Aunjanue Ellis talks ‘Justified: City Primeval,’ says her lawyer character is a “fighter for the city”

Kurt Iswarienko/FX

For her next role, Aunjanue [Aan juh noo] Ellis takes on the high-powered defense attorney that is Carolyn Wilder in FX’s Justified: City Primeval

Ahead of the revival series’ premiere Tuesday night, the Oscar-nominated actress dished about the most enjoyable part of playing Carolyn, telling ABC Audio it’s her character’s love for her hometown, Detroit.

“I feel what she does, essentially, when she’s having these clashes with Raylan is that it’s Detroit versus Raylan,” she said, speaking of her character’s relationship with the show’s hero, Raylan Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant. “It’s not just her and I love that.”

Ellis said Carolyn’s dedication to serving her city “separates her, makes her not just an individual.”

“It makes her a fighter for a city,” she added.

But it isn’t only Carolyn’s love for Detroit that draws Ellis into the role. The 54-year-old actress leaned into her own appreciation for and connection to Motown while filming. 

“Detroit is special, particularly for me because so many of my favorite makers of music are from Detroit,” she said. “And also, it’s a great migration city, so a lot of cousins and folks I know from Mississippi left the South to escape terrorism and also find economic opportunity.”

While Justified may be a bit different than the Black-focused projects Ellis likes to take on, she’s determined to bring the culture to the forefront by way of her portrayal of Carolyn and by highlighting all the “richness” Detroit has to offer.

Justified: City Primeval premieres Tuesday, July 18, at 10 p.m. ET on FX and is available for streaming on Hulu the next day.

*This interview took place prior to the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

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