On The Set Of 'Longmire'
A look behind the scenes of last year's first-season episode '8 Seconds.'
“We are in need of hundreds of extras, all ages and ethnicities. If you are interested in being an extra on Longmire with Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff, A Martinez, and Robert Taylor on the A&E television series Longmire, please send a recent photograph and telephone number. ... These are paid positions starting at $10.50 per hr. Guaranteed eight, time and a half after eight hours.”
That’s the casting call Robert Baxter, Longmire’s extras casting director, put online in early May of 2012. He could have been casting extras for the scene being shot in front of us.
Close to 100 cast and crew members are on location on the dusty grounds of a local equine veterinarian’s office on the southern outskirts of Santa Fe waiting for Robert Taylor. Suddenly the actor who plays title character Walt Longmire enters from stage left. Driving his white sheriff’s vehicle into the scene, he steps out of the SUV quite looking the part — a handsome and rugged contemporary cowboy, dressed in well-worn boots. Three cameras and bevy of other equipment are on the spot for the shot.
In today’s segment of filming, Longmire is investigating a murder during the week the rodeo comes to the fictional Absaroka County. With Santa Fe standing in for Big Sky country, a full-out rodeo is being staged with more than 40 horses and riders, and plenty of area residents as extras to play spectators. When it’s edited, the scene will comprise about five minutes of the hourlong episode. But it will take half the day to get it on film.
“The storyline we’re following today is in Episode 7 [of the first season],” explains Chris Donohue, one of the series’ producers. “An out-of-town bronc rider who comes to town with the rodeo is accused of ‘hot-shotting’ his saddle to give the horse he’s riding an electric charge to make him buck harder. Someone has taken video of the rider with the electrodes still attached to his saddle and it’s been given to the local vet to evaluate.”
Longmire is the latest in a growing list of westerns and other major shows filmed in the Santa Fe area — 3:10 to Yuma, Cowboys and Aliens, The Lone Ranger, and Breaking Bad among them. A local cowboy extra named Doc jokingly calls the region “Tamalewood.” The name could stick: With major production facilities in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe and the state’s photogenic and varied scenery, the area has become something of a Southwestern Hollywood.
Taylor is especially happy to be on location in Santa Fe as lawman Longmire. Best known in the States as Agent Jones in The Matrix, the Aussie actor has been traveling to Santa Fe for more than 25 years. He fell in love with the area’s night sky and beautiful open high-desert expanses. “So when this opportunity arose, I felt I really got lucky.”
The Longmire character is as exciting a prospect for Taylor as filming in one of his favorite places. Destroyed by the loss of his wife, Longmire is in deep need of psychic repair, doesn’t know where’s he’s going, and is hanging on by the proverbial thread. With the help of Vic (Katee Sackhoff) and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), the sheriff finds redemption in his work and is on the road to rebuilding his life.
Today Taylor is shooting the sheriff’s scenes with the vet and his family. “I go to him to get some information about the murder and ultimately discover that he’s involved,” Taylor says during a break. “Next we’re going to the exterior of the Red Pony, Henry Standing Bear’s bar. I’ve had a few too many Ranier beers and am three sheets to the wind, so I call my new deputy, Victoria ‘Vic’ Moretti, to come and pick me up.”
Sackhoff, the lovely, slender blonde previously known for her role as hotshot pilot Starbuck in the smart sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica, explains that the late-night call from a drunken Longmire doesn’t go over well with her onscreen husband, who feels she’s spending way too much time working for the sheriff. “This is a very interesting scene,” Sackhoff says. “We find Vic in a vulnerable way when she leaves her husband and house late at night thinking she’s going to Walt’s aid. All he needs is a ride home. But in reality he’s drunk and wants my company.”
It’s a scene — and a character — Starbuck herself might have appreciated. “Believe it or not,” Sackhoff says, “I’m caught between two men and a drunk rodeo clown who I pick up as well and throw into the back of Walt’s truck. Vic has a can-do attitude and no qualms about saying what she feels, regardless of the consequences.”
As the scene wraps and equipment trucks, dressing rooms, horse-filled trailers, actors, and extras move on down the road for a scene at the neon-lit Red Pony bar, one can’t help but hope Longmire will last several seasons.
Cowboys & Indians celebrates the second season of Longmire on the cover of its August/September "TV's Best Lawmen" issue. Cast member Bailey Chase is also featured in the issue. Get it on newsstands in late July 2013 or for your tablet instantly.