Jun 15, 201204:33 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Katee Sackhoff Comes Down To Earth In 'Longmire'
The first thing you have to know is, Longmire ain’t Katee Sackhoff’s first rodeo. When she signed on for the 2003 miniseries reboot of Battlestar Galactica, she knew she might upset diehard fans of the ‘70s TV series by playing a dashingly heroic character – a military officer known as Starbuck – originally played by a guy (specifically, Dirk Benedict). But by the time that miniseries spawned a critically acclaimed weekly drama on the Syfy cable network, she’d earned her stripes, and won over hearts and minds.
So she’s not terribly daunted by the possibility that she might upend expectations held by loyal readers of the Craig Johnson western-mystery novels that inspired Longmire. The 32-year-old Portland native knows that she may not be quite what those readers had in mind when they initially envisioned Victoria "Vic" Moretti, the former Philadelphia cop now gainfully employed as a deputy to small-town Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire (played in the series by Australian-born actor Robert Taylor). But she feels entirely comfortable in the role. More important, she thinks the series itself will be another success story to add to her resume.
We recent caught up with Sackhoff during location shooting near Santa Fe – a location doubling for the Wyoming setting of Johnson’s novels – and here are some highlights from our conversation.
Cowboys & Indians: Were you at all concerned about the preconceptions of the readers who had already formed their ideas about what Vic Moretti looked and sounded like?
Katee Sackhoff: Well, I learned my lesson with Battlestar. I don’t read message boards, I don’t go to the fan sites, I don’t listen to any negative pressure from the fans. Going in, I knew that I am obviously not Italian. But, then again, my best friend is 100 percent Sicilian, and both of her sisters are blond. I think it was more important to the producers and the writers that I sort of embodied the spirit of Vic, and they thought that was more important to them.
C&I: After moving from Philadelphia to Wyoming, Vic may feel a bit out of her element. Can you empathize with that?
KS: I do. It’s so funny – growing up in Oregon, with the topography there with the mountains and the snow and everything, it’s sort of the same. But then there’s breathing. The altitude here, I think, is still hurting me. This is higher than I would ever choose to live. I mean, c’mon, I’m a beach girl. I grew up on the water. And here, the most water I see on a regular basis is in my bathtub. It can get a bit depressing, to say the least. On the other hand, though, it is absolutely gorgeous here. It’s been three months, and it’s still a great experience. And I’m slowly getting used to the altitude. If it’s bothering me a little more today, maybe I had too much to drink last night.
C&I: That sounds pretty much like something Vic might do. She’s a pretty tough cookie, isn’t she?
KS: Yeah. I don’t know if she drinks or not, but she’s pretty tough.
C&I: Were you a fan of the Craig Johnson novels before your involvement with Longmire?
KS: Not really. Here’s the thing: After Battlestar ended, I decided I wasn’t doing television anymore. But then my agent called and said, “Look, it’s my job to tell you when you’re being stupid. You really need to read this script, it’s based on these books…” And I said, “OK, how about this? I’ll read the books, you stall ‘em for a couple weeks, and we’ll figure out where we land.” So I read the books, and then I read the script – and I just fell in love with the character.
C&I: What been the toughest thing about playing Vic Moretti?
KS: The accent. In the pilot, we didn’t have the chance to have much fun. I think you really play it safe in a pilot in order to get picked up, so you sort of do what you’re told. But after we got picked up, I really wanted to make her sound different. I mean, here is a character who’s completely a fish out of water, and I wanted that to be recognizable to the audience immediately when she opens her mouth. So that they’d think, “Wow, why is this person here?” The thing is, a Philadelphia accent is a really difficult thing to do. So I did a kind of New York/New Jersey accent thing. Basically, what I did was, I made it television friendly.
C&I: You and Robert Taylor seem to have a great chemistry together. How did you develop the relationship between your characters? Lots of rehearsal time?
KS: I think the biggest thing is, you play with what’s on the page. It’s really not as hard as it seems. You just trust the writers, and you go to work and you do your job.
C&I: Would you agree that Longmire could be categorized as a modern-day western?
KS: For sure. And I think one of the reasons for that is, I think Robert Taylor brings this kind of unspoken strength and grit to his character that you don’t see in television a lot. And oddly enough, he’s Australian, so it’s interesting to see him in the role. But I think it was one of the writers who said that they couldn’t find an American actor who had these kinds of qualities. I don’t know about that, but he’s absolutely brilliant. Nobody else could play the role.