SMU grad is happy playing the ‘Longmire’ bungler

SMU alumnus Adam Bartley stars as "The Ferg" in A&E’s Longmire.

Special Contributor

Actors often prepare for their TV roles as cops, surgeons and forensics specialists by meeting and shadowing their real-life counterparts on the job.

Adam Bartley — a Southern Methodist University graduate who plays a sheriff’s deputy on A&E’s Longmire — is an exception.

He didn’t want to know the ins and outs of police work — and his reason makes perfect sense once he explains himself. Bartley’s character, Deputy Ferguson, a.k.a. the Ferg, is inexperienced and a bungler. Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., hired Ferg purely as a favor to the kid’s dad.

“I was going to do a ride-along with a Santa Fe cop,” Bartley says. “Then I realized I shouldn’t learn any of these things, because I’m not supposed to know the right way.”

There are a handful of nitpickers who disapprove nevertheless. “They’ll make comments online like, ‘Hey, Ferg, you weren’t holding your gun right.’ Well, that’s the point. I just started.”

Most viewers seem to have taken a shine to the Ferg. Bartley talked by phone from Santa Fe, N.M, where Longmire (9 p.m. Mondays) is filmed.

Is there a story behind your getting the role of Ferg?

It’s a great story. After getting my degree at SMU, I moved to New York and Chicago and Alaska. I was all over the place. For about three or four years, I was in Aspen, Colo., teaching acting to kids. Then, three years ago, I was living in Alaska and engaged. But that kind of fell apart. So I got my dog and moved to LA. And a year later, I got my first pilot audition. It was for this show, and I booked the role. It’s been a pretty special time in my life, for sure.

The show has been well-received by viewers (opening Season 2 with an audience of more than 4 million) and critics. That kind of success right out of the block can spoil you, can’t it?

It’s a blessing. We have such brilliant writers. It all starts with a really good story. And then they hand it over to a team that is just a special group of people, on camera and off. Robert Taylor (who plays Walt Longmire) and Katee Sackhoff (who plays Deputy Vic Moretti) are the best.

We’re a big family, and we’ve been friends since the beginning. No Hollywood antics have crept into our show. We’re the greatest place for an actor to come to a guest star on — and I think it’s partly because we’re in beautiful Santa Fe. It’s almost like we’re at camp.

You went to SMU, even though you were born and raised in Minnesota. What made you choose SMU? And how Texan do you consider yourself to be now?

Southern Methodist is one of the top undergraduate theater companies in the country. It’s an incredible program. For me to be accepted as one of the 25 students was a huge deal. Michael Connolly, the head of acting there while I was there, was instrumental in my training. I was lucky to go there.

And how Texan am I? Well, I’m a huge Dallas Mavericks fan. I haven’t missed a game in probably 10 years. I worked at Reunion Arena when I was going to college. I would work the first half of the game and then sit down and watch Dirk Nowitzki do his thing. Needless to say, this was not an easy season. But I have good feelings about the future.