Robert Taylor knows what’s in a name.
The Australian actor — who begins his second season playing a highly traditional American character when he returns as the title Wyoming sheriff in “Longmire” Monday, May 27, on A&E — shares the name of a performer who was a popular member of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s stable of stars from the 1930s through the 1950s.
“There haven’t been any complications from that at all,” the “Longmire” Taylor tells Zap2it, “but when I was a kid, people used to mention it to me all the time. Not as many people have heard of him these days. You ask kids who are 20 who he is, and their eyes glaze over. They never heard of him … but they probably couldn’t tell you who the President of the United States is, either.”
Films such as “Waterloo Bridge,” “Ivanhoe” and “A Yank at Oxford” have kept the earlier Taylor, who died in 1969 (and was the second husband of screen legend Barbara Stanwyck), a frequent presence on Turner Classic Movies. “He was a big star,” acknowledges the current Taylor, “and he made some great movies.”
That Taylor played a lawman on television, too, in ABC’s 1959-62 show “The Detectives.” The actor who portrays the typically silent-but-strong Sheriff Walt Longmire says he would like to become as well-known for his work, “hopefully.”
The contemporary Taylor and America are far from strangers, and he likens the setting of “Longmire” to the land where he grew up and worked in movies and series including Australia’s longest-running serial, “Home and Away.” He reflects, ‘The similarities between the two places are far more striking than the differences, with the histories and the people’s attitudes and the open spaces.
“Australia is the same size as the U.S., but it’s much smaller in terms of population,” Taylor notes. “I’ve been working in the States off and on since the ’80s, and the first time I played a lead here was in ’91, I think. I’ve always loved New Mexico — I’ve been there a bunch of times — and when this job came up, it woke me from my slumber. I thought, ‘I’m going to give this one a shot.'”