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The modern Western Longmire became A&E's No. 1 scripted drama, got canceled (apparently for having too many grownup viewers), was saved through a mass protest by fans — as Star Trek was in the '60s — and found new life and artistic freedom on Netflix. All the show's mysteries are solved in its final 10 episodes of Season 6, which starts streaming Nov. 17. Longmire costar A Martinez, 69, who plays Jacob Nighthorse, the activist owner of Wyoming's Four Arrows Casino, says it's the best thing that ever happened — and not just for him.
You're the only actor I've interviewed who got the break of his lifetime at 64.
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No kidding, man! That's when I got Longmire. I'd surfaced in the soap Santa Barbara (1984-92), but when my face faded from that [young] face, it was difficult to get work for a few years. Someone told me, "When your hair goes gray, there'll be work for you." My hair wasn't gray, but once I grew gray hair on my face, suddenly I'm not suffering.
Did Longmire succeed because it has classic Western DNA — and also ripped-from-the-headlines themes about reservation life?
Yeah, it's got a lot of the western values in it. Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), whose way of looking at the world is in danger of being rendered obsolete, is holding on to his values by sheer force of will. He's smart, soulful, intuitive, brave. But he has demons: He's lost his wife and doesn't know who's responsible. It makes him inflexible when a bit of compromise would be more useful.
What's your character Jacob Nighthorse's demon?
His demon is what's happened to Native Americans, what it's like to live on a reservation on the Wyoming border. Nighthorse was a radical in the day who's become a businessman and policeman. He's preposterously rude, which is fun to play. He'll bend rules and accuse the sheriff of doing the same thing. They both stand up for ideals, and there's respect that neither wants to articulate. There's a poet in Nighthorse. He uses more words than necessary because he loves to hear himself talk.
That's not the classic Western cliché of the noble native of few words, or with a silent tear in an anti-littering commercial. Nowadays Native Americans won't pipe down.
Yeah! I often play villains, and when you get to play one who's educated, who has the chops of a lawyer, it feels like sitting down to a wonderful meal.
What does Sheriff Longmire see in Nighthorse?
Someone who's got his hands in every bad thing. Whenever there's trouble anywhere, his antennae say Nighthorse is responsible — and escaping responsibility.