Robert Taylor's more than halfway through filming the third season of the A&E series "Longmire." While the role of Wyoming lawman Walt Longmire was one Taylor knew, from the moment that he read the script, he had to play, he's never allowed himself to be content with the way he's playing the role.
"I was comfortable with the character from the get-go, but I have never allowed myself to relax. You have to do every moment like it's the first time you've ever done it," Taylor says. "Some of the physicality of the character is like putting on an old coat — the way he walks, the way he stands. What I have to concentrate on all of the emotional stuff and the emotional journey of the character."
The reason this series has tested his acting skills — where others haven't — are the complicated story lines. And, it only gets more complicated in season three.
In tonight's opener, Longmire deals with a series of major traumas: his best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), is headed to prison on murder charges; Deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) has been shot; and Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) is dealing with a menace from her past. It all unfolds on top of all the other mysteries that exist in the small, isolated community.
The series — based on the Walt Longmire Mystery novels by Craig Johnson — is so rich in story and characters, Taylor has to keep a record of what's going on with his and all of the other roles. The process is complicated by the show being shot out of chronological order. Taylor had just worked on a scene where if he hadn't checked his notes, he would have played the moment wrong.
Just because the series is based on a series of books doesn't help. Taylor read the first two books when he started the series and realized there were enough differences that he shouldn't continue to read the novels. When the series ends, Taylor plans to read all of the books in the series.
The Aussie's first role was in 1989 in the Australian television soap "Home and Away." Since then, he's worked in numerous TV and film projects such as "The Feds," "Vertical Limit," "The Matrix" and "Storm Warning."
He's not proud of some of his other work. But "Longmire" is special.
"I have been waiting for a long time for a show like this. You always work hard to get a part that you want. But, after being an actor for 30 years, I learned you can't show them you are that interested," Taylor says. "You have to make them believe you don't give a (expletive deleted) but care enough to get the job."
That approach has translated into the way he plays the role. Longmire comes across as restrained with a lot going on under the surface. He's the latest in the dark and brooding heroes who have become so popular on cable. In its second season, "Longmire" averaged 3.7 million total viewers, with the season finale delivering a season high of 4.4 million total viewers. The show continues as A&E's No. 1 original drama series of all time in total viewers.
Taylor's not sure how long this trend will last, but he's enjoying being part of it because of the smart writing and strong cast.
"I don't think there's a weak link in the cast. It's always a joy to get to see what the other actors are going to do," Taylor says. "For all of us, it's not about trying to act but to be in the moment and to respond to what's going on."
If you want to see what went on in the first two seasons, all 23 episodes are available in a DVD set.