'Longmire' Preview: Showrunners on Walt's Future, and a Possible Romance with Vic?

·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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When Longmire returns from cancellation purgatory on Sept. 10 on Netflix, it’ll be both the same series that its devoted fanbase knows and loves from its three-season run on A&E and a departure from the status quo. “We’re not changing the show at all,” promises star Robert Taylor, who plays the titular Wyoming lawman, Sherriff Walter Longmire. “But one of the benefits of being on Netflix is that there are no commercial breaks. On A&E, we always had to lose great stuff, because of commercials. With Netflix, they don’t care. So you’ll find that the episodes are closer to 60 minutes than 40 minutes. What a gift!”

Those longer running times are certainly a gift for fans. After all, they’ve been clamoring for more Longmire since the series came to an abrupt end following its third season. That cancellation wasn’t due to declining quality or ratings; instead A&E reportedly pulled the plug because the series found its largest audience amidst a specialized (re: older) demographic. That’s precisely the viewership that Netflix have been making attempts to target through such well-received new shows as Grace and Frankie. So three months Longmire rode off into the basic cable sunset, the series hitched itself to the streaming giant’s post. “We had a lot more confidence than we had doubts about the show finding a new home,” says executive producer, Hunt Baldwin. “I think we refused to believe it, because we weren’t done.” Adds exec producer John Coveny: “This comeback was a case of blood, sweat and tears. Blood was pumping through us to bring it back, we sweated to get it done and tears were shed in the [Netflix] pitch meeting. That was about the emotion and love of the show; we knew it was carrying a lot of people with it.”

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Executive Producers Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny

The executive producers reiterate their leading man’s point that, despite Longmire’s new fourth season digs, the show itself hasn’t changed…much. “It’s a different experience editing the show without commercials breaks,” explains Baldwin. “We don’t have to create artificial spikes in the middle of the story. Instead, we get to tell the story from beginning to end, and let it be as long as it needs to be; some episodes are shorter, some are longer. It’s a more cinematic experience. We’ve always said that we’re trying to make mini-movies with each episode. This was the first time I felt we were able to do that.” To continue the movie analogy, Coveny says he considers each episode of Season 4 equivalent to a special “Director’s Cut” DVD. “You get to experience the world of all of our characters, not just the Walt of it all. All our characters have become richer and fuller this season.”

Taylor says that the chief benefactor of Season 4’s expanded runtime is Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s longtime friend and go-between with the local Cheyenne reservation. Henry will play a particular crucial role in the first three episodes, as Walt comes closer and closer to solving the mystery that’s plagued him since the beginning of the series: who murdered his wife? In this previously released clip, Longmire appears on the verge of enacting some frontier justice, taking aim at a small plane carrying the culprit (or who he believes to be the culprit, anyway) while his friend tries to talk him down. Coveny promises that this isn’t just another false lead — Walt really will solve the case, probably sooner than viewers will anticipate. “The Netflix format has allowed us to experiment with the typical rhythms of television. So the cliffhanger that’s resolved in Season 4 comes at a different time than you’d usually expect. And once it ends, not only is that storyline resolved to the satisfaction of our fanbase, there are other stories that launch from there.”

One of those stories will involve the possibility of new romance for Walt, who has otherwise avoided matters of the heart while pursuing his wife’s killer. And his new paramour could be someone we’re already very familiar with: Deputy Vic Moretti, played by Battlestar Galactica vet, Katee Sackhoff. With the dissolution of her marriage last season, Vic is similarly open to starting a fresh lease on love. “She’s been married for all of these years and that’s obviously defined her and prevented her from pursuing certain things,” explains Baldwin. “Having finally accepted the end of her marriage, we go into Season 4 with Vic absolutely ready to take a different look at her life romantically. Obviously, I think that most fans know that there’s some interesting tension between her and Walt. But there are also some new characters entering the world that are going to complicate that.”

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Other storylines that fans will want to monitor include Henry’s attempts to honor the memory of Cheyenne vigilante Hector (Jeffrey De Serrano), who died last season while assisting Walt, as well as the continued rise of Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez), the businessman behind a recently-built casino that will become a headache for Walt. (Complicating matters further is the fact that Nighthorse is currently Walt’s prime suspect in his wife’s death.) “We threw a lot of knives in the air in Season 3, and we’ve caught a lot of them in Season 4,” says Coveny, hinting that they’re not anticipating another premature death sentence. “When we pitched the series to Netflix, they talked about how long we want to keep the show going. Realistically, we have Seasons 8, 9 and 10 in our heads; it’s a rich world and we’re really just beginning to scratch the surface of it.”

Longmire premieres on Sept. 10 on Netflix