Sep 8, 2015

New ‘Longmire’ season premieres Thursday with longer episodes, author says

When the next season of “Longmire” premieres on Netflix on Thursday, fans can expect to see more of their favorite characters than before, said author Craig Johnson.

“When we were on basic cable, our episodes were only 42 minutes long, because of the commercials and everything,” Johnson said. “I have yet to see an episode (of Season 4) that’s under an hour — every single one of them is picking up at least 25 minutes or more.”

Of course, another benefit of Netflix is that fans won’t have to wait a week before seeing the next episode.

Craig Johnson signed plenty of autographs while in Park County. Cody News Co. photo by Tessa Schweigert
“They’re going to drop all 10 episodes at once, and you guys are going to dutifully watch one episode a week, right?” Johnson said Aug. 12, as a Powell audience laughed. “I’m getting the feeling you’re
not going to do that.”

In August, Johnson visited libraries in Park County, just over the mountain from where fictitious Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire patrols.

When A&E announced it was canceling the popular show based on Johnson’s novels last year, Netflix wasted no time getting in touch with “Longmire” producers.

“What happened was, 12 minutes after we got canceled by A&E, Netflix called and said, ‘We’ll take it. We know what the numbers are and we’ll take it,’” said Johnson, who serves as the executive consultant for the show.

He said A&E canceled “Longmire” because the network wanted to own the show and profit more from it.

Warner Brothers makes the show and licenses it to networks all over the world, Johnson said. When Warner Brothers was unwilling to sell “Longmire,” A&E cancelled it.

A promotional poster for the new season of 'Longmire.'
“It’s kinda funny, because we were the highest rated scripted drama they (A&E) had ever had,” Johnson said.

In the months between the A&E cancellation and Netflix agreement, Johnson said “Longmire” fans created an uproar that continued to build.

“It got to the point where A&E actually called Warner Brothers and said, ‘Call off your dogs,’” Johnson said. “Everyone was angry and clogging up all of their blogging ... Facebook, Twitter and all this kind of stuff. It was actually to the point where I was starting to feel sorry for A&E, for gosh sakes.”

Johnson said faithful fans are to thank for Longmire’s return.

“You guys are the ones that did the heavy lifting on this, and kind of called Hollywood’s hand,” he said. “Generally, a show gets cancelled and that’s it — it’s over. Through the Longmire Posse’s efforts, by golly, we got back on the air, which is pretty exciting.”

An audience member asked Johnson about the death of...

“Whoooooa! Don’t give anything away for people who haven’t read that book yet!” Johnson laughed.

The author did offer that it wouldn’t be fair or honest to “have all the characters survive and have everybody just smoothly glide along.”

“I mean, things are going to happen. And some of them are not going to be nice things,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit more realistic to have those things happen instead of pretending that they don’t.”

He noted Walt Longmire is a sheriff who comes into contact with a lot of people involved with law enforcement.

“Even nowadays, it’s become more apparent that when you put that badge on at the beginning of the day and you go out, you may not come home at night,” Johnson said.

He did pledge to spare one character from an ill fate.

Johnson had a rapt audience at the Cody library. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“The only one that’s safe is Dog,” Johnson said, referring to the sheriff’s canine companion. “I will never kill Dog. If I kill Dog, you guys will kill me.”

As “Longmire” readers know, the TV show differs from the books, including the absence of Dog. Some changes are made to create more dramatic conflict for TV, Johnson said, but others are for less obvious reasons.

For example, the character Branch in the TV series is based on Turk from the first “Longmire” book.

“They changed the name to Branch because when the actors were saying Turk it sounded like they were saying Turd,” Johnson said. “I thought it kind of fit sometimes.”

When asked whether he’s pleased with how Walt Longmire is portrayed, Johnson said, “I’m tickled to death with Robert Taylor.”

Early on in the show’s production, Johnson said one of his first big arguments with TV producers was over Walt’s age. They wanted to make Walt and his friend, Henry Standing Bear, younger than they are in the books.

“My immediate redneck cowboy response was, ‘Now why are we doing that?’” Johnson recalled. “And they said, ‘Well, we’d really like this TV show to run for about 10 years, and we’d rather not have Walt and Henry on walkers by the end.’ I had a hard time arguing with that.”


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