'Longmire' Team Talks Netflix Resurrection: "There Was So Much at Stake"

"We had a lot of story left to tell and every intention of telling that," said executive producer Hunt Baldwin.
AP Images/Invision

It didn’t take long for the subject of second chances to come up Tuesday at Netflix's Television Critics Association press tour panel for Longmire.

The series, which was canceled by A&E nearly a year ago despite strong viewership, was resurrected by Netflix for a fourth season in November.

"We had a lot of story left to tell and every intention of telling that. We were surprised," said executive producer Hunt Baldwin. "Needless to say we are thrilled that we got to move to Netflix and finish telling that story."

Star Robert Taylor may have been the most shocked by the news. "I thought it was a joke. I didn’t believe it," he said. "But I always believed we weren't finished."

Executive producer Greer Shephard became emotional, and even teared up, when talking about how the show came to Netflix, giving much of the credit to WBTVG president and chief content officer Peter Roth: "He has believed in this show from the very beginning and I believe it took him 12 minutes from the cancelation of our show and him finding [Netflix vp original content] Cindy Holland, I believe it was in Iceland, and letting her know of the fate of our show," said Shephard.

Shephard recalled pitching the fourth season to Netflix last September. "Never before have I wept in a meeting because there was so much at stake," she said. "We needed to complete and continue our storytelling. ... It was an appeal for life."

That appeal was soon granted, and the result is a fourth season that producers say feels more "cinematic" thanks to less time constraints and no commercial breaks. "They said, 'Go make the same show you're making. Just don’t make it like television,' " said executive producer John Coveny. "And we took that to heart because that’s what we've been trying to do since we pitched it to A&E. It's great to finally be making the show we always wanted to make."

Added Baldwin: "We're not changing our approach to storytelling very much but I think the end result feels very different. … The story feels more completed and more complex."

However, producers said there won't be increased vulgarity or nudity just because the show is on Netflix. "We did not want to alienate the incredible fan base," said Shephard.

In addition to serving their loyal fan base, the Netflix deal has also brought new eyes to the show. Ahead of the Sept. 10 launch, seasons one through three of the western are currently streaming. "I can't tell how many people have just started watching now," said star Cassidy Freeman. "Its such a great opportunity for Netflix to have the whole story to tell."

Ironically, as Shephard pointed out, second chances is also the theme for season four. "Who you are as a person is defined by how you handle the second chance," she said.

The 10-episode season picks up moments after the finale in which Walt Longmire (Taylor) found out who was behind the murder of his wife and takes off after the killer with murder on his mind.

"How does he go on? Once you've vanquished that and that has sort of been your sole purpose in life, who are you," said Baldwin, who also teased Henry's "newfound freedom. … What does he do with it to validate that he's been giving this second chance?"

However, Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips) will also have his hands full going up against Walt. "There's a horrific loophole in that tribal police and tribal courts are not able to prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on a reservation," said Shephard. "Those injustices and those discrepancies are the subject of several stories, and are going to put Walt and Henry in opposition."

The fourth season of Longmire debut Sept. 10.

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