52 Pick-up 2.0, #8, 2/18/2020
Bryan Hall: “Has your vision of Walt changed since your first story now that there is a face to Walt (In the form of Robert Taylor)? Robert put so much into the character that when I read the stories now, I picture him.”
The novels pretty much started with my image of Walt, a vertical individual in a horizontal landscape, and the vision I have of him was pretty well solidified by the time the television show came about, seven books into the series. There are some similarities in the two, but there are some differences, too… In the books, Walt is older. I remember in one of the first meetings I had with the producers they told me they were thinking of making the characters of Walt and Henry about ten years younger than they are in the books and of course, I had the redneck, cowboy response of, “Well now, why are we going to do that?” And they said that they wanted the TV series to go on for ten years and they’d rather not have Walt and Henry on walkers…
As a side note, A&E actually wanted to have Walt be in his thirties, but the producers said they found a thirty-year-old, world-weary character a little hard to take—and I had to agree. Whenever I run into a world-weary, thirty-year-old I always think, buckle up buttercup, the best is yet to come.
Like me, Robert is closing in on sixty and it’s a comfortable age but still a little younger than Walt who is a Vietnam War veteran.
Another difference is the general build. Robert is a pretty good sized guy at about 6’3” and two-ten, but the Walt in the books is kind of a giant at 6’5” and a good 250 lbs. Keep in mind that the Walt in the books was an offensive lineman for USC in a Rose Bowl and is built kind of like a refrigerator with a head. This was a choice I made on purpose in that an awful lot of the sheriffs I meet on the high plains tend to be big men; it just makes the job a lot easier in a terrain where backup is generally a long time coming.
I used to say that Walt was a little different than the usual crime-fiction protagonist–the six-foot-two-of-solid-steel-and-sex-appeal, every woman wants him, every man fears him and he can kill anyone with a #2 Ticonderoga pencil in 3.2 seconds… I hate that character because I just find them hard to believe—hence Walt. Then along comes Robert Taylor and kind of blows that theory out of the water. Robert isn’t what I’d call the stereotypical, Hollywood handsome, but he’s not hard on the eye, or so the female reader/viewers tell me.
I guess where the two cross paths would be first the attitude. I remember watching Robert when they were filming the pilot episode and there was another actor he was in a scene with who was gesticulating and moving around a lot, while Robert just sat there looking at him. I went up to Rob afterward and asked him about it the stillness of his performance and he said, “Walt’s a hunter, you don’t catch anything by moving around and making a lot of noise.”
I knew he had it at that point.
The other point where the two coincide, in my opinion? The voice. I’m always telling writing students that you only get to describe a character once in a novel, but that character is going to speak throughout the entire book, so focus on the voice and differentiate it from all the others. When they were first making the show, they discussed having Walt’s thoughts as a voiceover, the way I do in the novels—actually being inside his head, but they decided against it. I sometimes wonder, with that wonderful voice of Robert’s, if that was such a good idea…
See you on the trail,