The A&E drama series Longmire, based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson, is a contemporary crime thriller set in Wyoming. Walt Longmire (Australian actor Robert Taylor) is the charismatic, dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, who buries the pain of losing his wife behind a brave face and dry wit. With the help of Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), a female deputy new to the department, Longmire becomes reinvigorated about his job and committed to running for re-election, as he rebuilds his personal and professional life.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Cassidy Freeman – who plays Walt’s only daughter, Cady Longmire, an attorney with dreams of the big city – talked about auditioning for this role while she was still playing Tess Mercer on Smallville, how excited the cast was to hear the show premiered as the most-watched original series on A&E, how she can easily identify with her character, what it’s been like to work with Robert Taylor, and why she enjoys the shorter shooting schedule for cable TV. She also talked about the band she has with her brother, called The Real D’Coy, getting stopped by fans for her roles on Smallville and The Vampire Diaries, playing strong characters, and her dream of playing an old movie star in the story of her life. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
CASSIDY FREEMAN: It was a regular audition process. I was still working on Smallville, up in Vancouver, and I had this audition. I was reading scripts. It was pilot season. I was excited to try to see if I could get on another show, and this script came along and I really, really liked it. So, I told my people in L.A. that I really wanted to audition in person for this, and that’s how it happened.
Since it’s so hard to get a show on the air, was it nice to learn that this was the network’s most-watched original series when it premiered on June 3rd?
FREEMAN: Oh, we were super excited when we heard that. We all haven’t exhaled completely because you never know. There are really great shows out there that just don’t make it, for whatever reason. You can’t control that. But, we were really excited about the turn-out for the premiere. The publicity side did a really great job, and it’s just something that’s different and people want that.
Had you intentionally been looking for something so different from Smallville and your role on that show?
FREEMAN: I’m not sure that there’s anything a lot like Smallville, so I wasn’t really worried about finding something too similar. But, it’s a great opportunity to get to do something really different. Everyone, however, wants me to have red hair, which I don’t understand because it’s not my natural color. Every job I’ve had since Smallville has wanted me to have red hair, so I have to thank Smallville for that. But, just the fact that it was so different was appealing to me. As an actor, you want to be able to play a lot of different things. I played Tess Mercer for three years and I loved it, but I wanted less time in the hair and make-up trailer, and I got it.
Do you prefer stuff that is more grounded in reality, or do you enjoy the big fantasy stuff?
FREEMAN: I’m going to be honest, I’m not really that picky when it comes to genre. I’m more interested in if I like the writing and if I like the character I’m playing. A lot of people have asked me, “Do you like Tess Mercer? Do you like your characters?,” and I think you have to like your characters, or at least part of them, in order to be able to play them. So, I look for interesting storylines, and I thought Tess Mercer had one of the most interesting human storylines in a superhero show, ever. She changed, which people don’t do in superhero stuff. And I liked Cady Longmire because she was really struggling. She felt conflicted between a duty to her family and a duty to her father, and a responsibility that may be self-inflicted, and then this wish to move away and start her own life, which can be equally scary and exciting.
Since viewers only got to see a glimpse of your character in the pilot, what can you say about who Cady Longmire is and how she fits into things?
FREEMAN: She grew up in Wyoming with her mom and her dad, and her mom died a year ago while she was at law school, and now, she’s a lawyer. Her plan was to leave Wyoming and move to the east coast to practice law in a big city. That has gotten squashed by her mother’s death. She doesn’t want to leave her dad alone, so she stays at home and practices law. She has this struggle where she really wants something bigger out of her life. She feels ready to go explore and be on her own, and yet she feels tied to her dad because she loves him so much and she’s worried about him.
Is she someone who you find yourself easily identifying with, or do you find that she’s very different from who you are?
FREEMAN: I think there are definitely similar aspects between the two of us. I do identify with her, which is probably why I like her so much. I was so excited about playing her because I felt like, even with that one scene in the pilot, I had a lot to offer and a lot to do. I have a great relationship with my dad, so I understand that father-daughter relationship a lot. Cady is really strong and she has a clear idea of what’s right and wrong, or rather the idea of justice and rules. Even though she might break the rules for herself, once in awhile, she holds others and the community, as a whole, to a pretty high standard, and I totally relate to that.
How do you see the father-daughter relationship developing this season, and what’s it been like to work with Robert Taylor?
FREEMAN: It’s great to work with Robert. Robert is a new father, so I think he’s figuring out a lot about parenthood, as it’s going. It’s funny to think, but if he were actually to have me as his daughter, he would have had me pretty young. For the first time, I’m actually playing younger than I am, and he might be playing a little bit older. But, he’s such an open and loving guy, and he’s so quick to give a hug or a shoulder squeeze, and to be there to really experience this with. I feel fortunate that he and I have such great father-daughter chemistry, and I think that that’s a relationship that isn’t really shown on television a lot. Women usually have sexual relationships or romantic relationships or bad romantic relationships, and therefore are fighting. This is a really complex relationships between a father and a daughter because you have such deep familial love, but you also have a lot of worry about judgement. Daughters always want to be accepted by their fathers, and as they become women, that gets harder and harder to do. And fathers always want to be loved by their daughters, but as soon as they see their faults, that’s also difficult to do.
Will viewers get to see more of who your character is, aside from just her relationship with her father?
FREEMAN: Yeah, you totally will. Her law degree and her knowledge of how to get around bureaucracy and the system is going to come in handy with the crimes that Walt is trying to solve. She gets to play a part in that, a little bit. And then, she also has a relationship of her own that she’s pretty private about, and she doesn’t really want her dad knowing about. That also brings some intrigue to her character.
Will you be interacting with some of Walt’s co-workers then?
FREEMAN: Yeah. It’s such a small town and everybody but Vic Moretti, played by Katee Sackhoff, grew up there. Cady, Branch (Bailey Chase) and Ferg (Adam Bartley) all knew each other, growing up. It wasn’t necessarily that they were all really good friends. They’re all probably various ages. But, they definitely knew who each other were, so it has that small town feel. I don’t interact an incredible amount with them, in the beginning of the season, because they really have to try to flesh out all these characters at once. She definitely has a connection with Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) as well because he’s like her godfather. He’s like the cool uncle that gave her beer.
Do you enjoy the schedule for cable TV where you do fewer episodes and have more time to do other work, in between seasons?
FREEMAN: I am such that person that, when I’m working, I’m like, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a weekend off!” And then, as soon as I have more that 18 hours without anything to do, I start shaking. It’s really funny. My boyfriend laughs at me because three days off a show, I’ll be like, “God, I’m feeling antsy!,” and he’s like, “Are you kidding?! It’s been three days!” I love to work. I’ll work all the time, unless somebody stops me. I love it, love it, love it! Everyone likes to work on a lot of different things, so what the cable schedule does for me – and this is my first time doing it – is that it gives you three months of really great work, and then it opens up the rest of the year to try to do other stuff. I came from theater and I play in a band and I have a dog that requires way too much of my attention. I have all these other great things that I love to do, and cable allows me to do all of them, which is a really great gift.
Are you recording with your band?
FREEMAN: Yeah. We were actually about to go back into the recording studio, and then we got this opportunity to play at the Isle of Wight festival in England in two weeks. We’re going to head over England to play that show, so we’re trying to rehearse for that incredible opportunity, which may be a little bit out of our league, I’m going to be honest. We’ve really honed down some new songs that we might be recording right after that, which would be great.
What’s the name of the band and what kind of music do you do?
FREEMAN: We’re called The Real D’Coy. My brother calls it theatrical indie rock. He’s our drummer and his name is Clark, which is really funny for people. It’s rock music.
Do you still get stopped as often for your work on Smallville, or do you get more people approaching you now for playing Sage on The Vampire Diaries?
FREEMAN: It’s funny, but I get both. If people recognize me from The Vampire Diaries, they just give me that look that’s like, “I think I know you. I think I saw you boxing in 1912, but I’m not sure,” because it was such a short-lived run. If people recognize me from Smallville and they have it in them to do it, they’ll say something, which I totally appreciate and think is really, really sweet. I’ve never been off-put by a fan.
Your roles on Smallville and The Vampire Diaries, and even on Longmire, are pretty strong women. Is that something you’re consciously attracted to, or does that just come out of who you are?
FREEMAN: I think types have a lot to do with it. When you’re starting out in Hollywood, you walk into a room and give off a certain energy, and that’s how you’re received. I don’t think it’s until you get further along in your career that you can start picking and choosing things and saying,”I want to play this type of character because no one has ever seen me in that light.” I don’t think I have that freedom quite yet. I think I give off a strong energy. I’m 5’9″, I’m pretty athletic and I’m pretty outspoken. That’s how I am. I think it happens because it’s a big part of me and it’s an energy I give off. I can’t wait until the day when I can play every color in the rainbow. But, I will say that I don’t dislike it. I do like playing strong roles.
Is there a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
FREEMAN: Yeah, I want to play an old movie star in the story of her life. I have one, in particular, but I’m hesitant to say it because I don’t want to jinx it.
Longmire airs on Sunday nights on A&E.