'Justified's' Joelle Carter on Boyd's Confrontation: Ava Had to Face Her Fate

Carter talks with THR about Ava's (potential) new role, and filming the "exhausting" pivotal scene of "The Hunt."
Prashant Gupta/FX Networks

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Tuesday's Justified's "The Hunt."]

Fresh off last week's Justified discovery that Ava (Joelle Carter) had been lying to him, Boyd (Walton Goggins) put a plan into motion: he brought her to his father's hunting cabin for the duo to get the chance to celebrate their relationship and partake in the first hunt of the season.

While Ava didn't know quite what was going on, she knew enough to be nervous about what her fiancé had planned. And when Boyd confronted Ava about lying to him, he was more concerned about the true nature of her relationship with Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) than the fact that she agreed to snitch on him. When Ava assured Boyd that her relationship with Raylan was platonic, he surprised her by saying they could get past this, and turn the tables on her assignment. "I think people underestimate Boyd's capacity for understanding and forgiveness when it comes to ways of the heart," Goggins teased last week.

But what comes next for Ava? Carter spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about filming "The Hunt" and her character becoming a triple agent.

Given Ava's concerns about being discovered, did you think she realized this was the moment of truth when Boyd insisted they go to his father's cabin? Or did she just know something was wrong?

I think as Ava, I knew something was wrong as we were going to the cabin. And then because he doesn't come right out [and say it], because he plays this cat and mouse game to the point where when they're in the woods, she's kind of getting it — it's coming, I just don't know when it's coming. The true nature of Ava is she's still trying to figure a way out until they're around that campfire, and then she realizes, "I have to face my fate. I knew it would come to this, and this is going to be it." I don't think she's so much begging for her life as speaking up for herself, which is what I loved about that scene. She's defending her choice, and almost saying, in a way, "If you were put in this position, you might have done the same thing." And she's also very hurt and sorry she had to do it. There's so much going on around that scene at the campfire. (Laughs.) It was lovely to play, and exhausting.

It was stressful to watch; I can't imagine how exhausting it was to film.

It's such a turn there. Walton decided to base his journey on this season [on this idea]: this obsessive true love, that in some ways has blinded him along his journey. It's not so much that she did this — which is typical because of their nature and violent history and who they are — it's more, "Do you still love me? Are you in love with Raylan? Is that how you're doing me wrong?" Instead of, "You ratted me out to the cops?" (Laughs.) "I can forgive that, we can turn that around, we can use that, but right now, what's more important is this other thing."

Read more 'Justified' Postmortem: Walton Goggins on the Fallout From Boyd's "Devastating" Blow

Ava did tell a little white lie when Boyd confronted her: she was truthful about not sleeping with Raylan, but she omitted that they kissed. How will that factor into this uneasy truce?

I think it just shows you where this character is at the moment. She's desperate to find a direction that will give her the most opportunity to survive. And she has a past with both of these men. I feel like the kiss between Raylan and Ava takes it back to the first season when she sees him at her door, and it's like, "Oh my God, I'm OK. I know I just shot my husband, but Raylan's here to save me." (Laughs.) That's her naive side coming through — in her weak moment, she thinks Raylan can take care of all of this. When she's up in the woods, I think she's so spinning and such in shock when this is the reaction she gets from Boyd, that when he walks away, she can't believe it. It's like feeling for the bullet holes. So it'll all come into play — it'll come back.

Is there any part of her that's lighter after this now that Boyd knows? Or does having to be, essentially, a triple agent just make everything worse as the second half of the season kicks off?

There are moments in life you can only get through if you take them second by second. I feel like in some way, she's always rooting for her and Boyd to figure a way out … I think there is a big relief, [that she's no longer] holding something like that [in]. I think in the beginning when she knew he was going to say [that he knew], it was almost like an outlaw gunslinger in all these movies: they know at some point their end is going to be violent, it's just when is it going to come? And when they face it, they're not that surprised that it's there, that they have to face it. And it's a big relief that they're no longer chasing or running from the inevitable doom that could be their end. [There's] a lot of relief [temporarily] … because now she's a triple agent. And in some way, continuing to play both of these guys while searching for their way. It allows Ava to walk with Boyd in a little bit lighter atmosphere. She knows he doesn't trust her at all, but he's willing to keep her around, and she's not quite sure why. And she's now got to play Raylan in a way she hasn't played him — or is she going to? That's what we're going to find out: who is she going to give the right information to, or will she give it to both of them until she figures a way out? Everything's going to turn, it's going to get a lot more heightened.

Read more 'Justified's' Graham Yost Previews Final Season, Talks Pressure of Ending a Serialized Show

Well, there was that delicious promo at the beginning of the season of Raylan and Boyd facing off against one another in Ava's home, while Ava set the place on fire. What was your reaction when you filmed that promo?

I was like, "Am I going to burn down my house? What's going on here?" (Laughs.) A lot of time the trailers have a little bit to do with what's going on, but [other times] not at all. I think it was just setting up they're all in the fire here. And maybe that Ava's on the outside of these guys. It was fun. It shows that all three have a foot in the outside of this season; they all have a little bit of power in whatever way they are.

Was there any part of Ava that thought about killing Boyd when he shoved that gun at her?

I think in that moment, it wasn't about wanting him dead. It was about, "This is the position you put me in, this is the position I am in. I'm not a cold-blooded killer. I don't want to kill you. If that's the way you want it to end, then it's your decision." Up until that point, she really hadn't given Boyd up [to Raylan] in any way. She wasn't really giving Raylan a lot to help him. There is a loyalty to Boyd and that relationship, and she doesn't need to kill him at this point. It's almost like how these two fight in a way: they love hard, they fight hard, they live hard. It's almost like he was [saying,] "F— you, you do what you have to do, because I've always done what I have to do, and I'm standing here." It was just a moment where I think … she wasn't in the mind frame to think that was a way out.

The physicality of the confrontation was also really impressive. How much did you and Walton rehearse how you wanted that scene to play out?

When we get there and the director, John Dahl, has an area and a vision he sees, he says this is the way I see it, and whatever you guys want to do [do it]. And if you make a move into bad lighting, he'll help you out. But we mostly had free reign. And Walton wanted to shove the gun at me, and in the moment, when he shoved it at me, I felt like shoving it back at him. (Laughs.) So we did that. I'm never quite sure what Walton's going to do, which is beautiful … he gives me that room, too. It was improved in the beginning, but then you have to do it a hundred times.

When you're that in love with someone, it's just such a complicated, beautifully written [relationship] that gave these people a place to stand. She's not sure — I think when I walk away from that, I'm not sure why he let me live. I mean, I don't know if he thought I was a bigger asset alive, or he really thinks we can get out of this, if he's really that much in love with me. The wheels are spinning at that moment, but anything can happen: he could have known this whole time and he was denying the fact that he knew the whole time until he got the information from Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson).

She is his Achilles heel. There's not too many people who have gotten away with what Ava's gotten away with with Boyd and survived. She's a weakness for him.

Absolutely. How have you been holding up now that Justified has wrapped production?

It's been hard. The last week was really emotional. People started wrapping on different days. And [Justified creator] Graham [Yost] was there for the whole week, and he was also crying, and I was like, "Graham, you gotta walk away, buddy. I've got to make it through the end of this week!" (Laughs.) It was great. I've never seen a crew work so hard to [accommodate] so many scheduling conflicts. I honestly don't know how people were standing. The day after, I was kind of numb, I couldn't open my eyes because I had cried so hard.

Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX. What did you think of "The Hunt"?

Twitter: @MarisaRoffman