Longmire: Welcome to Hollywood

Longmire author Craig Johnson looks back at the making of the TV series, currently airing on 5USA.

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I remember standing there with Robert Taylor, the actor who will be playing Walt in the Warner Brothers Horizon series, Longmire, and telling him that even if it doesn’t work out I was glad to have had the experience of helping to make the pilot. The 6′ 4″ actor turned his blue eyes on me like cobalt searchlights and growled, ‘Don’t say that; don’t even think that. This project is going to make it; it has to.’ I kind of got the feeling the bad guys must get when Walt looks at them in my novels.

Welcome to Hollywood.

Over the months, I’d pretty much made up my mind that if the TV show happened it happened, and that I was writing books before Hollywood came into my life and that I’d be writing them when Hollywood was done with me. I figured that worrying about it wasn’t going to do me any good, so I did what I always do – prepare for the worst and anticipate its happening. In my mind, I’d made the decision that Longmire would moulder and never see the light of day.

It was a shame, too, because for my thirteenth wedding anniversary, my wife, Judy, had arranged for a surprise copy of the pilot from our executive producer, Greer Shephard, with the express agreement that it was for our eyes only. I’d been on tour when they’d had the screening at Warner Studios, but Judy had flown out that day to see it and all I’d heard for the last two months was how great it had been.

The Fed-Ex package arrived from Shephard/Robin and my wife proudly presented it to me after dinner. Up until I’d seen it, I’d convinced myself that it might not be so good and, well, these things happen. Not-much-to-my-surprise, it was fantastic.

Now, the wait was like agony. The performances were magnificent, the camera-work inspiring, the sets and locations breathtaking, the writing sharp as a razor. What if they passed on this? It would be criminal.

Welcome to Hollywood.

I was working on an extension down at the barn and was rolling out tar paper on the roof in the 97 degree heat. Up at the house, I could hear the phone ringing, ringing and ringing. I continued working, wanting to get the underlayment covered before it rained again, if it ever did – but the phone kept ringing.

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I’d built a new corral and had decided to bring a shed roof out on the west side of the barn to basically triple the size of the tack shed, and with rough-cut lumber had already put in the floor and rafters.

Every five minutes or so the barrage of ringing would begin again, and I started wondering if there had been some kind of emergency in town and began thinking I better see what was going on.

On the fifth or sixth ringing binge, I walked up to the kitchen to get a glass of ice-water. The phone was still rattling away as I filled my glass and turned around to pick up the receiver and hit the button to Judy’s breathless voice. ‘They picked up the series.’

Welcome to Hollywood.


The Longmire series is available on The Murder Room starting with The Cold Dish. Longmire, the TV series, is currently airing on 5USA at 9pm on Tuesday nights.