But boy, was he convincing. Despite not necessarily being a mainstream hit with viewers, Deadwood became a fiercely loved cult classic, with many heaping praise on Olyphant’s star-making performance. Matt Feeney of Slate described Bullock as “laconic, feral, hot-tempered and a little vain”, and said the character was “not so much played as embodied by Olyphant.” His work as the honorable, yet gritty and explosive lawman led to his casting as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on FX’s Justified. Playing the role created by iconic American novelist Elmore Leonard, Givens was a no-bullshit, cool-blooded U.S. Marshal that earned the actor comparisons to Clint Eastwood. Robert Bianco of USA Today praised Olyphant’s work on the long-running series, stating that his “masterfully complete immersion in the role seems to have masked the talent expended playing it.”
Though Olyphant has consistently taken supporting and guest roles in comedies to either send up or play against type, his recent work has found him back in his sweet spot. After perfectly slipping back into Western form in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Olyphant returned to the Bullock role in Deadwood: The Movie. Perhaps the experience of portraying a U.S. Marshal again led Olyphant to keep the momentum going and accept his role of U.S. Marshal Dick “Deafy” Wickware in Fargo, a character that has the cockiness and eloquent arrogance typical of an Olyphant role, but this time informed by strict Mormon faith. Deafy gets his nickname by not acknowledging speech that he doesn’t want to hear, and he’s spent the season rubbing his nose in a situation that doesn’t concern him.
The most high-profile example of Olyphant’s enjoyable pigeonholing is his recent role in the season 2 premiere of Disney+’s The Mandalorian. In an episode titled “The Marshal,” can you guess who Olyphant played? Yes, Olyphant portrays Cobb Vanth, the self-appointed Marshal of a remote part of Tatooine who sports scavenged Mandalorian armor (previously belonging to none other than Boba Fett). As Vanth, Olyphant brings a character to life that seemed more in line with what Star Wars fans may have been expecting when a Western-influenced Mandalorian series was announced. The part even sees Olyphant reunite with Deadwood co-star W. Earl Brown, who plays a Weequay bartender in the episode. The part seems like a direct homage to his iconic Deadwood and Justified roles, but it wasn’t the first cheeky nod.
Earlier in the year, Olyphant appeared in The Good Place as an imagined version of himself sporting Rylan’s look. Explaining to the A.V. Club on how he pitched Olyphant the part, Good Place creator Mike Schur said “When I was explaining the role to Tim on the phone, he said, ‘Am I myself, or am I Raylan?’ And I said, ‘No no no: You’re you, but I think you’re edging toward the Raylan side of things.’ And he went, ‘Full Stetson?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I think Full Stetson sounds right.’” Even in the afterlife, you can count on Olyphant doing his charming lawman schtick.