Actor Robert Taylor on the set of Longmire

People We Love

Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff

by Anne Maclachlan 

April/May 2017

Robert Taylor: Mega-Star

The inlaid bear-paw buckle that Robert Taylor wears during each episode of Longmire is one he bought in 1990, during his first visit to the Land of Enchantment; that’s when, he says, “I fell in love with the place.” That buckle is now inextricably linked to the popular Netflix show, which is filmed in and around Santa Fe, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and Las Vegas, New Mexico. “I wear it everywhere,” says Taylor wryly, “except when I’m on the beach; then it would be ridiculous.”

Taylor recently completed filming the role of scientist Dr. Heller in the undersea adventure Meg (due out in 2018), which involves a bathyscaphe, a megalodon, and a great deal of entertaining mega-shark havoc. With all the projects he’s working on these days, he figures he was home in Melbourne, Australia, for a total of six weeks in 2016. Since his family often travels with him, it’s the horticultural aspect of life that he really misses. “I like gardening, you know? I just wanted to take care of my garden,” Taylor says with a chuckle, “and I’m hardly here…. I did two movies at the start of the year, and then I went to do Longmire, then New Zealand—it’s a first-world problem, right?” he adds.

In spite of these long absences from home, he says, every year he can’t wait to get on the plane for Santa Fe, which feels like a second home after filming for so many seasons here. “My [6-year-old] daughter has spent every birthday in Santa Fe,” says Taylor. “It’s kind of a tradition…. She loves it. And we love being there.” He says his daughter and his wife were both looking forward to returning for the show’s final run.

Santa Fe boasts not only a breathtaking, rugged, wide-open landscape, but also a network of talented, hard-working artists who have helped us tell our story about the modem American West. The city has become a second home for us, and our crew has become a second family” 
                                                          – Longmire executive producers 

“We get the same rental every year, and they have a six-pack of beer waiting in the fridge for me,” he says warmly, and explains his yearly travel routine. The connection is always so tight, he laughs, that he’s actually on first-name terms with the guy who brings his inevitably delayed luggage from the airport to his place in Santa Fe. Taylor immediately lists the spots he’s happy to reacquaint himself with—Harry’s Roadhouse, Maria’s, Joseph’s, Ten Thousand Waves, and Geronimo spring to mind right away—along with the Rodeo de Santa Fe. His Ford Bronco also faithfully awaits his return each year.

Santa Fe does a pretty neat job of standing in for Wyoming—and at times can even seem a bit like Australia (“There’s different critters, of course,” Taylor laughs, “and the trees are a little different.”) He seems to enjoy everything about filming in the Santa Fe area and on location in Las Vegas, from driving to mountainous shoots in the mornings to “working with buffalo, and bears, and sweat lodges.” On a more lyrical note, “[Santa Fe] is a soulful, spiritual place,” Taylor observes. “It resonates—it has grain and texture; there’s something musical about it.”

Actor Robert Taylor reading a book
Robert Taylor, star of the Netflix series, Longmire

Taylor shares this poetic side with his Sheriff Walt Longmire character, though where Taylor is naturally buoyant and friendly, the onscreen sheriff’s persona is much more laconic and wary. Taylor is known for his dry wit, and takes delight in gently teasing the interviewer about an extended stay in a town in inland New South Wales.

Before we enter new conversational territory, Taylor speaks up and requests a special shout-out to his co-star Katee Sackhoff. “I love working with her,” he says. “There’s an electricity there; it’s immediate, honest.”

This across-the-board support seems to be the hallmark of the relationships among the Longmire cast and crew. “They’re good people,” Taylor says with a warm laugh, “fun to hang with.” The show’s cast is known for showing up spontaneously at different Santa Fe venues, to the delight of its followers. Taylor’s feelings extend heartily to the series’ fans, whom the cast meets at the annual Longmire Days in Wyoming for a family-style weekend of baseball, trivia, and autograph signings.

“The fans are amazing,” he says, with a hint of genuine awe. Like many connected with the show, Taylor is impressed with the fan pressure to resurrect the show from cancellation a few years ago. The responsible group, known as the Longmire Posse, is spearheaded by Pamela Nordick (aunt of cast member Adam Bartley, who plays Deputy Ferguson). Its numbers and sheer persistence convinced Netflix and Warner Horizons to pick up the show for a final three seasons. This one, season six, is the Longmire finale, but for Taylor, it’s not the end of his relationship with the City Different. 

“Santa Fe’s going to stay with me forever,” says Taylor. “I’ll always have Santa Fe with me, and I’m going to keep going back. We’ll never be done with it.” Of filming Longmire, he pauses thoughtfully and says, “It’s one of those shows you do once in your life … if I had to pick one, at the end of it all, I’d say, yeah, Longmire. That was the one.”

Katee Sackhoff: Gritty Woman

Katee Sackhoff’s onscreen career is full of tough-as-nails women, like Battlestar Galactica’s (2004—2009) Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on the Netflix series Longmire (based on the Craig Johnson novels), currently filming its sixth and final season in and around Santa Fe. Sackhoff arrived in the City Different in March, fresh off the set of her latest movie, Origin Unknown, in London. “It’s my first real step back into sci-fi since Battlestar Galactica,” she explains. “I’ve been really picky when it comes to that genre, and I’m just really excited about this.” The film is set in the near future on Earth, where Sackhoff’s character plays a scientist working with an artificial intelligence life form to control the Mars Rover. More than that she can’t divulge, but she enjoyed the challenge of learning all the related technical jargon, and feels that “this will be a good one.”

Has playing strong women been a career choice? “I would love to say yes,” Sackhoff laughs. “I’d love to think I have that much control over my career.” She started playing “angsty teens” at the age of 16, so she feels that the independence-seeking traits in those young characters carried her into the kinds of roles she plays as an adult. Her parents also encouraged independence in their daughter—another likely influence. Sackhoff, reflecting on the love of old movies shared with her father, says that these days, “I pick projects that my dad would like to watch, because he introduced me to film.”

Actor Katee Sackhoff on the set of Longmire
Katee Sackhoff, star of the Netflix series Longmire

Sackhoff also points out that there is much more to strong women in film than just the action roles the term conjures. While physical fighting parts were once rare, that is no longer true. “But I think that strong women have always existed,” she says. “I don’t know; maybe it’s because it’s always been there for me, I didn’t notice? I’m drawn to movies with strong women in them, and television shows—and I always seem to be able to find them.”

While Sackhoff enjoys playing up her “girlie-girl side” and hopes to play a period piece someday, a gun belt, not a corset, is Deputy Vic Moretti’s accessory of choice. Vic is a tough cop from Philadelphia with zero filters; in the Johnson books, her indelicate vocabulary is legendary. For TV audiences, this has been toned down considerably. “I have fought like nobody’s business to keep her language as strong as possible,” Sackhoff declares, and relates some hilarious anecdotes we wish we could print here. Suffice it to say that Vic the Terror would approve.

Sackhoff can see why the seemingly mismatched characters, Longmire and Moretti, connect both in the novels and onscreen. “When you’re reading the books, there’s such a huge difference [between] them. You can see them getting drawn toward each other, for sure.”

The tenuous relationship between the two has been a major focus of attention for the show’s fans, who successfully mounted a campaign to save the series when it was originally cancelled by A&E. This was not lost on the cast, and when Netflix picked it up,

Longmire generated a particularly strong feeling of family between fans and actors. They engage regularly and personally on social media, and real-life interactions are common. “The fans have that pride in standing by the show,” Sackhoff says, “so you can’t help but feel drawn to them, and to show your appreciation for them.”

Reflecting on how she’ll miss the show and Santa Fe, Sackhoff says she’s found Santa Fe to be a second home, adding enthusiastically that she’ll need to start doing Westerns just so she can return. “I’m a creature of habit,” says Sackhoff, listing the places she loves to frequent here—the Marty Sanchez driving range, the nearby dog park, and Ten Thousand Waves—adding that she’s dying to visit Ojo Caliente. At Geronimo, a favorite haunt, “I’m obsessed with the lobster pasta there. And they have a wasabi Caesar salad that’s like, stupid good. It might be the best Caesar salad I’ve had in my entire life.”

As to wrapping up her time here, Sackhoff says, “We love Santa Fe, and we’re all going to be really disappointed to leave. We are going out on a high note, though, that I do know! This is going to be a very interesting year for Vic,” she promises. “And I’m overjoyed. Just overjoyed.”

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