Justified’s Latest Death: Who Got Sent Packing (and Why People Are Afraid of Him)
Warning: Read no further unless you’ve seen this week’s Justified episode, “Alive Day.”
All right: Let us pay our respects to henchman Mundo, a.k.a. “Choo Choo” (Duke Davis Roberts), who perished as the result of gunshot wounds to the torso courtesy of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant).
Choo Choo had already escaped death once, as a soldier in Afghanistan whose Humvee hit an IED, so when Raylan shot him, we figured he was a goner. And when we saw he’d managed to get into his clown-sized car and flee, only to get stuck on some train tracks with a freight engine bearing down on him, we feared the irony might crush us all.
But the Justified writers are better than that, we should have known. (Recall the Great Quarles Arm Holster Amputation of 2012.) The train stopped just before hitting the car, but it was too late: The Chooch was dead. Long live The Chooch.
Roberts, 22, called us up and told us more. (Note: Roberts’ Choo Choo voice is not his regular voice.)
When you see the train coming down the tracks, you think, “This might be a little too on the nose.” But then…
It’s almost a double psych-out. Once it stops, people think, “Oh maybe they’ll get him to a hospital!” And then he just dies. [Laughs]
It’s almost a little sad, because he’s weirdly sweet.
I’ve been on Reddit, and it’s funny, they have all these theories, that are like, “Choo Choo’s gonna Amtrak Tim Gutterson, and Tim’s gonna survive, and he’s gonna shoot Choo Choo.” They don’t expect to see that Choo Choo’s just a little too nice of a guy, and he gets killed because of it.
How do you imagine Choo Choo was before his head injury?
I figure he was kind of a simple guy. He was a little more aware. I’m not saying he was going to go to Yale, but I think he had some potential, and that all kind of went down the toilet.
That’s something the show does very well, showing the impact of war on veterans when they come home.
Yeah! Choo Choo’s last line, even, is, “It’s all I’ve got”—his orders. He’s put in that position, where he has nothing else, and he falls back on the one thing he’s good at, which is killing people, or intimidating them with his ability to kill.
And it was Olyphant’s suggestion he be called Choo Choo.
That was a crazy moment, because that was my first day. They called me into hair and makeup, and Tim’s there, and he’s like, “Oh hey, sit down, I want to run the scene with you, and want to talk to you about it.” And then we’re doing that, and he’s just like, “Oh, and your name’s gonna be Choo Choo.” I’m not going to say no to that. When I auditioned, his name was actually Heath Watkins.
My favorite description of the character might be “Hillbilly Khal Drogo.”
[Laughs] I would never have seen that myself, but that’s great. I will take that and run with it. Sorry, Jason Momoa, there’s a hillbilly version of you. Someone on Twitter also called me “a giant Jon Snow,” and I’m okay with that, too! Though I really don’t know how they saw the Khal Drogo resemblance.
Maybe it’s just the skin tone and hair.
And the beard, which I apparently can’t escape from. Every role I’ve booked, I’ve had this unemployment beard, and I can’t get rid of it. They go, “Oh no, we like the beard, keep it!” I don’t like it, because I’m already a big, kind of scary guy, and when I get on an elevator, and I have a hat on, and I’m not really dressed nice because I don’t care, people get on and look at me like, “I need to get off this elevator.” I want to be clean-shaven every once in a while. Be respected as a member of society. [Laughs] I’m shooting The Night Shift right now, and I have a beard, and I’m worried it’s going to be a thing now. I mean, I’m playing a homeless guy.
But Justified is your first actual performance to be seen by the masses.
Yeah. I’m shooting The Night Shift in Albuquerque right now, and I have a spot on Battle Creek, but that hasn’t aired yet. [Editor’s note: It premieres on CBS Sunday, March 1.] And then Undrafted [a movie about a baseball player who didn’t make it through the MLB draft], my first job ever, I have no idea what’s going on with that. The ultimate goal, though, is to pull off a sort of Chris Pratt career transformation.
That doesn’t seem unfeasible.
Although, Choo Choo is lovable, but not in an Andy Dwyer sort of way. At all.
Well, you had less time to develop the character.
And? He kills people. [Laughs] He’s a murderer!
You were an MMA fighter—which came first, acting or beating the crap out of people?
It’s kind of an easy succession to follow: I quit football to do plays in high school, and my dad was like, “You’re going to do a sport, mister,” and signed me up for Brazilian jujitsu, and then I’ve done that ever since. But acting is sort of random chance, so I started fighting amateur MMA, because that was much more based on skill and opportunity. I did that for two years, and then acting kind of took off, and I completely left it behind.
What was your record?
I did amateur, and I went 2-1, but the one I lost, I took it on two days’ notice, and we rematched immediately for some amateur belt, and I beat him in 47 seconds. You can look it up, I’m not exaggerating! It’s funny, someone heard I did MMA, and it’s been like a game of “Telephone” with the media. It went from “MMA fighter” to “an experienced MMA fighter” to, like, “a master MMA fighter.” I just fought for a little while. More than most, but I’m not a professional.
Where do you keep that belt?
Oh, just in my garage. I live at a friend’s mom’s house, so I’m not going to take over her living space. “Here’s my belt, and here’s all my acting awards from high school on your mantle, even though I’m not even your son.”
So you won awards in high school for acting. What was the first play you did?
Romeo and Juliet! I was Romeo. It was slim pickins at my school, and it was more based on acting ability, rather than who fit the role. I was also much smaller in high school, I was kind of scrawny. Then I grew into my grown man body, and now I play guys like Choo Choo.