Who Plays Willa in Justified City Primeval? Why Was Willa Givens Recast?

‘Justified: City Primeval’ takes place about seven to eight years after the events of the finale of the FX series ‘Justified,’ which originally aired between 2010 and 2015. The sequel miniseries begins with Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) driving his teenage daughter, Willa, to a camp for struggling girls. After two criminals try to steal their car, Raylan arrests them and travels to Detroit, Michigan, to hand them over to the local authorities and get entangled in the investigation of the murders of a judge and his companion. The original series establishes that Raylan has a daughter, but not much is offered beyond that. However, this is rectified in the sequel series, where the relationship between Raylan and Willa is explored more thoroughly. If you are wondering who portrays her in ‘Justified: City Primeval,’ we got you covered.

Vivian Olyphant Plays Willa in Justified: City Primeval

Willa is portrayed by Olyphant’s real-life daughter, Vivian Olyphant. She is one of three children of Olyphant and his wife, Alexis. Olyphant and Alexis Knief are college sweethearts. Besides Vivian, they are parents to daughter Grace and son Henry.

‘Justified: City Primeval’ marks Vivian’s debut as an actress. In an interview with NPR, Olyphant explained how his real-life daughter ended up playing the reel-life one. “It really was the best thing about the gig for me, personally, was working with my daughter,” the actor explained. “It was just a joy. I didn’t see it coming, us working together, and this is how it went. I knew acting was in the picture. She had always wanted to act, you know. When she was – when our kids were little – she’s the youngest of three – and we used to take family videos. She was the only one who asked to see playback. So we kind of saw this coming.”

Olyphant continued, “And she was in college. She’s a singer-songwriter. She was at the Berklee College of Music, and we were shooting this over the summer. We were talking about what her plans were going to be for the summer. And my wife said, isn’t there a part in your show for your daughter? And I said, isn’t she supposed to be, you know, around Vivian’s age? I said, what do you think? She said, you know, bring it up to her. And if she wants to audition, give her – let her have a swing at it. So rest is history. She did great.”

Why Was Willa Givens Recast?

Willa is portrayed by unknown actors in the season 5 premiere and season 6 episode 7. In the series finale, child actress Eden Henderson plays Willa. Given that she is 15 in the sequel series, we safely presume she is seven or eight at the end of the original show.

Henderson hasn’t appeared in any other project besides ‘Justified.’ Her Instagram page describes her as a model. In the aforementioned interview, Olyphant admitted that it was a “wild experience” working with his daughter. While it was a lovely and exciting atmosphere on the set because Vivian was always full of energy, she was the only person among the actors who directly contradicted her father, who served as the executive producer on the series and sometimes gave other actors notes on their performances. “There is one actor on the set who will actually say to my face, she doesn’t want to hear it,” Olyphant recalled. “It makes me think maybe the other actors want to say that. You know, your kid will tell you what other people won’t, you know?”

In an interview with Nylon, Vivian spoke about her first experience as an actress. “It all started with memorizing my lines. Since this was my first ever on screen role I was mostly focused on learning my lines in the beginning,” she said. “Once I got settled I had the opportunity to work and learn from the whole cast. Sometimes I would go to set just to watch. I learned so much just from observing. It was the best masterclass an actor could ask for.”

In July 2023, Vivian released her first track, “Lil More Reason.” In the same interview, the young actor-singer-songwriter revealed that she had been writing songs since she was a child to “spice up” her piano lessons. “My process at eight years old was to turn my poems into music. I’ve always loved storytelling,” she added.

Read More: What Kind of Hat Does Raylan Givens Wear in Justified: City Primeval?