A&E’s Longmire Has an Old Fashioned Sheriff in Modern Big Sky Country
There’s a new type of western on the airwaves called Longmire. Although it is set in today’s world, it harkens back to a time when a lawman had “decency, honesty and was willing to carry his load and help other people carry theirs. That’s what I really like about this guy,” says Australian actor Robert Taylor, who literally inhabits the role of Sheriff Walt Longmire.
The new A&E TV series is a contemporary crime thriller set in Big Sky Country. It’s based on the popular Walt Longmire mystery series written by Craig Johnson. And the tremendously talentedTaylorplays the dedicated sheriff ofAbsaroka County,Wyoming.
Also in the cast are Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, and Katee Sackhoff, bringing a very modern sensibility and wit to the show.
Before taking on his sheriff role, Taylorplayed a compassionate Aussie priest on the delightful Irish series Ballykissangel in 2001, which aired on BBC America. And he played Agent Jones in The Matrix.
Of the dozen or so major productions he has on his credits, Longmire is closest to his heart becauseTaylor says he grew up watching American cowboy movies. “I think everybody grew up watching them. I’m from a rural part ofAustralia originally, and people from big, open spaces might have a different accent, but they have similar attitudes about they way they treat each other, the way they live their lives. It’s not that far away from the idea of the American cowboy. The similarities of our spirits are far more striking than the differences.” And nowTaylor feels like he’s sprung from the soil ofWyoming, although the series shoots inNew Mexico.
Tayloris happy that Longmire was compared to the classic Gunsmoke series, but says, “I just see Walt as Walt. He may have Marshall Dillon’s qualities, that kind of western stoicism, decency, and honesty, but he’s his own man. And I think that was a pretty common thing through all those old western shows.”
They were men of few words back in those days, and in the show’s episodes the Longmire character says more with a look than with pages of dialogue, and that’s fine withTaylor. “That’s good writing. It’s brave writing to do less, which is a rare thing. And I love that about the show,” he says.
More talkative is Katee Sackhoff, co-starring as his deputy from the big city, Victoria “Vic” Moretti. Best known for her role on Battlestar Galactica, Sackhoff says, “It’s interesting about the two jobs. What drew me to Battlestar was the people being confined in a small space. What drew me to Longmire is people being confined in a huge space, but having a small-town mentality where everyone knows each other. So it’s very similar to that. And I love being outside, and it’s nice not to be in a flight suit. She’s strong, but I think for the first time I actually get to laugh, and I think I might have even giggled. So I think she’s the closest to myself I’ve ever played, and that excited me too.”
Producer Greer Shephard, the creative force behind both The Closer and Nip/Tuck, says, “There’s something very reassuring about the nobility of the lawman archetype, and we felt that the American public needed that in these really difficult times. As true as all of his predecessors in that genre, Walt Longmire has unimpeachable moral steadfastness. That integrity and honesty are the tent poles of the classic American cowboy.”
Shephard saw Longmire as a modern western that would “provide an antidote to the flood of antiheroes that have been saturating the marketplace for the past decade. When we were developing it, we wanted to return a populist, classic, romantic American hero in the vein of Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne.” And now the Aussie actor with the old movie star name, Robert Taylor should be counted among the western heroes.