this is us

The Featured Presentation

Adam Bartley


* This feature originally ran 04/19/17

There are some actors who just steal the scene and captivate viewers regardless of who else is in the scene with them. The on-camera dazzling is never done intentionally. It is the actor’s commitment to the part and pledge to the craft that shines a spotlight on the performance, forcing those at home to pay attention. They exist in a fictional world, but play their character as an authentic resident of the imaginary zip code that we, the viewers, visit as voyeuristic tourists.

One of those actors… one of our favorite actors… is Adam Bartley. As The Ferg on the long-running series “Longmire,” Bartley has been playing the deputy everyman with understated precision for five (soon to be six) seasons. The series is currently in production in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is where we caught up with the Minnesota native.

We recently sat down with Bartley to discuss how the show has changed his life, its pop culture legacy, and his favorite episode thus far.

TrunkSpace: When did you realize that The Ferg went from character to fan favorite character?
Bartley: I don’t know. I think the fans love every character. They’re just so loyal and incredible. But, as far as Ferg is concerned, I think in the first season… I think it was around the third episode when Ferg turned his badge in. When Ferg turned his badge in and said “I’m just not made for this… I can’t do this” and the Sheriff said, “Listen, Ferg, I hired you for two reasons. The first one was because of your father.” And I say, “What’s the other one?” And the Sheriff says, “Well, I’m still waiting to find out.” I think that moment helped people to really connect with Ferg in the sense of how similar he is to so many people and so many people’s paths. You’re not always going to show up and be the best at what you do all of the time. It’s a kind of an everyman availability for audiences and I think that’s what latched people on… they saw a lot of themselves in the character and started to root for Ferg immediately from them on. And then of course, there’s the moment when I think the audience found out Ferg is in love with Cady Longmire.

TrunkSpace: That episode definitely felt like Ferg’s coming out party in terms of revealing him to have various layers, especially when we see him react so emotionally to Cady’s accident.
Bartley: Yeah. That’s great. That was a really incredible episode. That’s absolutely right. That piece… you’re seeing something beyond a sort of loyal, hardworking, trying-to-please-the-Sheriff kind of deputy. You’re seeing a person who has feelings and who you can relate to.

TrunkSpace: From an acting standpoint, what for you has been the most exciting thing about the character’s growth over the life of the series? What were you most excited to work on?
Bartley: Well, any time I’m working in a scene where it’s just Walt and I, that’s always… I love that relationship. Rob Taylor is a very good friend and we have a really good sort of chemistry as friends on and off camera. I really love watching the evolution of that relationship because for Ferg, the Sheriff is sort of the father figure he, I think, always wanted. He just tries to please him and make him proud every day. And so to be able to play in that space is really challenging and exciting.

I would say my favorite episode that I’ve worked on in the first five seasons has been when I get physically apprehended and beat up by the mob and I have to walk to some diner and call Walt. He comes and we sit down and just playing in that scene was really, really powerful acting and he really helped bring that out. I’ve lost my badge. I’ve lost my gun. I’ve been had and I’ve failed again. It’s hard to fess up when you fail and it’s hard to acknowledge that you fail, especially to the Sheriff.

TrunkSpace: Coming from a theater background, when you first started working in those scenes with Robert… he’s so understated and quiet in his delivery whereas in theater you’re taught to project… did that take some getting used to?
Bartley: It’s funny that you say that. I actually talk about this a lot, including last night and a couple of days before. Yeah, that’s one of the great things about this show for me is that it has been an on-camera education in ways that you could never get in school or anywhere else. A lot of that has to do with that when I showed up, coming from the theater, I had been rehearsing my first scene for the pilot and was just so excited and I was all ready to go. I was speaking somewhat loudly and theatrically and told the Sheriff, “Hey, listen I’m so sorry I’m late… it will never happen again!” (Laughter) In the first rehearsal, Rob… barely audible. He just sort of mutters his line to me and walks away. It was really powerful. It was a huge “wow” moment for me because the challenge, I think, on camera for any actor coming from the theater is believing that your most simple, your most honest, open, simple true reaction to any situation is enough. That people are going to find that interesting, without you doing anything more than you saying the line. Obviously Rob Taylor has been in the business for a very long time and figured that out 30 years ago, but I was figuring it out on the fly. It’s been an incredible sort of Petri dish this show, playing around with that sort of trust in myself and in terms of getting it down to the most simple truth in every scene.

TrunkSpace: It’s funny that you said Robert was barely audible because he’s so patient and soft in scenes sometimes that it’s easy to imagine him being difficult to mic.
Bartley: (Laughter) You get used to it. It’s true. We’ve always had good sound mixers. Always. Yeah, it’s so nice to not have to get every word out to the world. It’s nice for you to be discovered… that what you’re saying is being discovered and heard for the first time.

TrunkSpace: When you landed the part, how much of your character did you base on the source material from the books?
Bartley: None, actually. No. I read “The Cold Dish,” Craig Johnson’s book, and kind of soaked in the world, but the character The Ferg in that book is very different from the character that I play. I was really interested in sort of creating my own character because the writers for the TV show had really created a new character for The Ferg. But, I wanted to make sure that I was in the world.

TrunkSpace: We discovered the show late in its run thanks to the wonders of binge watching. It takes hold of you and you get sucked in very easily. That being said, how can so much terrible stuff happen in one small Wyoming county!?!?
Bartley: (Laughter) I know. Luckily Wyoming itself is not that crime-ridden, but in our Wyoming, things have not been very good. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Other than relocating during production, how has the series impacted your life and career the most?
Bartley: Wow. Well… this series has allowed me to realize a dream of mine. To be on camera. And it’s a dream that didn’t really come to me until I was 30 and then it really hit me there with what I wanted to do. I had been doing theater all over the country for 10 years and this not only has changed my life forever in regards to having a seat at the table to be able to do other things… and hopefully having an opportunity to do more things after this… but the singular experience of working on “Longmire” is unlike any show I’ve ever worked on or any play I’ve ever worked on. We are an incredibly close family of people that really love being together and really love working together. I’ll take that with me and I’ll take what I’ve learned from these people, from this incredible group of artists, and how people treat each other and how artists should have space and room to create the greatest version of the stories they’re telling and how establishing great working relationships up front on new projects… how that pays dividends and how it shows up on camera. It’s starkly different from other shows that don’t have those elements. We’re lucky to have an incredible group of producers that from the very first moment on the pilot set the tone for how this was going to go. It’s just not always that way. There’s a lot of other ways people go about doing this business, but as I go forward, that’s the best gift… taking what I’ve learned from this show and these people and applying it to everything I do going forward.

And the other thing is the fans. All of these incredible, loyal people who just love the stories so much and reach out and come to Longmire Days. They’re so kind. This show has really touched a lot of people. It has really changed lives and that’s so humbling… to know that I’m sitting in a coffee shop and somebody comes up and seeing them with almost tears in their eyes to meet me… it’s like, “Wow!” It’s powerful. Storytelling can be so powerful and I just feel so blessed to be a part of it and to have this be my job.

Bartley as The Ferg in “Longmire”

TrunkSpace: And it’s something from a pop culture legacy standpoint that will stand the test of time. The show isn’t going anywhere. New generations will find it.
Bartley: Yeah. No doubt. It’s just a special show for a special time. And the cool part about that is that, even in years from now when I’m missing being down here in Santa Fe and being with this incredible group of people, the wonderful thing is that “Longmire” is still going to be sitting there on Netflix. It’s still going to be sitting there and people can watch it whenever they want. They’ll have new viewers every day. In that way, it’s being sort of aired for the first time every single day.

TrunkSpace: It is crazy to think about now because there was a time when a show would air and you might catch it in a rerun or in syndication, but most shows just sort of disappeared. That’s not how it works nowadays, especially for shows as popular as “Longmire.”
Bartley: They live on. It’s so unique to this time and to this Golden age of television. There’s so much content and people will keep discovering it. That’s wonderful.

TrunkSpace: The show has such a rich history of really great guest stars. Was there anyone in particular that came into the show and gave you butterflies or made you feel a bit intimidated to be in a scene with based on their body of work?
Bartley: Well, the thing about our show is that it is a big open-hearted family and everyone that works on the show gets to be a part of it right away and is welcome. So there’s not a lot of intimidation going on around the set. But that being said, when Gerald McRaney and I had a scene together, that was a really interesting day. He’s a powerhouse. He was playing quite the powerhouse on the show as well and he basically gave it to me, in the rehearsal and in the scene, in a classic McRaney kind of way.

We’ve had so many great guest stars. I’ll just say that. Heather Kafka, who played the woman who had all of the deer carcasses… she’s just an incredible actress. One of my favorite people too. There have been so many like her who have come and just lifted the show up. And Mary Wiseman who played my love interest on the show is just a phenomenal actress. She inspires me and we have such a great time working together and such a great connection on camera. She’s quite special to watch.

It’s one after another. I could name 40 names and keep going.

It’s a special place. It’s a special group. We have an incredible crew. Just the best people. When I come to set, it’s saying hi, every day, to 75 people on my way to rehearsal. And then saying goodbye when I leave. That’s every day. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of closeness, but also a lot of focus as well. A shared focus. It’s a time I’ll never forget.

TrunkSpace: Walt is a classic Hollywood badass. You also appeared in “Justified,” which featured a more modern badass in the form of Timothy Olyphant’s character Raylan. Having been around so many on-screen badasses, what makes a successful one?
Bartley: (Laughter) A good on-screen badass? That’s a good question. I would say keeping things close to the chest. Characters that say as little as necessary and sort of lead with their actions instead of their words. And having physical stature…

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) That helps!
Bartley: Yeah. Physical stature helps.

Bartley is currently filming season 6 of Longmire.

Bartley also recently guested as Duke in “This Is Us” on NBC and can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films “Annabelle: Creation” and “Under the Sliver Lake.”

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The Featured Presentation

Hannah Zeile

Photo By: Bobby Quillard

In a time when everyone is talking about the exceptional storytelling found on cable and streaming platforms, NBC did something relatively unusual for networks this past television season – they produced a new, non-reality hit. Stacked with an impressive cast and developed to be relatable on multiple levels, “This Is Us” exploded onto the scene with a pilot that genuinely took people by surprise, which is an accomplishment in and of itself in this spoiler-filled age.

The story follows the Pearson family as they navigate the ups and downs of life, both in the present and by way of the past through a series of flashbacks that peer in on the complicated upbringing of the three siblings at the core of the series. Hannah Zeile plays the adolescent version of Kate (also played by Chrissy Metz), a reserved young girl who is dealing with a lack of self-confidence, an overbearing mom, and finding her place amongst the rest of the family.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” kicks off tonight on NBC.

We recently sat down with Zeile to discuss how she handles the emotional workload of her character, her favorite scene, and whether or not she feels pressure heading into the second season.

TrunkSpace: What were your initial thoughts when you learned that you would become a series regular in season 2?
Zeile: I felt like someone needed to wake me up because my absolute biggest dream since I remember dreaming became a reality. I was already so excited to be a recurring guest star in season 1, but it was not a guaranteed job. Becoming a series regular has been the biggest blessing and honor, especially on a show with so many talented people.

TrunkSpace: Does that mean we’ll be flashing back even more to the origin stories of how each of these characters became who they are?
Zeile: We will definitely be seeing more of the teenage Big 3. The teenage years are a pivotal time in a person’s life, full of change and growth and lots of life lessons, so I’m excited for everyone to see Kevin, Kate, and Randall start discovering themselves. The writers do an incredible job of showing how the storylines of the teenage Big 3 have an effect on their present lives.

TrunkSpace: The storytelling in “This is Us” is always very powerful and relatable. What will Kate be dealing with throughout the course of the season that you can shed a little light on (without giving too much away) and do you find it difficult to go to such emotional places with the character as you grow alongside of her?
Zeile: I really cannot reveal much, but as you saw in season 1, Kate has a very close bond with her dad and we will get to see that relationship explored, as well as her complicated relationship with her mother. There is such a difference between reading an emotional scene, and actually performing it. The writing is phenomenal and my castmates are as well, so all the “emotional places” become so real and organic.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular moment performance-wise from your work in season 1 that you are most proud of and why?
Zeile: I’m most proud of my scene in the car with Milo Ventimiglia in episode 17 because that scene was really important for the development of Jack and Kate’s relationship. It was essential to use those few minutes to portray how close of a father/daughter duo they are, and I thought it turned out really beautiful.

TrunkSpace: One of the amazing things about the show from your character’s perspective in particular is that it is a period piece. You’re getting to perform on these wonderfully authentic sets and wear incredible wardrobe pieces that really help establish the tone for that period of time. What do you enjoy most about being able to tap into that throwback feel with the work you’re doing on “This is Us?”
Zeile: It is so fun working in different time periods! I admire the wardrobe and prop departments for all their amazing work. The prop department is very attentive to detail, like making sure the date is within the period on the newspaper that is sitting on the breakfast table. The wardrobe department dresses me in such amazing stuff that I always tell them I’d love to take stuff home and wear some of the pieces around.

TrunkSpace: When the show premiered last year, it really took a lot of people by surprise in terms of how quickly it became a success for NBC. Do you feel like there is any extra pressure on the series (and yourself as a series star) going into the second season?
Zeile: I don’t really feel pressure about it. The writers, my castmates, and the crew are brilliant so I have confidence in all those people. We all come to set and have so much fun because we love what we do and we love what we are creating, so the fact that other people love it too is incredible.

TrunkSpace: In terms of performance and finding Kate, did you and Chrissy ever sit down together and discuss certain aspects of the character that perhaps was expected to carry over into adulthood? Because you’re both playing the same person, is it important to stay in sync?
Zeile: When Chrissy and I get together, we laugh a lot and grow closer on a more personal basis. I’ve picked up her mannerisms and things by watching the show and watching her performances, but I’m thankful that Chrissy trusts me enough to make teenage Kate my own character with her own identity.

TrunkSpace: You’re still so young, and yet now starting to be accomplished in the industry. Does that put pressure on you in your personal life amongst friends and peers? Have people’s expectations changed in regards to who they think Hannah Zeile is?
Zeile: I’ve always been someone who keeps her circle tight. I’m really close with my family; my mom is literally my best friend and my biggest supporter. All the people in my life are people who have been by my side on this journey and they don’t expect me to be anything but myself.

THIS IS US — “A Father’s Advice” Episode 201 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Zeile as Kate age 15, Logan Shroyer as Kevin age 15, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Niles Fitch as Randall age 15 — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

TrunkSpace: What first drew you to acting? What made this particular journey of such interest to you?
Zeile: Growing up, I would come home from a movie and pretend I was my favorite character for the rest of the week. I always loved stepping into someone else’s shoes and pretending to live in their reality. As I’ve gotten older, I can appreciate how a performance can affect you in ways that words can’t describe, but you feel it. I hope that in my career I can move people the way other actors have moved me.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing a teen on television who is going through a lot of difficult, emotional moments in a world where social media didn’t exist. This is a bit of a mind melt, we know, but given what you know about being a teenager in 2017, do you think Kate’s experience would be easier, similar, or more difficult if she was growing up in the present?
Zeile: It is hard to say for sure, but I would think it would be more difficult. Social media can put a lot of pressure on young girls, especially like Kate who struggles with low self-esteem mostly due to her weight. Unfortunately, people can also be negative and hide behind a keyboard on social media and I think mean comments are hard for anyone to read, including Kate.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” premieres tonight on NBC.

Featured image by: Bobby Quillard

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