EXCLUSIVE: Joelle Carter talks Ava Crowder, and what’s to come on Justified

“Justified” has many notable and stunning women in the cast, and one of our favorites is Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder, the woman who cleared out her abusive husband with a shotgun blast to the head.

We liked that, and loved her chemistry with the show’s lead actor Timothy Olyphant, a laconic law man who knows his people, and weaves in and out of clannish mayhem and malfeasance in his Kentucky bluegrass home.

U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Olyphant) has come home, and his old high school crush is Carter’s Ava Crowder, who has dispatched her abusive husband at the dinner table in season one with a well placed bullet.

The plot thickens as Raylan protects Ava from her upset Crowder kinfolk, especially Raylan’s old mate Boyd Crowder (Walt Goggins) who may have a thing for his dead brother’s wife.


Carter is a Georgia peach, and yet she plays Ava opposite of a typical Southern Belle.  Joelle’s Ava’s got grit, moxie and all that stuff that makes her character funny, unpredictable, sexy and dangerous.

A few days ago, I spoke with Ms. Carter on the phone about Ava and all things “Justified.”

“Justified” airs Wednesday, at 10pm on FX. Don’t miss it.

Monsters and Critics: Justified is back in big, big form and your character Ava… In the premiere,  you’re out in the woods and you’re with Boyd and I’ve got a million questions.

Joelle Carter: Then go for it. [laughter] I’m ready to answer.

M&C: Well, the first season, you had just shot your husband, and Raylan shows up and that whole history. Then we get a sense of Raylan’s roots in Harlan County. And I’m wondering if you can talk about this shift of where your heart’s kind of taking us this Season 2. It doesn’t seem like it’s just going to be Raylan. You’re sort of circling around Boyd…

Joelle Carter: Yeah, I mean, I think for Ava, she was so on the path of getting out and getting out of under that relationship, that abusive relationship. And when she finally gets out, it’s not everything she expected, you know.

Sometimes the grass is not greener and I think Raylan really let her down. He betrayed her and he was one of the instigators of… Of the energy of getting out. So she takes it back home. I mean, I guess the big theme of the show this season is character’s destiny and how much can you really change.

I was talking to a friend, it’s like I’m from Georgia and when I go back there, there’s a smell and there’s food and it’s just something that’s a little more comforting. And I think after the big disappointment she had to just run to something that was a little more comforting.

M&C: Interesting. Well, you just mentioned, it’s… I find it interesting accent-wise. I’m from New England originally and I can hear the subtle differences between New Hampshire and Massachusetts and Connecticut where you just hear Yankee. So tell me…


Joelle Carter: I know you meet someone from New York and they’re like, “What accent?”

M&C: Yeah [laughter]

Joelle Carter: You know.

M&C: I know.

Joelle Carter: “I don’t have an accent.”

M&C: I thought that there’s differences between a Georgia accent and a Kentucky accent. Sure. Can you just kind of walk us through and say some things Georgia style and say some things Kentucky like Ava style?

Joelle Carter: Well, I’m not sure. There’s an upper class Georgia accents where it’s a little more sophisticated and soft. Oh my gosh. [laughter] I don’t know if I can do the Brook accent right… [laughter]
They have a little… A little more elegance to them and they take it up. And then, it’s frightening me like when a woman talks southern, it’s cute and sweet or Kentucky, you know, whatever like that. And when a man does, people automatically insinuate that potentially, could be… ‘Cause they’re ignorant.

And there’s many brilliant southern men in the world.

M&C: Oh, for sure. Well, look, I mean, Bill Clinton is Rhodes Scholar.

Joelle Carter: Hello. There you go.


A champion for us all.

M&C: Well, what I think is interesting about Season 2 is the introduction of Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, as the sort of female Tony Soprano in the Holler, and I get the feeling she knows your character, everybody that lives in Harlan County. And I want to know if her character interacts with you at all this season and how she takes to you. I got the sense deep down she really cares and is proud of Raylan. What’s her interaction going to be like with Ava this season, if there is?

Joelle Carter: Interesting. You know, the thing I love about Margo as an actress is she is smart and the thing I love about Justified is their villains are just as smart as their heroes.

And Mags Bennett, I mean, she is a villain you do not want to mess with. I just… The way they’ve written this character, people… She’s not going to disappoint.

She is a lucrative business woman and she does, you’re correct, know everyone out there and what’s going on and you can’t get much faster. And if you do, you’re going to have to definitely have a say with her Boyd there.

As far as Ava, I know that they’ve crossed paths in the past and I believe that the way it’s coming now is she’s definitely going to have some face to face time with Margo in the future.

Her dealings with… Well, her dealings with Boyd are going to lead her that way.

M&C: Aha! So you will be involved much more with Boyd. Is this going to be biblical like you’re going to be now with the brother of the dead husband? Are we getting biblical on Justified?

Joelle Carter: Hallelujah. It’s going to be religious. [laughter]

M&C: [laughter] Is he going to slip up…

Is he going to scoop up… Get a little bonus, a little inheritance?


Joelle Carter: I think their character is very, their relationship start in very conflicted. I think for Ava, we’re going to start getting a better sense of her and go a little deeper into what kind of makes her tick. And as she’s learning that herself, because she was put down to stay in one place for so long.

M&C: Right.

Joelle Carter: It’s nice to see her go back home and figure that out a little bit. And definitely this relationship, whatever it ends at being between Boyd and Ava is a slow burn. And when I sent out to ride her at the beginning of season they told me that, they said that we want to see what happens to these two characters. It’s not something that they just, they go into without, carelessly I guess. Yeah.

M&C: I’m sure Boyd is trepeditious considering that you use a shotgun to blow his brother’s face off.

Joelle Carter: And I stuck one on his daddy’s face.

M&C: And that too, there you go. Interesting. What do you make of that part of the world? You’re a southern woman but you didn’t grow up in a holler. There’s differences. What do you make of that very American part of that part of the country that has Irish traveler roots?

Joelle Carter: You know, I love the South. I love it even more that I’ve gotten so far away from it because when I go back down, I can really enjoy. I mean it’s beautiful land and a lot of the people, they stay there so there’s this great sense of heritage and history that they pass along which is lovely because I think the technology and how fast we’re moving, we get away from that. And they do. They tend to take care of their elderly there, their people.

M&C: Right.

Joelle Carter: Which is really nice.

M&C: Right.

Joelle Carter: And this [chuckle], I keep going back to the food but the food is so good. I mean, the real cooking. [laughter] They don’t count calories down there.

M&C: Yeah. You’re like a size zero, so please, I don’t want to hear it. I think that you’ve eaten one biscuit your entire lifetime and you portioned it out [chuckle]

Joelle Carter: The best is that they have a sense of humor about themselves too. This is who we are. This is how we are. Let’s laugh about it. Let’s embrace it a little bit.

M&C: How does Timothy Olyphant rank… You’ve worked with some really cool guys like John Cusack and so many.  I interviewed him yesterday and he was a man of very few words. We finally were able to pull up…

Joelle Carter: Really?

M&C: Yeah. He …once the guard came down he started talking. But he was a little laconic. He’s just kind of like, “Well this is what I do”. So how do you interact with Timothy on set? Is he a cut-up? Any good anecdotes about him? Good kisser?

Joelle Carter: It’s funny because a friend of mine guest starred on the show. And she said the man never has a lack of energy for the show and for the better of the show.

He always is coming in with ideas and 99 percent of the time, they are really good ideas. If it doesn’t feel right, let’s change this. Let’s not just get stuck in this. He’s definitely a talker [chuckle] I don’t know why he wasn’t talking to you but. He has stories, interesting stories. I think sometimes being interviewed, because maybe, because he’s interviewed so much.

Or maybe he’s, he don’t want to let too much of the story out. I mean I don’t know what he’s like on interviews. And he’s a talker. I don’t know.

M&C: What’s the atmosphere like on set with Walt and Tim and Margo and everyone, and Natalie. And do you and Natalie get along off camera? I mean you guys, I mean, you just joke about how you’re both vying for Raylan?

Joelle Carter: Oh! [chuckle] I think we all get along and Natalie’s a lovely actor and a lovely woman. You know one of my best compliment came from the speech at the TCAs

So when Elmore learned… Yeah, Elmore said he loves the women and best actually is when they get to sing together. And I love that scene with me and Natalie.

We really embrace our parts and we get to go on the great locations. It’s a lot of fun. I mean, people have different acting techniques so we respect that. But everyone is there really embracing their characters and it’s a good fun set; casual and relaxed.

M&C: Speaking of sets and locations, I know you guys shoot up in Santa Clarita, do you actually shoot in Kentucky? I think that the pilot was shot on location there from what I understand. Can you talk about where did you pilot?

Joelle Carter: The pilot was shot in Pittsburgh.

M&C: No. Pittsburgh? It’s so not Kentucky.


Joelle Carter: Oh, it looks a lot like Kentucky. You know right outside the city is, there were coal mines there too. And so it’s a great old country feel. It’s nice and calm. But, no, I think Timothy said if he shot this we’d have to think of California and California we are which is lucky to have families. We get to shoot on Santa Clarita and Hidden Valley. I mean mostly out near Santa Clarita.

Some places we go, there’s no cell phone service so we’re out there. [chuckle]

M&C: What is the biggest surprise or tease that you can give us about Ava for this season 2 of Justified?

Joelle Carter: Like I said, it’s a more of a slow burn, a slow boil for Ms. Ava. But you will not be disappointed if you hang in there. She is going to really embrace herself and take some chances.

M&C: Oh come on, cut to the chase. Are you and Raylan going to get back together or what? Are we going to see you and Raylan kissing again this season or is it going to be you, just you and Boyd? Come on, you can talk.

Joelle Carter: Raylan and Ava might have a few things together and there’s a little chemistry there.

M&C: I know there is. We know it. We’re watching. [chuckle] Thank you so much Joelle. Thank you. I really appreciate your time today.


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