‘Justified’ Creator Graham Yost Recalls How the Series Ended Up at FX

by Leanne Stahulak

A few weeks ago, production on the “Justified” spin-off series began at FX. But how did the network land the flagship TV show in the first place?

“Justified” creator Graham Yost revealed the story behind the series’ arrival at FX during a panel. He and other creators attended the ATX Festival earlier this weekend, per Deadline. In fact, if you ask Yost, part of the show’s raging success is the fact that the creators worked with FX and not another studio or network.

“One of our biggest secrets was our partner FX. We pitched the show to 8 places. And we were really fortunate that 6 were really interested. So it came down to FX and HBO,” Yost said at the panel.

He didn’t reveal what those other interested networks were, but the “Justified” creator did explain why HBO wasn’t the final choice.

“HBO is one of my favorite pitching stories because I was pitching my heart out and they were giving me nothing back,” Yost explained. “So I cut out all my jokes and they said it was my best pitch yet. I took out all my funny stuff! By the time I got to the elevators, they made me an offer.”

And yet, “Justified” aired on FX, not HBO. Ultimately, knowing that he had to cut the funny stuff for HBO tipped the scales for Yost toward FX.

“But we went with FX because we knew John Landgraf and his team would be open,” Yost shared. “I just summed up the show as a four-minute scene between a couple of bad guys talking about chicken. And that we could do those types of things where you didn’t know what was going to happen. You didn’t know if two people were going to become best friends or if one of them was going to shoot the other—there was always that tension.”

He added, “FX was critically important to the whole thing.”

And now, “Justified: City Primeval” will air on the same network, even as cable loses more and more subscribers to streaming services. Maybe this is the push FX needs to bring viewers back.

‘Justified’ Writer and Producer Explains Where They Get Their Best Content From

Fans of “Justified” could give you any number of reasons why the show was so successful. It could come down to the cast, featuring Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Sam Elliott, and Neal McDonough. Or the superb writing and authentic storytelling.

Part of that authenticity, per writer and producer Tayor Elmore, is due to the consultation of a real U.S. Marshal.

“Charlie Alonso was our on-set consultant who is the most unassuming and quiet kind of guy who would tell us stories that were like, ‘Holy sh-t, that happened?’” Elmore explained earlier. “So we’d say, ‘Ok, we have to use that.’ A lot of stuff came from Charlie. And other stuff came from versions of our own screwed-up pasts that we turned into TV by making it a little more intelligent. Those standalone stories for me were a lot of fun.”

He added, “We had this gift that we could do anything we wanted to as writers: you could do cops and robbers, you get to do romance, you get to do straight drama, and you get to do levity and comedy. No show I’ve ever worked on has ever really had the combination. It’s not just about the people that were involved. It’s the way we approached it that made the show really stand out.”