Aussie star at home in the west

Jour­ney­man ac­tor Robert Tay­lor scores a hit as Amer­i­can law­man, writes Fra­zier Moore

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

AU­DI­ENCES in the US may not recog­nise Aus­tralian ac­tor Robert Tay­lor as any­one other than the ti­tle char­ac­ter he plays on the crime drama Long­mire. But he’s no new­comer.

‘‘I’ve been work­ing pretty solidly for a long time,’’ Tay­lor says. Then adds wryly, ‘‘Not that any­one would no­tice, you know what I mean?’’

Not that he ap­pears to be com­plain­ing, af­ter a long ca­reer in Aus­tralia and the UK in se­ries from Home and Away to Bal­lykissan­gel.

‘‘It’s been my goal to work as much as pos­si­ble, and be as un­known as pos­si­ble,’’ he in­sists.

Tay­lor has im­pressed US view­ers as Sher­iff Walt Long­mire, who po­lices Wyoming with a de­vo­tion that’s stead­fast and la­conic. He is rangy and griz­zled at an age where he can still whip most op­po­nents in a fight, but knows to spare him­self that kind of strain when­ever he can.

‘‘With young peo­ple, it’s how brassy and flashy can you be,’’ says Tay­lor, ex­plain­ing his por­trayal. ‘‘But you get a bit older, it’s about how re­strained can you be.’’

The por­trayal of Sher­iff Long­mire yields an enor­mously ap­peal­ing and re­lat­able char­ac­ter, while Tay­lor dis­ap­pears into the role.

It’s a role he clearly iden­ti­fies with. He ar­rives for an in­ter­view at a fussy Man­hat­tan restau­rant clad in a denim shirt, jeans and boots. Very Long­mire. And while his broad shoul­ders don’t bear the weight of Long­mire’s world, his voice isn’t no­tice­ably dif­fer­ent, is­su­ing from some­where deep as it gath­ers a rich nasal tim­bre and a Western twang – sur­pris­ing some when they learn Tay­lor is Aus­tralian.

‘‘I’ve al­ways loved the (Amer­i­can) West,’’ he says. ‘‘I grew up in wide-open spa­ces, but they didn’t have the ro­man­tic his­tory of the West. It was more just mis­ery.’’

He was born in Mel­bourne, but when his par­ents split up, he went to live with his aunt and un­cle in a Western Aus­tralian min­ing town. As a teen he worked in the mines. Then he took off.

‘‘The de­sire was there, eat­ing away, to do some­thing dif­fer­ent,’’ he re­calls. ‘‘But I had no clue how.’’

Among his many odd jobs as he sought an an­swer was work­ing on an oil rig, where he took a fall.

‘‘I just busted a bunch of bones,’’ he says with a laugh. ‘‘It’s all right. I was young.’’

But by then he was ready for some­thing with a fu­ture.

He got wind of the Western Aus­tralian Academy of Per­form­ing Arts, which now counts among its alumni Frances O’Con­nor and Hugh Jack­man. He pre­pared two au­di­tions and got in.

Typ­i­cally, he was sur­prised when he landed the Long­mire job. He first au­di­tioned by send­ing a tape to Los An­ge­les from Mel­bourne – and fig­ured the role would go to a bet­ter-known con­tender.

‘‘I was never com­fort­able do­ing all that self-pro­mot­ing. I’m just happy to be work­ing. I’m in a great show and I like the peo­ple I’m work­ing with and I can pay my bills. I’m lucky.’’

Long­mire: Tues­days, 7.35pm, SoHo.

Long­mire’s Ka­tee Sack­hoff and Robert Tay­lor

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