After an enthusiastic fan campaign to save the show last year, the modern Western drama jumped from network television to Netflix.
Filming wrapped up in northern New Mexico a few months ago for the fourth season, which will have 10 episodes.
It will begin airing Thursday.
Cast and crew are enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with being on Netflix – having episodes run longer than the standard 42 minutes for an hourlong series.
“I think the overall experience of this season is a much richer tapestry of character and storytelling,” says executive producer Greer Shephard. “(Being on Netflix) allows for fuller character development and much more nuance.”
The cast and crew attribute the show’s return to a large, dedicated fan base that was outraged by its cancellation last year.
“The fact the fans of the show made such a noise about it really made the difference in the end, I think,” says Robert Taylor, who plays Walt Longmire. “You couldn’t ignore them.”
“Longmire” is based on a mystery series by author Craig Johnson. It focuses on Walt Longmire, a Wyoming country sheriff determined to solve the mystery behind his wife’s murder. At his side are close friend Henry Standing Bear, played by Lou Diamond Phillips; Deputy Vic Moretti, played by Katee Sackhoff; and daughter Cady, played by Cassidy Freeman.
Freeman is excited for the premiere of the new season on Netflix. She says that being on cable TV for the past three seasons was great, but that there were many boundaries.
“There are lots of constraints, like each episode being 42 minutes,” he says. “Being on Netflix, we’re making a new movie every episode. … We get a chance to focus on storytelling.”
While filming in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, Freeman noticed a difference in not having as many time constraints.
“Viewers are going to get a third more of the show,” she says. “Each episode comes in nearing an hour. Our producers used to have to deal with cutting 12 or 13 minutes of the show. That’s a lot of character development. The new season is thicker and deeper.”
“We were hamstrung by the 42-minute running time, especially for my character,” he says. “Now, a lot of my story lines are not only intact, but they’ve been expanded upon. For us, it’s been an absolute gift to tell the stories the way they should be told.”
This season, viewers will be able to immerse themselves even more in the show’s landscape. For a show set in the modern American West, that’s essential.
“It is not only beautiful to watch; it informs our audience about our characters’ connection to the land,” Phillips says. “With Henry and Walt, that connection goes right through their boots and into the ground. It’s part and parcel of the ‘Longmire’ experience.”
Taylor teases that there are some big surprises in the first few episodes.
“As viewers may recall, season three ended with several cliffhangers, and the show’s co-creators have been just as eager to resolve them as its fans,” he says.
Freeman says the new season is about second chances for her character, Cady.
“Her journey for the series is finding out more about her mom’s death,” Freeman says. “And her dad is lying to her about it. Now that she has all the information, she can have a second chance at figuring out her purpose.”
Freeman says that during the season it’s revealed why Cady became a lawyer.
“She’s really digging deep into her life,” she says. “And she’s trying to make it all work in this very small town.”
The cast, coming back for a fourth season, worked together as if no time had passed.
“We really do love each other,” Freeman says. “It’s a unique show.”
During her downtime, Freeman explored Santa Fe, where she enjoyed hiking, eating or going to yoga classes.
“It’s a fun place to live, and I love what it has to offer,” Freeman says of Santa Fe. “I don’t think a lot of people know that New Mexico exists. Sometimes I find myself promoting the area, and then I think to myself, ‘Why am I giving out the secret?’ ”
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Assistant Arts Editor Adrian Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.