Aussie star at home in the west
Journeyman actor Robert Taylor scores a hit as American lawman, writes Frazier Moore
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