Craig Johnson: his thoughts on A&E’s pick up of LONGMIRE

Author Craig Johnson has confirmed what was already all over the internet: Cable Network A&E has ordered a 10 episode season of LONGMIRE, a series based on the characters in his novels.

Based on “The Walt Longmire Mystery Novels” by Craig Johnson, “Longmire” stars Robert Taylor (“The Matrix”) as Walt Longmire, the charismatic, dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year, he is a man in psychic repair but buries his pain behind his brave face, unassuming grin and dry wit. With the help of a young, attractive female cop, Longmire becomes reinvigorated about his job and is committed to run for re-election because he knows what everyone else in his community knows: he’s the only man that can get the job done. Also stars Katee Sackhoff, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman and Lou Diamond.

A month or so back, I had heard that folks within A&E were very pleased with the pilot and the buzz online was that it was only a matter of time before an actual order was placed. I would guess it came down to dotting the Is and crossing the Ts (or more likely, agreeing on just how much it would cost to cross those Ts).

After anxiously waiting to hear the official decision, Craig is exciting and relieved:
‘’It doesn’t seem real. We’ve been working on this project with Warner for more than a year, now. You hear how these types of things go in fits and starts and I guess there was a part of me that thought it would never get done, but Greer Shephard (The Closer, Nip/Tuck) was a bulldog and got us over the finish line. I was on tour for Hell is Empty and didn’t get to go to the screening at Warner Brothers, but they sent me a DVD and I finally got to watch the final cut. It’s so good, it was heartbreaking—all I could think was that it was going to be horrible if the show doesn’t get picked up by A&E. Then we got the call–It feels pretty great.”

With just a pilot in the can, filming will restart in the fall with a planned debut in mid 2012. Interestingly enough, it is Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, 24) that is getting most of the press, despite Robert Taylor being the lead.

The pilot is based on THE COLD DISH, but the overall series will be a mix of elements from the books as well as new storylines created by the show writers.

A lot of the plot points from the books are in the pilot. It’s kind of a mix-and-match with the format being as short as it is. I remember the screenwriters called me a couple of weeks into the process and said they were having a hard time cutting The Cold Dish down to forty-five minutes. I said, “I bet you are, I had trouble getting it in under four hundred pages”. They’ve got their own plots that they’re interweaving with the ones from the books, so it should be unique, even for people who are familiar with the novels.

I am pleased as punch for Craig, he is a talented writer and all-around swell guy. I hope the series is a success and that it introduces many more to his delightful series.