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Versatile Nick Searcy shines in FX’s ‘Justified’
When he first read a script of “Justified,” based on the Elmore Leonard novella “Fire in the Hole,” Nick Searcy knew the part of Mullen would be a perfect fit for him. The show’s fourth season ends April 2.
Los Angeles Times
10 p.m. Tuesdays, FX
Tonight in Prime Time
LOS ANGELES — Over the years, Nick Searcy has played everything from a German shepherd in an off-Broadway musical rip-off of “Cats” called “Dogs” to astronaut Deke Slayton in the Emmy Award-winning 1998 HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” to a drag queen in the 2007 sports comedy “The Comebacks.”
It’s all in a day’s work for a character actor such as Searcy, who can change personas in a flash but always brings a down-home authenticity to all his roles.
For the last four seasons, he’s shone as the wryly acerbic Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen, the boss of maverick Kentucky deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), in FX’s award-winning detective series “Justified.” (The fourth season ends April 2.)
Searcy, 54, also has been moonlighting as the star of his own Web series, “Acting School,” in which he plays a bombastic version of himself. In the comedy series, Searcy describes himself as “the Peabody Award-winning international movie and television star.”
“I’m Nick Searcy,” he tells viewers. “But you knew that.”
Spend time with the actor and you’ll quickly see the parallels between Searcy and Mullen. “It’s my philosophy, when you are doing a TV series, I think it’s better off the closer you can make the character to yourself,” said Searcy.
When he first read a script of “Justified,” based on the Elmore Leonard novella “Fire in the Hole,” Searcy knew Mullen would be a perfect fit. “He has the same kind of country sense of humor, a certain sarcasm,” explained Searcy, who hails from Cullowhee, N.C.
Searcy knew “Justified” executive producer/writer Graham Yost from “From the Earth to the Moon.” Said Yost by email, “From the moment I read Elmore Leonard’s novella, I knew I wanted Nick to play Art Mullen.”
“We have used things from Nick’s life in the show,” noted Yost. “ ... He doesn’t like to run. So in the second season we made Art run! For the next two years, we’ve had to endure Nick complaining about it.”
That Searcy can do both comedy and drama has been a huge advantage for the writers. “Art has a great deal of funny banter with Raylan, and then, in the next encounter, he can just unload on him,” Yost said. “Nick grounds every scene he’s in.”
He got small parts in Tony Scott’s 1990 “Days of Thunder” and Barbra Streisand’s 1991 drama “Prince of Tides” and hit pay dirt as the villainous Frank Bennett in 1991’s “Fried Green Tomatoes.”
“Fried Green Tomatoes” was the encouragement Searcy needed to bring the family out to Los Angeles, and he’s been working steadily ever since in countless movies and TV series, including such films as 1993’s “The Fugitive,” 2000’s “Cast Away,” 2003’s “Runaway Jury” and “Head of State,” 2009’s “The Ugly Truth” and the 2011 Academy Award best picture nominee “Moneyball.”