August/September Cover Preview: TV's Top Lawmen
Walt Longmire leads the charge on the cover of Cowboys & Indians' new issue.
Photography: James Minchin
Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, along with his oft-at-odds deputies Branch Connally and Victoria “Vic” Moretti, is back for a second season of the hit A&E series Longmire. The trio of Absaroka County officers follows a long tradition of TV lawmen, each with their own approach to securing the wild streets of Western towns. Pick up the August/September 2013 issue of Cowboys & Indians on newsstands or download it to your tablet to read about the best from TV seasons past and present, as well as a few that should never be allowed to wear a badge again.
The first thing you notice when chatting with actor Robert Taylor, the grizzled star of Longmire: He certainly isn’t full of himself. Tell him you enjoyed watching his series’ first season, and he’s likely to reply: “Oh, thanks. I knew someone was watching. You must be the fellow.”
And if you try to convince him that, no, really, lots of folks — including scads of Cowboys & Indians readers — viewed the episodes that aired last year, he’ll simply shrug and respond: “Ah, must’ve been nothing else on, I suppose.”
All of which sounds in keeping with Longmire executive producer Hunt Baldwin’s admiring description of the Australian-born actor. Robert Taylor — no relation, by the way, to the old Hollywood screen idol of the same name — is “like someone in the Gary Cooper mold,” Baldwin marvels. “He is deeply humble and respectful of other people — but at the same time, he has so much power and confidence. That’s an unusual mix.”
Based on the popular series of western-detective novels by Craig Johnson, Longmire focuses on the professional and personal crises stoically endured by Walt Longmire, longtime sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming. While searching for an actor capable of filling the demands of the lead role — and the expectations of several thousand loyal readers — Baldwin tested dozens of actors. But he didn’t feel he’d found what he was looking for until he viewed an audition video Taylor had made on his own in his native Australia.
“It wasn’t unusual for me to do something like that, because I’m in the middle of nowhere,” Taylor says. “I just went over to a buddy’s place and put down a couple of scenes.”
The actor was more than a little surprised when, scarcely a month later, he was summoned to Los Angeles for a meeting with Baldwin. “As soon as Robert walked through the door,” Baldwin says, “we could see that he’d really, really embody [Walt Longmire]. Some of it, I admit, is really superficial. I mean, finally, here was a guy who walked into the room who was just a big bear of a man, with this deep subwoofer of a voice. His physical presence alone told us, ‘OK, this guy’s in the ballpark.’
“But once he began to read the scenes, he caught on to the character’s soulfulness and quiet humor. One of the key things we found so hard to find for someone playing Walt was humility. And Robert is not a guy who comes in with a lot of swagger.”
For his part, Taylor says he could immediately relate to the character. “I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to say I’m like Walt,” he says. “So it’s not the qualities that we have in common so much as the qualities in him that I admire. And his faults, I think, are just human faults.”
Truth to tell, Walt lets his temper get the better of him on a few occasions. And he’s not exactly the sharing type when it comes to inner turmoil. Then again, the audience was more than willing to cut the guy some slack throughout season one. After all, right from the get-go, Walt had to deal with emotional scars left by his beloved wife’s death as well as the often humiliating reality of campaigning for reelection against a younger opponent (one of his own deputies, no less).
“I like the fact that even though all this stuff has happened to him, he just refused to unburden himself on anyone else,” Taylor says. “He just sucked it up and carried on.”
Katee Sackhoff, who appears opposite Taylor’s character as Deputy Vic Moretti, is also a fan of the taciturn character — and the actor who brings him to life.
“I think one of the main reasons why people view Longmire as a modern-day western is that Robert Taylor brings this kind of unspoken strength and grit to the show that you don’t see on television a lot. And it’s sort of funny because well, he’s an Australian playing this sort of western hero,” Sackhoff says. “But he is absolutely brilliant. And there is nobody else who could play the role.”
– Joe Leydon