Season 3 has been a tumultuous season as each of the characters have been swept up in separate dramas and storylines. It also means that Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) has been left on his own to sort out his own demons and post-traumatic stress over being shot at the end of Season 2. Without a strong support system, Branch has seemingly gone rogue and perhaps over the edge with his conduct becoming more and more outrageous and dabbling in the criminal side of things — all in an effort to track down the man who shot him.
In a recent press conference call, star Bailey Chase talked about Branch’s emotional and professional spiral out of control and how much fun he is having playing the character without the boundaries of his society constraining him.
When did the producers let you know what they had in store for you and what you can tell us about what’s coming up?
BAILEY: We met back in January, just as everyone was getting back from the holidays and they actually had started story boarding back in the Fall and at this point had pretty much laid out the first half of the season. And then we just kind of put our heads together and wanted to see where I was and what I was thinking and then they shared where they were coming from and basically that we would pick up Season 3 right where we left off at the end of Season 2 and Branch be in this precarious state. And then, it was more about kind of crafting where Branch is going to go at the end of the season. I was definitely excited because creatively it’s been a pretty eventful ride and having a lot of phones that melt, it’s different than anything I’ve done in my career before.
What can you tease about what’s coming up?
BAILEY: I don’t know what I’m allowed to tell you. There is a lot that’s going to happen between episodes 305 which airs tonight and 310, a continue down this path that that has been started in 301 and I’m obsessed with finding the guy who shot me, David Ridges. And that will continue through the rest of the season.
How has it been to work with Gerald McRaney and do you the two have scenes coming up?
BAILEY: We do. We actually have a lot. I just wrapped the finale on Friday, even though the company wraps today. But McRaney and I had a lot to do on Thursday and Friday, just some really cool stuff with guns out on the shooting range. And I can’t say specifically what all we did but it was a lot of fun and he is one of my favorite actors to work with.
So far this season what’s been your favorite moment or scene to shoot?
BAILEY: I got to say it was pretty cool that just a couple of episodes into the season Branch started going out on his own and doing his own thing, it’s like “yes, yes, well, whatever” and then he goes and does what he wants. But the episode that aired last week where he gets out hunting and cut himself and making a fire, that was great. I’ve been wearing those tight wranglers and boots for three years now, so it’s kind of nice to get out of them for a bit and put on a flannel shirt and cargo pants and to pick up a rifle and just kind of go do my thing, because I think that’s what Branch does in his down time when he is not working. He is out there in the woods, hunting, riding around in his truck and so that is what he does.
Will we see more of Branch kind of away from the job? Because I have to say like for all the characters, when we see them doing their job but also kind of away from that.
BAILEY: You can definitely anticipate to see a little bit more, actually a lot more of that and a bit of a change in Branch’s appearance physically.
I also really enjoy the evolution of his relationship with Sheriff Longmire. What’s coming up with Branch and Walt (Robert Taylor)? And can you tell us a little bit more about how that relationship might continue to evolve?
BAILEY: Where we left off in last week’s episode, we’re obviously starting to it seems like we got to a better place post-election and then Branch got shot, and he literally saves Branch’s life. But as Branch starts recovering, he’s on the mission again to find David Ridges and bring him in. And so, you’re starting to see that conflict. It’s starting to boil in the last episode and that will continue on. That’s the cool thing about the relationship from Walt-side is he is really good looking at every turn, but there is just something going on with Branch that I don’t want to spoil that. It’s almost like Branch just can’t help himself.
As far as investigating who shot Branch, in last week’s episode we saw that he kidnapped someone to get more information. How much are you allowed to say about how far Branch will go to get to the truth?
BAILEY: He’ll stop at nothing.
Has there been in aspect of your character that has surprised you over the three seasons?
BAILEY: Yes. Season 3 in particular, when I sat down with the creators of the show back when we’re first starting to do the pilot. Branch was not that interesting on the page. What really sold me on the show and the character was their vision for him and basically it does take the whole first season to flesh him out, and then towards end of Season 1 with Walt Longmire and Branch throwing down in the middle of the road and it’s game on for Season 2 when that starts and everything with the election. So, I pretty much knew about Season 1 and 2 going in. I did not know about Season 3. I don’t think they did either. It’s been very unexpected for me and for them and probably for the audience. But at the same time it’s been a really pleasant surprise because creatively it’s just not very often that you’re given this gift and they trust you to just go have fun. And it’s been a really interesting journey. I kind of can’t wait for people to see the back half.
Will there be any like major negative repercussions with any of these relationships as Branch goes looking for his shooter?
BAILEY: Absolutely. There is cause and effect. And as you saw at the end of last week episode, Branch definitely crossed the line by kidnapping this guy and he is going to stay on that path for the remainder of the season. And he is going to suffer some consequences for sure.
About the evolution of Branch’s character over the last three seasons, as this obsession is kind of unfolding, do you kind of look back and see that they were characteristics that you built on to play out this story?
BAILEY: I think ultimately what happened to Branch, being the one major character that was not already established in the books, our writers just kind of had free-range to create whatever they wanted. And I would say they probably saw something over the course of the first 2 seasons, in particular the second season, with Cady (Cassidy Freeman) and it’s game on. That scene out there at the driving range and she’s dumped him and he feels betrayed by Walt and Branch just kind of goes all in at that point. Where I think they probably saw something around that time and then the light bulb went off and they started thinking about Branch in Season 3 is going in this darker direction.
Your co-star Robert Taylor does very little press. Can you tell me what it’s like working with him? Is he really like Walt Longmire? It seems like he is.
BAILEY: He kind of is. Yes, he is very old school. He is not one that’s says more than he has to. He’ll do it with a look or applause. And for me, it’s been great to work across from him. I find myself doing less and less and a really cool thing. But I think that the camera department, the VP’s and the directors have figured out as just the work that he and I do, I just see the lens getting tighter and tighter and tighter as Rob and I do less and less. So you never stop learning in this business and it’s it’s been really enjoyable for me to see that and to do less and feel even better after work.
What was it about the project that made you want to do it?
BAILEY: I really love the story. I originally read for Walt Longmire. He is obviously a very dynamic, strong, manly man that’s almost any dude would want to play. Once I got in the room and met with everybody the feedback came back that “we love Bailey” and they were familiar with me from another show, from SAVING but “he just doesn’t have the age,” if you will. And then they brought up the idea of Branch, and again, in the pilot Branch was not that interesting at that stage, but once they explained the vision, I really brought into it and everything that Walter that Robert did I would try to do the obvious of the exact opposite. He would talk slow and then I would try to pick up the pace a little bit. He would grow out his beard and his hair and stuff and then I would go clean-shaven and get a haircut. He wears baggier clothes and, obviously, my uniform got a little tighter. So I just kind of saw him as the anti-Walt but, at the same time, they’re both really good guys. Just Branch is surrounded by darker influences and between Jacob Nighthorse and Barlow.
Can you kind of talk about just like your friendship with Walter and anyone else from the cast that you’re close with as well?
BAILEY: My relationship with Walt, in terms of characters, it starts out actually in a very sweet place because Branch is obviously in critical condition and Walt just kind of does everything he can at every turn to be there for him, to give Branch the benefit of the doubt. Branch is obviously hallucinating and suffering from PTSD or whatever else that will come out over the last half of the season. So Branch is just not quite all there, but at every turn Walt gives him the benefit of the doubt until that moment where he keeps doing his own thing. Then enough is enough and that’s where you will start to see them really go in separate directions and obviously that ended up with Branch kidnapping someone. So for a cop, obviously that’s not OK. And then personally, I have really strong friendships with all of the cast. Katee [Sackhoff] a little bit less this season, she kind of burned out on the New Mexico scene and is flying home every weekend. But Adam [Bartley] and I are really tight friends. We actually shared a house this month because my wife stayed back in L.A. So that was great. And then Lou [Phillips] and I did a movie together last year called the “Tao of Surfing” which he directed.
Is your cast a group of people that hang out with each other or you go your separate ways? What it is like behind the scenes?
BAILEY: It’s a little bit of both. There’s a big fan event in Wyoming in a couple of weeks where most of the cast tends to go for LONGMIRE Days. And then after that Robert goes back to Australia, so nobody kind of sees him for about eight months and everybody else is based out of L.A., all of our regulars. So we tend to see other at various functions for days in general or whatever the case maybe.
Speaking of Lou, can you also expand upon what’s in store for Henry [Lou Phillips] as well?
BAILEY: It’s funny. This season we’ve never had a lot to do together. It was cool last season when Walt was off from this thing in the mountain and things like that and after Branch lost the election, he went to Henry Standing Bear for his help, saying, “Where’s Walt? we got to go find him.” And so that was great. They at least have that. But with Lou then this season, he is off with the storyline and Katee [Sackhoff] and Branch are kind of off in their own worlds. So the only downside has been I really have a solo season.
Can you describe something that’s super fun for to do on this show for this season?
BAILEY: I love getting on horseback that that’s definitely we’ve had that in a couple of episodes. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do it this season, but I would definitely say the rodeo stuff are the stuff I did with McRaney and riding up in the mountains. That was a lot of fun for me and then last week McRaney and I got to go out and shoot skeet. So that was definitely cool to shoot live rounds and try and act the scene. That was pretty interesting. And then the one other thing that stands out was playing golf in Season 1. That’s my passion outside of work. It’s great. It’s not something you normally get to do in television if you’re on a sound stage back in L.A. That’s unique to the show that I will always cherish.
What would be something you’d like to see to do? Would you like have more action for the sequences for you as the character Branch?
BAILEY: Yes. Basically, exactly what you said. I would love to see more action sequences. If we could even do it on a horse, that would be even better. I love getting out in the elements and shooting and chasing bad guys or trying to find Walt like in that episode where he was off in the snow. That’s my favorite stuff. So more of that would be great.
Do you think they’d actually let you do some of those things? I mean sometimes they don’t let the actors be the ones to take all those risks?
BAILEY: Yes, we’ve already done it. I don’t know if it’s a way of saving money but we don’t always have stunt actors out here on the set of LONGMIRE. The guys who were here are great, but I find myself doing most of the fight sequences and even Robert rappelling from that cliff in last week’s episode, that was all him.
Does having that open space help with creating the character? Do you use that?
BAILEY: Absolutely. And first and foremost, hats off to our DPU’s directors and camera department. That is something I will miss after LONGMIRE. I can’t imagine working on another show that looks like this. A perfect example was last week and we got the whole crew out on this location, hundred people standing around waiting for about 40 minutes, so that sun is just that a little bit further in the sky, so the light was hitting the cloud in the perfect way. And we thought it was almost like recess. It was like, “OK, we got 40 minutes, go do whatever and then we’re going to start shooting when the sun is at the perfect height.” That’s never happened before. For example, the last show I was a regular on, SAVING GRACE shot back in L.A. even though it fictionally it was that in Oklahoma. But we were constantly shooting away from the mountains because it’s flat in Oklahoma, whereas, here in New Mexico does double very well for Wyoming. So we get up there in the mountains and we go just across the range here to a little town called Pico, which is much greener. It is absolutely another character on the show as a part of what makes LONGMIRE so special.
Branch has a lot going on right now, but are Branch and Cady a thing of the past, and if so, are there any other romantic aspects on the horizon for your character?
BAILEY: Yes. It’s one of those that’s just kind of been on the sidelines for this season because she’s off trying to save Henry and Branch is off trying to find Ridges. But we will have some stuff for the end of the season. And then as far as other romantic interest for me, no, Branch just doesn’t have time for that right now.
What’s like the intention for season with Cady and how their relationship will evolve or if you are hoping it will evolve?
BAILEY: For our third episode which is already aired, Branch comes in and she is talking to another guy and that doesn’t sit very well with him, and then later on, they finally do catch up for a drink and he writes her that check to get Henry out on bail. So, the feelings are absolutely still there. Branch wants to be with Cady, but it’s just such a crazy season, and she goes off to the left and he’s off to the right. So they are kind of these two ships crossing in the night. There is just no real time for them to be together until very late in the season. They do finally unite to basically figure stuff out.
To see if Branch will be held accountable for his actions and if he and Cady do fine some quite time to rekindle their romance, tune in for an all new episode of LONGMIRE on Monday, July 7th at 9:00 p.m. on A&E.