Against all odds, the police drama Longmire will live on for a fourth season despite being canceled by A&E. With passionate, heartbroken fans of the series making all kinds of noise online, the video-on-demand service Netflix came to Longmire's rescue, adding it to a growing roster of original programming that includes the acclaimed series House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.
The fans have been overjoyed at the news—and the cast members are celebrating as well. Actor A Martinez (the "A" is short for Adolph), Apache and Blackfeet, is one of several Natives who've seen significant screen time on Longmire, having appeared in 13 episodes as Jacob Nighthorse. But Longmire is just the latest chapter in Martinez's long Hollywood success story. He's best known for a run as Cruz Castillo on Santa Barbara that lasted more than 1,000 episodes and won him an Emmy Award; he's also been a regular on L.A. Law (39 episodes), General Hospital (95 episodes), and One Life to Live (52 episodes).
Martinez took a few moments to reflect on what makes Longmire so special, and his journey as an actor.
First off—congratulations on being picked up by Netflix!
Thanks so much—you know it is like a dream, almost. If you look over the course of this show's lifetime, it feels as if some entity that is huge and is above you gifts you, and you just have to swallow it. It is really great to be part of something where there is some kind of genuine power in the reaction. This amazes me to be part of it.
There has also been incredible fan support for Longmire, especially on social media.
I have been doing this acting thing for a long long time. The way people feel about this show is so different than the norm. I'm sure there are some people that will look at this and shrug, but the percentage of people who look at the show and decide to buy in is huge. This is so special at this point in time to have stories told from a viewpoint that is not cynical. We are actually allowing these people to be fully rounded human beings. Every person and every character has their demons to wrestle with. It helps to recognize them as people.
Malachi Strand (Graham Greene) and Jacob Nighthorse stare down series protagonist Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) at the construction site of the Four Arrows Casino. Image source: aetv.com.
Are you saying that having some sort of demon raises the characters above the level of stereotype?
Exactly, all of us know what it is like to carry a burden through life. When you are trying to sort it out, and then you are taking the same concept into a community of characters that are drawn this way, you recognize yourself.
Your career as an Emmy award winning actor spans decades. You have a vast body of work under your belt from movies to television—and now Netflix. How does it feel to be pioneering a new type of media, which is what you're doing in a sense with Netflix?
Thank you so much, it feels really good. We shall see where this is going to go in terms of development and a new delivery system. This will be a journey. I have a lot of difficulty making my peace with the sense that all reality has become a marketplace. This ascendancy of corporatocracy in which everyone must bow down to the realities inherent in this world—and the sense that you can have a direct connection with an audience in terms of the stories they want to see—all of this is a positive development.
Yes, you still have to purchase the whole umbrella of the Netflix idea, but now you have the concept of being able to listen and watch an entire episode without being interrupted by commercials.
One other nice thing is we can perhaps be a little grittier in our storytelling, which is closer to what the books are like. We can afford to get just that much closer to the bone.
Does this mean you're going to be dropping the F-bomb on Netflix's version of Longmire?
(Laughs) Hmmm, well nothing quite makes the point like that.
What are your expectations for Longmire on Netflix?
Well, you know I try pretty hard to avoid too much in the way of expectations. This is a long-term habit which sort of helps you to survive this industry. If you do not scrupulously honor the moment, it tends to make you crazy.
Over the course of my career, in this game you try to get so many many jobs that go elsewhere and you have to learn to think of your career actually taking place as a string of auditions. The work that you do in those little rooms is sort of the nuts and bolts of what your career is about. If you actually get a job, that is an extra gift that you cannot afford to anticipate or try to focus too much on.
I really don't have any sense of expectation. There are a lot of angles and play regarding our show and this platform. My prayer is that it will be embraced to a degree that pleases everyone.
Not black and white: In the 'Natural Order' episode, Branch's investigation leads him to Jacob Nighthorse—who had managed his failed campaign for sheriff just a week earlier. Image source: aetv.com
All of this said, how do you maintain your resolve to continue in a difficult industry?
That is an interesting question and obviously now I am very fortunate to have a lot of stuff behind me to analyze. I don't understand why I have been able to stick around. When I was green and was paid to work when I was younger, I didn't know what I was doing. This is the way things are.
A lot of times when you are starting off and flailing someone may write an article about you that would take a big piece out of you to put a hole in your sails. That didn't happen to me. Even with projects that were reviewed poorly I was left out of it. I was oddly given a pass. I don't understand it; maybe my heart was in the right place.
'Santa Barbara' days: Martinez as Cruz Castillo with love interest Eden Capwell, portrayed by Marcy Walker.
It did take me a long time to get my feet under myself. I was allowed to keep looking around for a while until I finally figured a few things out. I don't really understand it but I sure am grateful for it.
You really understand how precious it is when you go for a long stretch when no one offered you a job. I've gone through several periods of time where I couldn't get anyone to give me a gig at all. It makes you focus more than if you are working all the time.
You can't take things lightly you really always do have to deliver the best person that you can. Other things come into play such as what can I do to be in the best health, getting high recreationally is not a good idea; we are not a perishable resource. It is wiser to nurture ourselves.
As you look toward the fourth season, what are you looking forward to now?
My character Jacob is not in the books [by Craig Johnson]. When the show was launched, he was slated to meet an early demise. It is a great tribute to the folks who write and produce the show, that they saw a possibility to get more out of my character.
During the "Dog soldier" episode in the first season, they actually examined the concept of Native children being extracted from their homes and going into a foster care system and the bounties that went into play. We consulted with Native people from four different states who had direct experience with this issue.
This is an issue that is generally ignored yet this show brought it to the public. The value of this is so rare. Other issues such as methane in the water and idle no more are generally off the radar. But the writers and producers see the value and they get the need to tell the stories.
It is awesome that they embrace the stories of native people. I am so glad they decided not to dispatch Jacob. I am happy that we will get to investigate my character. I'm excited that we can address the buildup that would have been missing had we not continued the story.
Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) is an award-winning journalist, book author and public speaker. He is also the Executive Vice President of Schilling Media, Inc., a Native-owned media production and media relations corporation. He is also the host of the award-winning weekly online Native themed radio program Native Trailblazers. You can listen live Fridays at 7pm EST or anytime in archives. He is also a professional photographer and film producer. Twitter: @VinceSchilling Google+ profile: VincentSchilling Google+ community: Native American Community.