With all the excitement happening on screen, it's possible to miss out on the lovingly detailed sets that give the show so much of its character. Production Designer Dave Blass gives some insight into some of the locations in Tell It Slant.
"For this episode we got to go into the world of the Heyoka or 'Contrary Warrior' and create his unique living area."
"The Heyoka is an outcast, maybe crazy, maybe a true visionary... we don't know. His world was filled with little art installations that he created, that on first look seem to be a pile of junk, but under closer scrutiny have a deeper message, much like the creator."
Waterproof this place ain't.
"A mobile made of burned cigarettes wrapped in Livestrong bracelets hover over his bed. A chair sits opposite a broken TV that now is a stage for a puppet show, and a chess board played out by army men give keys to his psyche."
"Come on in, have a jug of water. I'm just watching the doll box."
"Most viewers won't see all the details in the set, but really helps the actors to get into character and define the mood of the scene."
"For Cassandra's Abandoned House, we wanted her to be an 'Organized Hoarder' who had saved records, mementos and recordings from the last 30 years of clients."
Which one of those boxes is marked "Longmire"..?
"It's the idea that she would do an interview with a woman and then 20 years later do a session with that woman's daughter and be able to have all of this very specific information to dig up. We found a wonderful abandoned building and my decorator Marcia Calosio and her team went to town to create this amazing set of clutter, memories and mystery."
Clutter is on the left, memories on the right, and you'll find a whole pile of mystery way in the back.
"For the Debate I really pushed hard to have this set at the Elks lodge. Growing up in a small town, that's where things happened, at the Elks or VFW... those are the places in small towns where politics play out in small back rooms."
Town Hall is so peaceful when Contrary Warriors aren't running around shooting cap guns and ruining debates.
"Also, it was important for me to tie it back into the original Craig Johnson book 'The Cold Dish' where 'Pancake Day' was the political event day. We had the back of the hall outfitted with leftover dishes and platters of Pancakes as if that part of the event had already happened and we moved onto the politics of the day."
The scene in Tell It Slant when Walt trades places with Aaron Two Moons, played by Gary Farmer, is an intense one. Aaron's makeshift home is dark and misty, and the sound of wind blowing intensifies as the two men talk. FX Coordinator Randy Moore describes how the effect was achieved:
"During the takes where Walt becomes the Contrary Warrior and Gary becomes the Sheriff, we were smoking the building heavily. The wind was blowing crazy outside as a storm was blowing in."
Minimal lighting was used for this scene, which was being filmed (out of frame to the left) when this photo was taken.
"Each take at the about the same moment in the dialogue, the wind would have an enormous gust and the entire building would shake. Gary each time would look upwards to the gods and pause. After the scene was over, several of the crew came up to us and asked how we shook the entire building each time. The only answer I could give was 'with a lot of luck.' It is an incredible scene!"
Props get a final adjustment as actor and wizard Gary Farmer prepares to summon a storm.
Tell It Slant begins with a dreamlike sequence as the Contrary Warrior rides backwards past Walt's house. Walt's unfinished cabin is located in Valles Caldera, a nearly 14 mile wide volcanic caldera spotted with hot springs, volcanic domes, natural gas seeps, and grass valleys. Below, the crew, including show runner and executive producer John Coveny (left photo, the fellow in the middle) and episode director J. Michael Muro (right photo, the gentleman on the right), scopes out the area to find the best spot to shoot the beginning scene.
Just think, this all used to be a flaming, exploding hellscape!
Wondering where the episode title came from? It's actually from an Emily Dickinson poem titled "Tell All The Truth" which begins with the lines:
"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant — / Success in Circuit lies"
So, basically, tell the truth, but tell it gently. If you come right out with it, it could be too surprising. Better to break things to people in a roundabout way rather than just drop a truthbomb. Could it be a reference to the way Aaron Two Rivers had to find a circuitous way to confess to Walt? Could be!
Production notes courtesy of Amber Baily, Dave Blass, Randy Moore, and Emily Thomas.