The old-fashioned, family-friendly western premieres Sunday on INSP.
A widowed mother struggling to forestall foreclosure on her horse ranch in 1927 Kentucky rents a room to an affable drifter. The woman’s young son, a devotee of dime novels about Wild West legends, spends a great deal of time conversing with the gray-bearded boarder about an infamous gunslinger named Shooter Green. It turns out that the drifter is quite familiar with the exploits of Green, who reportedly stole a fortune in gold during a stagecoach robbery decades earlier. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous lawman also knows a lot about that long-ago robbery — and he’ll stop at nothing, maybe not even murder, to get his hands on the still-missing gold.
And that, as they say, is the pitch for The Legend of 5 Mile Cave, an old-fashioned, family-friendly western drama slated to premiere at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT Sunday, June 9, on the INSP digital cable and satellite television channel. (That’s right: The same channel where you can catch reruns of classic TV westerns such as Gunsmoke, The Virginian and Wanted Dead or Alive, and the original INSP series The Cowboy Way.) Adam Baldwin stars as Sam Barnes, the drifter who winds up in the wrong place at the right time, alongside Jill Wagner as Susan Tilwicky, the widowed rancher; Jet Jurgensmeyer as Tommy, her precocious son; Jeremy Sumpter as the legendary Shooter Green; and William Shockley as the lawman who doesn’t mind breaking a law or two.
Strictly speaking, The Legend of 5 Mile Cave isn’t Baldwin’s first rodeo. Although he’s best known for contemporary dramas, wars stories and sci-fi spectacles such as My Bodyguard (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Cohen and Tate (1988), and Independence Day (1996), he earned his spurs as outlaw Frank McLaury in Wyatt Earp (1994), and appeared earlier this year in Vincent D’Onofrio’s The Kid. On a not-entirely-unrelated note: He also loomed large in Firefly, the cult-favorite 2002-03 sci-fi adventure TV series that was often described as a “space western,” and spawned the 2005 feature film Serenity.
According to Baldwin, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), creator of Firefly and writer-director of Serenity, “often spoke to us about how some of his inspirations for the show were from great westerns like Stagecoach. And it often came down to a basic situation: ‘I do a job, I get paid. You don’t pay me, you cross me — I’m coming for you.’ It was pretty simple in those terms, like a classic western.”
Baldwin had more to say about westerns in general and The Legend of 5 Mile Cave in particular during a recent telephone interview.
Cowboys & Indians: After The Kid and The Legend of 5 Mile Cave, can we say 2019 is the year Adam Baldwin got back in the saddle again?
Adam Baldwin: Well, I love westerns, I grew up with westerns. My dad, he used to like to take me to what he called shoot-‘em-ups. So it’s deep in my soul, the entertainment value of the lone rider, the anti-hero, the misunderstood individualist riding around in the West, trying to make his fortune, or make his family life. So I’ve been blessed every time I get asked to work in a western. I appreciate it.
C&I: You could say you’re playing a classic western archetype — the man with a past who’s seeking a shot at redemption — in The Legend of 5 Mile Cave.
Baldwin: Well, hopefully, we don’t want to give anything away. But yeah, he feels he’s been wrongly accused, and he has to find a way to redeem himself and correct the wrongs in his life. He’s seeking redemption, that’s true. But he knows he’s an innocent man.
C&I: This movie wouldn’t work nearly so well — maybe not work at all — if we didn’t believe the relationship between your character, Sam Barnes, and young Tommy, the boy who idolizes Shooter Green. You and Jet Jurgensmeyer developed an effective chemistry to make that part of the story really compelling.
Baldwin: Well, thank you for saying that. For me, that’s really one of the most endearing parts of working on this show, working with Jet Jurgensmeyer. His intelligence and talent and enthusiasm were infectious for all of us. He came prepared, he’s a smart kid. He was game for anything, and he was adaptable. Obviously, his parents were there. But it seemed like working amongst adults was not a problem for him. I started out when I was 17. Jet is a few years younger than that, so I appreciate how difficult it can be, being a young person amongst the adults. I have a son, he’s 22, and I have daughters, who’re 27 and 29. So I’ve raised kids myself, and I know what it’s like to try to relate to youngsters. And he’s just a cool kid. He made it easy for me.
C&I: You haven’t had much opportunity to ride horses in most of your previous films. Did you need a refresher course in horsemanship before this project?
Baldwin: [Laughs] My mom had horses when I was young, so I’m not afraid of horses. I can ride. But I admit, I’m by no means an expert. If you could’ve seen some of the things in the script they had my character doing — wow. I was like, “Well, get a good stunt guy.” I mean, it was basically barrel-roping, and that sort of thing, and I knew I wasn’t able to do that. Like I say, I can ride a horse. I just don't ride super-fast.
C&I: What was the most challenging thing about playing Sam Barnes?
Baldwin: Good question. I think the most challenging part was conveying a sense of patience and pathos, and covering up his sadness for the time he’s lost, without making it too schmaltzy, without making it overly sentimental. He’s a straightforward guy. And he’s a man of integrity.
C&I: Was there a specific scene that proved to be more difficult to shoot than others?
Baldwin: Well, again, I don’t want to give too much away. But there’s the scene where the bad guy comes and confronts me and tries to take me away. There were a lot of logistics that we had to work out blocking-wise, and a lot of coverage. And I knew we would be pushed for time to serve each character in a sense, from confrontation to escape scene to the gun work. So I was worried about that scene. And yet, because the crew was so efficient, they worked together so well that we are able to pull it off. Everyone was ecstatic at the end of the day. The rest of it was really fun storytelling for me — hanging out with the kid, teaching him how to shoot a Winchester rifle, whittling on a porch, that kind of stuff. Telling a story — that's just great fun for me.
Here’s a trailer for, and a behind-the-scenes look at, The Legend of 5 Mile Cave.