Longmire exclusive: EP Greer Shephard on final season stories, show’s incredible run

Longmire season 6 trailerLongmire season 6 is coming to Netflix on Friday, November 17, and with that comes a sense of finality and closure. It’s tough to think about the idea of the show ending, and yet we are facing the end of the road.

Luckily, executive producer Greer Shephard is here to help set up this final batch of episodes and let fans know what they can expect, (at least thematically) from some of these stories. In an interview with CarterMatt, she reflects upon the series, spending time with the cast and crew, and how working on the show is an experience she will cherish the rest of her life.

CarterMatt – There were a lot of cliffhangers left open at the end of season 5 in between Walt’s future and Henry’s fate. At the time the season 5 finale was written, did you have an idea as to where you wanted those stories to go in season 6?

Greer Shephard – As a rule of thumb, my fellow exec producer Hunt Baldwin and I never commit to a story cliffhanger without gaming out the ramifications and mapping out where we plan to go. Otherwise, you could end up in an irreversible narrative cul-de-sac that allows no way out. So yes, when we were writing the end of season 5, we knew what the subsequent plot moves would be in season 6.

With this being the final season, thematically what were some of the things that you wanted to explore?

It seemed to us that the most appropriate theme for our final season was “Adapt or Die.” And if the choice is to die – to go out on your own terms rather than change – then how do you know when it’s time to leave? What happens when you’re told to leave, but you’re not ready? What happens when you’re ready to leave, but the rest of the world is not ready to let you go? Or what happens when you wake up one day to realize you stayed too long, and now there’s no graceful way to exit? These are a few of the questions we pose this last season.

I’ve always found the Walt – Henry friendship to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the show since they have such diverging definitions of justice. Over time, what’s it been like carving out that story and exploring these characters’ relationship?

The Walt/Henry relationship explores whether friendship can endure – even transcend – different cultural allegiances and a history of conflict and bloodshed between the White Man and the Native American. It has been endlessly rich and emotional subject material for us. Walt and Henry’s loyalty to each other is deep and sincere, but Henry’s devotion to his tribe and Walt’s commitment to the law (which is often unfavorable to Native Americans) frequently puts them at cross-purposes, as we witnessed during their angry bar brawl in Season 5 which left them on non-speaking terms. Walt and Henry have an endlessly complicated dynamic; both men are highly principled which is why they respect each other and serve as each other’s conscience. However, these same principles sometimes force them to betray each other in order to be true to their other causes. Then again, sometimes they abandon their causes to be there for each other. What becomes clear through their relationship is that loyalty is very difficult to navigate and maintain in a modern world where right and wrong are not simple to identify.  I have always believed the unlikeliness of their friendship is one of the elements that gives the series its hope.

Was there added pressure this season to tie up many of the loose ends in these episodes, or did you find that a welcome challenge?

We were grateful to Netflix for telling us in advance that this would be our last season. It gave us the time and opportunity to craft this final chapter with care and thoughtfulness. Truth be told, we have always known since we pitched the pilot what the ending would be. And we talked exhaustively through everybody’s character arcs before we started writing  Season 6. Even so, I’ll admit Hunt and I altered one ending during the middle of filming, and one ending actually changed in editorial! It was very important to us to deliver climaxes and resolutions that were emotionally satisfying to our loyal audience even if some of the moments are a bit sad. Leaving audiences feeling moved and fulfilled as we said good-bye was the ultimate challenge for us. And finding the room to tell all the story we needed to tell was not easy either!

What are you going to miss about this show the most?

I will miss the annual spring migration to New Mexico where we filmed the show. It was a magical convocation of artists in a breathtaking landscape telling redemptive stories about mankind. We all pushed ourselves to the limit creatively, emotionally and physically, and I think we all felt appreciated by each other and our fans.

Is there any final message you want to pass along season 6, and the process of filming and saying goodbye to the show as we know it? 

The melancholy I feel at saying good-bye to Longmire is matched by the gratitude I feel towards our cast and crew who stuck it out with us for 6 uncertain years, and to our fans whose voices and passion helped extend our life with Netflix. It has been one of the greatest moments of my career, and I am forever changed for the better.

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