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Author Craig Johnson Says No Immediate Plans to Bring Back ‘Longmire’ Series

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Since its debut on the A&E Network on June 3, 2012, the television series “Longmire” has garnered thousands of fans across the globe.

No one has benefited from the exposure provided by the television show more than the Wyoming author behind the book series that inspired the show, Craig Johnson. 

Although Johnson’s books about the tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold sheriff of fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming had already put him on the New York Times bestseller list, the show’s success raised Johnson’s profile significantly.

“There’s no way that publishers can match the amount of publicity that a film or television can garner,” Johnson told Cowboy State Daily. “I still remember sitting in a bookstore on Sunset Boulevard and looking out the window where I could see a 26-floor Robert Taylor/Walt Longmire on the side of a building looking down at me.”

And although the show only lasted six seasons – three on A&E and three on Netflix – the popularity of the characters and the books has continued, spawning an annual celebration in Buffalo (the inspiration for the series’ setting, “Durant”) as well as multiple social media fan pages.

Victims Of Success

Johnson explained that the show’s move away from its highly successful run on A&E to Netflix, and then its cancellation in 2017 on Netflix was, in a way, a result of its success.

“I’m afraid we were victims of our own success in that A&E, faced with three seasons of the highest-rated show in their network history, decided to buy ‘Longmire’ from the producing studio, Warner Brothers,” he said.

“A broadcaster can make a lot more money off a show if they own it, rather than leasing it from a studio, but Warner Brothers knew they had a hit on their hands with ‘Longmire’ and wouldn’t sell,” he said. “A&E, in a fit of pique, decided that if they couldn’t buy the highest-rated, scripted show they’d ever had—would cancel it. Which they did.”

However, Johnson said the network wasn’t prepared for the backlash it received from fans who had fallen in love with the character of Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire and his friends (and enemies).

“The result was that they lost almost a third of their viewing audience,” Johnson said, “numbers they still haven’t recouped for more than 10 years now.”

When Netflix picked up “Longmire” once again, Warner Brothers’ refusal to sell the franchise resulted in the show’s end.

“It quickly became one of the highest-rated, original-content shows they’ve ever had,” Johnson said. “Smooth sailing for two more seasons and then guess what? Netflix wanted Warner Brothers to sell ‘Longmire’ to them. Once again, Warner Brothers wouldn’t bite, but at least this time Netflix was gracious enough to allow the show a final season to wrap things up.”

Where It Gets Weird

But here’s where it gets weird, according to Johnson.

“Both Netflix and Warner Brothers probably figured that the show would linger there for a few years and then Longmire would ride off into the sunset,” he said. “Instead, it continues to be one of the top 20 most popular shows on Netflix, even five years after finishing production. 

“This is Netflix, now one of the biggest producers in Hollywood with their massive budget, star-filled vehicles — and here’s our little Indian & Cowboy show chugging along, year after year as possibly the most re-viewed show in Netflix’s history,” he continued

Johnson said that there are continuing conversations about the return of the show in some form, but nothing has been solidified yet.

“There’s a constant buzz about the return of the series, a potential Season 7 or made-for TV movies, but nothing concrete,” he said. “I think what’s happened is that the show continues to be a success for both the producing entity, Warner Brothers, and the broadcasting entity, Netflix, without them doing anything. Once again, victims of our own success.”

The “Longmire” actors have moved on to other projects since the show finished production in 2017. Robert Taylor, who played the title character, appeared in the monster shark movie “The Meg,” and an episode of “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings” on Netflix in 2019. 

Katee Sackhoff, who played Deputy Victoria Moretti on “Longmire,” has returned to the sci-fi genre that kicked off her career, appearing in a recurring role in “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, and leads the cast of the Netflix sci-fi series “Another Life.” 

Lou Diamond Phillips, who played Longmire’s best friend Henry Standing Bear, has appeared in television shows such as “Graves,” “Criminal Minds,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Goliath” and “Blue Bloods.”

And Cassidy Freeman, who played Longmire’s daughter, Cady, has held recurring roles on the shows “Doubt” and “NCIS: New Orleans”  and most recently starred in the HBO series “The Righteous Gemstones.”

Reboot

But Johnson has it on good authority that should the opportunity come to reboot “Longmire,” the actors would be on board. He said the only thing standing in the way of that possibility is the parent studio.

“They have an incredible and lengthy hit on their hands,” he said. “The actors are for it, the producers are for it and even I’m for it, and you’d think they’d figure it out but so far nothing has happened.”

Johnson said there has been some movement in that direction recently, though.

“I do know for a fact that a large producing entity just bought all the large sets from “Longmire” down in Santa Fe, so that’s once again got the “Longmire” world buzzing, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”

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New Longmire Book Due in September, Longmire Days Scheduled in August

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Thirty years ago, Craig Johnson did two things that would change his life – he began building his ranch at Ucross, and he wrote the first two chapters of what would become a huge hit book and television series.

“I had one of those dads who was like, you were slave labor until you escaped,” Johnson said, laughing. “I got taught how to do basic construction and electrical and plumbing and all that, so I built the ranch myself – and then when I got the windows and doors and the heat turned on I started on the first Longmire novel. I wrote the first two chapters of ‘The Cold Dish,’ and wasn’t happy with it, and stuck it in a drawer for 10 years.”

But he eventually pulled it out and finished it… and 17 books later, Johnson’s series of mystery novels about a small town sheriff in Wyoming have a near-cult following. 

Eighteen books (if you include the upcoming “Hell and Back,”) a hit television series and an annual star-studded event in Buffalo have made Walt Longmire a household name – although Johnson told Cowboy State Daily he wouldn’t have bet that all would happen.

“When Warner Brothers knocked on the door and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to make a TV show out of the books about the sheriff of the least populated county in the least populated state in America,’ I started questioning their wisdom,” Johnson said.

Longmire, The TV Show

The TV series, which was first broadcast on A&E and later streamed on Netflix, has created a fan base of its own, apart from Johnson’s New York Times-bestselling books.

“As it turned out, we were the highest rated scripted drama in A&E’s network history,” Johnson said. “And then after three years they wanted to buy the show from Warner Brothers, and Warner Brothers wouldn’t sell it and so they decided to cancel it. And that was when Netflix grabbed us.”

The show, which ran for a total of six seasons, starred Robert Taylor, Katee Sackoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, LouAnne Stephens, Zahn McClarnon, A Martinez and Adam Bartley, along with high-profile recurring guest stars like Peter Weller, Graham Greene, Charles S. Dutton and Gerald McRaney.

“The show has continued to be in the top 20 viewed shows on Netflix for the last five years, since we ceased production,” Johnson said. “So it’s hard for them to stop running Longmire when it continues to garner an audience on a regular basis, which is really something – because, I mean, Netflix produces like these multimillion dollar shows with these big stars every month, and then there’s our little Indian and cowboy show, just chugging along there, year after year.” 

“So, we have hopes that maybe somebody at Warner Brothers will figure things out and might even make it back on the air sometime… you never can tell,” he added

Longmire, The Event

Those six seasons, though, made a huge impact on fans across the country. So much so, in fact, that the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce launched a “Longmire Days” festival 11 years ago – and it’s still going strong. 

Longmire Days are scheduled to be held in Buffalo (renamed “Durant” for the event in honor the books’ setting) August 18 through 21, 2022, and Johnson said all of the actors have indicated that they will be attending.

“Like everybody else, they’re kind of like cooped up and just dying to get back out, back among people,” he said. “I mean, for six years, they played as if they were in Wyoming, and so the chance for them to actually come and see what the real Wyoming is, I think it’s a unique kind of opportunity for them that they don’t normally get.”

Johnson likened the fan response (8,000 people attended in 2019) to science fiction conventions and Comic-Con events. He pointed out that actress Katee Sackhoff, who played Deputy Victoria Moretti on the show, has been one of the only cast members with experience in that type of gathering because of her roles in “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Mandalorian,” which have millions of followers.

“She’s used to seeing these huge crowds, you know, thousands of people lining up to get your autograph and all that kind of stuff,” Johnson said. “But a lot of the other actors, for them, it’s really incredible, to be in a parade, to be the grand marshal of a rodeo like the Cody Stampede (in 2017).”

Insider Information

For Wyoming fans of the book series, the inside stories behind characters and place names are a hook.

“One of my favorite quotes about writing is the one from Wallace Stegner where he says the greatest piece of fiction ever written is the disclaimer at the beginning of every book that says nobody in this book is based off of anybody alive or dead,” Johnson said.

“It’s difficult, when you live in a state that only has half a million people in it, because I’ll stick somebody from Gillette in one of my books and I’ll be down doing a library event in Rock Springs and somebody will say, ‘Is that so-and-so from Gillette that’s in your third book?’” 

Johnson said that when he chose the names of his fictitious county, Absaroka, and town, Durant, those also needed to be based on real life. He pointed out he didn’t want to go with a name like “Pronghorn” or “Antelope Gulch” for the setting of his tiny town in the (fictional) 24th county in the state of Wyoming.

“I wanted to use a name which I thought would be more indicative of a real life, Wyoming town,” Johnson said, “and so I just grabbed (Durant’s) name from a list of Union Pacific executives who was of questionable repute.” 

Besides being terribly difficult for the actors on the television series to pronounce, the name of Johnson’s fictional county, Absaroka, stands out as a nod to Wyoming’s Native American history.

“Absaroka is one of the oral interpretations of the word in the Crow language for the ‘children of long beaked bird,’ or the crow,” he explained. 

Johnson noted that because of the proximity of the large reservations in nearby Montana and in central Wyoming, he felt the inclusion of Native people and culture in the Longmire series was an honest portrayal of Wyoming’s population. 

“To not have them be a part of that (Absaroka County) region, it wouldn’t be honest,” he said. “They’re just too interesting, they’re just too magnificent – they’re just too wonderful to not include in the books. It would be criminal of me not to include them.”

Upcoming Book

Johnson’s upcoming book, “Hell and Back,” is scheduled for release in September — and Johnson is already planning his book tour, which will include Wyoming libraries and bookstores.

“There will be a big national tour, but certainly I’ll be bouncing around,” he said, adding that he enjoys supporting local bookstores and libraries. “You know, the Legends Bookstore there in Cody, she brings her books over here to me to sign them early, so that on opening day, she’s got signed books. And I mean, the first library event I ever did was in Meeteetse.”

There’s no doubt that the Longmire brand has brought positive attention to Wyoming — and Johnson said that attention has been a benefit to more than just him.

“One of the the points of doing Longmire Days was to raise money for charity,” he said, “and we did like $30,000, I think, for the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Resource Center up in Lame Deer (Montana) this year, and $10,000 for the Johnson County Search and Rescue, which was in dire need of funding, and a bunch of others like it.”

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Thousands visit Buffalo for ‘Longmire Days’

in News/Travel/Tourism
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By Wendy Corr for Cowboy State Daily

Even though it’s been three years since the last new episode of “Longmire” aired, thousands of people last week visited the town that inspired the setting for the books written by Ucross author Craig Johnson.

An estimated 10,000 were in Buffalo on July 18-21 to celebrate the eighth annual “Longmire Days,” an event created to commemorate the popular television and book series.

Fans from around the world flock to Buffalo for the autograph sessions with stars from the show, parades, a craft show, talent show and classic car show that highlight the weekend.

Damaris Miller of Colorado said her love of the show will keep her coming to Buffalo every year even though the show is no longer in production.

“You just feel like you know the characters and you feel like if they walk on the street, you would just feel like you were friends with them,” she said. “You know their history, you know their life. And as you can see from Buffalo, it’s crowded from people who just love the series. I plan on coming every year.”

Buffalo residents enjoy the boost to the local economy that comes with the annual celebration.

“It enriches us by bringing together lots of different folks who come here and appreciate the beauty of where we live,” said Tacia Kolb of Leadership Johnson County.

The streaming service Netflix continues to air past episodes of “Longmire.”

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