‘Deadwood: The Movie’: Timothy Olyphant on ‘the Fight for the Soul’ of the Town

Deadwood - Timothy Olyphant, John Hawkes

Deadwood was arguably one of TV’s transformative shows — a highbrow, history-based Western with morally shifty, indelible characters and Shakespearean dialogue (not to mention abundant cursing). What is not arguable: the unexpectedness of its 2006 demise after a mere three seasons.

Several false starts later, creator David Milch’s masterpiece has returned to HBO with a movie set 12 years after the series. It’s 1889, and the town is celebrating South Dakota’s statehood.

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It's the return of the tough guys! And the long wait was worth it to revisit two of TV's least gentle dramas.

Almost all of our favorites are back, starting with decent lawman Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), profane brothel owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), savvy prostitute Trixie (Paula Malcomson), and Bullock’s former lover, wealthy widow Alma Ellsworth (Molly Parker).

Olyphant (above left, with John Hawkes), who went on to juicy parts in Justified and Santa Clarita Diet, shares his Deadwood insights.

(Warrick Page/HBO)

How was it to be back on that set? It’s been modernized a bit with more solid buildings and even telephone poles!

Timothy Olyphant: It was much more moving than I had expected. I’ve always known this was a very special job, but it was better than I even thought. Watching the movie, every time a character would come onscreen, my heart would go pitter-pat. I begged them to give us more episodes.

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'He's a little diminished since I saw him last time... but he's still the same,' the actor says of 'Deadwood's Al Swearengen.

Were you happy that colorful secondary characters like Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie) and E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson) show up?

Of course. The job is filled with my favorite kind of actors: craftsmen who have so much respect for their work and are so fun to be around. It’s a set where everybody would shoot the s–t and tell stories, which made it a very fulfilling experience.

(Warrick Page/HBO)

Gerald McRaney is back as stone-cold mining magnate George Hearst, who smells profit in Deadwood. Is he the main bad guy?

What made the story great was the threat of violence around every corner. That hasn’t changed. Hearst brings with him the future, and who’s going to stand in his way?

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From Sarah Paulson and Titus Welliver to Kim Dickens.

What is the incorrigible Swearengen up to? Where is the relationship between your sheriff and the power broker?

Al is not the guy he once was. That forces Bullock to be somebody that we haven’t seen him be. If Al’s not going to be able to do the dirty work, who’s going to do it? Can you do that and still be a man worthy of a wife and three children? It’s sort of, as goes Bullock, so goes the soul of the town. The fight for the soul of Deadwood is what’s at play here.

Deadwood: The Movie, Movie Premiere Friday, May 31, 8/7c, HBO