. Is there something from his past you’d like the writers to get to that they haven’t yet?
I think this season we get into a lot of that. Tim’s readings habits is the kind of thing I was really hoping we’d get to, moments of complete brutality that he was born into, in terms of his combat experience, alongside this kind of juvenilia. I say that word, “juvenilia,” to sound very smart and deep. But the thing I think that’s most interesting about people who are designated PTSD that you haven’t seen a lot on Hollywood is that a lot of times, especially when someone at a young age is put into an incredibly brutal situation for however many years, once they come out of that situation, whatever persona they took on to survive that brutality goes away. They don’t need it anymore, or it’s a process of shedding that. What you’re left with is a guy who’s 27 years old, but 18 years old emotionally.
Are you aware of the Jacob Pitts Lovely Face Tumblr?
I’ve seen it. *Laughs* I went through the same thing when I was younger, expect it was with Batman and his replacement, Azrael. But it’s incredibly flattering.
Recently, I spoke with Fred Armisen, and he said that the role he gets recognized the most for is Creepy Italian Guy from EuroTrip. Are you surprised at that movie’s cult-like longevity?
Yeah, I am. When it came out, it totally bombed. I think we opened at number five; we lost to Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, starring Lindsay Lohan. You can’t say I’m not bitter.
[We then got to talking about karaoke. His go-to songs: “Walking on Broken Glass,” “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” and the theme from Braveheart. He’s the best.]