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Last ride for ‘Longmire’; final season starts streaming Friday

Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire in a scene from “Longmire.” The NM-filmed series begins airing its final season on Netflix on Friday. (Courtesy of John Golden Britt/Netflix)

Walt Longmire and his crew are about to take their last ride.

The New Mexico-based series’ 10-episode final season will begin streaming Friday on Netflix.

And what a journey it’s been.bright spot

“Longmire” began filming in New Mexico in 2012.

When it premiered, the series — then airing on A&E — was renewed for a second season by its second episode.

The series posted strong ratings before A&E decided to cancel it after its third season. The network didn’t know what to do with the show because the demographics “skewed to an older audience.”

Cassidy Freeman, left, and A Martinez in a scene from “Longmire.” (Courtesy of Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

Fans launched an online campaign to save it and eventually the streaming service Netflix picked it up, where it found a home and a wider audience.

“A&E did us a favor (in) that they named us a certain thing and the show proved to be more than that,” said Cassidy Freeman, who plays Cady Longmire, on the move to Netflix. “The answer was to change our location and Netflix was a place that didn’t need advertisement money. It was a bold and smart move. The viewership just exploded when we moved to Netflix.”

“Longmire” is a contemporary crime thriller set in Wyoming. It is based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson.

The story follows Walt Longmire, played by Robert Taylor, the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, Wyo. Freeman plays Cady Longmire, Walt Longmire’s daughter.

The series stars Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Adam Bartley and A. Martinez.

Series producer Greer Shephard said the past six years on “Longmire” were a life-altering labor of love that pushed the team all to the limit creatively, physically and emotionally.

“‘Longmire’ became a way of life and a way of being — an experience defined by compassion, collaboration and camaraderie. Because our journey was riddled with job-like obstacles (like cancellation!), we were never sure if each season would be our last. So each additional year we were allowed to make the show felt like a gift that inspired tremendous gratitude. It still seems miraculous that we ran for six seasons.”

Shephard added, “I honestly had no idea that ‘Longmire’ would engender such a massive following. When I set out developing Craig Johnson’s books for television over 7 years ago with Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny, my interest was in reinstating a romantic hero in an otherwise overpopulated landscape of antiheroes. I personally longed for a character who reminded me that there was still decency and nobility in mankind. I wanted the man of Walt Longmire and his beloved West to transport me to a better, hopeful place. I guess there were a lot of other people who wanted the same thing.”

Netflix Katee Sackhoff in a scene from “Longmire. (Courtesy of Ursula Coyote)

The series began shooting the final season in March and ran through mid-June in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Valles Caldera, Pecos and other locations in northern New Mexico.

The series’ interior shots have been done at Garson Studios at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

For Freeman, the past year has been a whirlwind of emotions because of the long goodbye.

“We knew when we were picked up for a season six and Netflix let us know that it was a final season,” she said. “We were grateful to have a final chapter because that’s not always a guarantee. There was something satiating that we could craft an ending.”

Playing Cady Longmire was an interesting journey for Freeman.

In the book series, Cady Longmire wasn’t in Wyoming, she was in Philadelphia working as a lawyer.

“When I spoke to the producers about that before the first season began, they told me that without Walt’s wife in the pictures, they needed someone to have an emotional touchstone with him,” Freeman said. “Cady’s journey is about self identity. She tried to follow the rules. She tried to rebel. She found that her true belonging was within her. I see it as a relatable journey and I loved playing Cady.”

During production, Freeman said the cast was aware of the many “lasts” for the show.

“During scenes, I would often ask, ‘Is this my last scene with him or her?’ ” she said. “We didn’t really know what was happening with the script because everything was moving so fast. We’d shoot scenes based on the actor’s availability.”

When the cast wrapped in June, there was a party, of course.

And the party has continued with festivities in Los Angeles for post-production.

“Leading up to the finale on Friday, that will be the official last one for the show,” Freeman said. “None of us will have any reason to revisit this. Now this journey is really over and it’s a final goodbye.”

Freeman will miss the state after spending much of six years here.

“What I will miss about New Mexico is that it’s a super magical place,” she says. “I’ve worked in a lot of places all over the world. This place felt like home and I often return in my own personal time. I’ve cultivated a group of friends. What I gained out of ‘Longmire’ along with work and experience, is knowing about the film industry in New Mexico. People don’t realize how top-notch it is. I don’t know why anyone would outsource work when working in New Mexico; you have a great choice of thinkers and artists. It’s an incredible place. Not to mention that you can have 10 different landscapes in one state. It’s incredibly rare.”