For those needing a refresher: Inspired by the true story of Ralph Lamb (played by Dennis Quaid), the freshman drama follows the fourth-generation rancher as he serves as Las Vegas’ sheriff in the 1960s, just as the town is evolving into a gambling mecca and has its fortunes dictated by crime boss Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis).
On the occasion of the show’s return, TVLine invited Jason O’Mara, who plays Jack Lamb — Ralph’s brother and deputy — to deal out reasons to return to Vegas.
VIVA, LAS VEGAS | “Las Vegas, translated to English, means ‘the meadows,’ and that conjures up this kind of rural, gulch-like setting,” O’Mara notes. But as the series unfolds, the Lambs’ home turf morphs in the direction of the tourist magnet we know today. “The fact that this city evolved so fast and in the way it did is in contrast so much with what it used to be. And it had so many growing pains. The show’s about Ralph trying not to wrangle the cattle, but wrangle the goings-on in the city.”
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD | A recently introduced arc involving hot-shot movie studio boss Abe Silver (played by The Wire‘s Paul Ben-Victor) and his star starlet (The Good Wife’s Anna Camp) tees up “a mini-season” over these last six episodes, O’Mara shares. “As our showrunner Greg Walker says, ‘There was one thing scarier than the Italian Mob in 1960 and that’s the MGM police in 1960.’ We don’t talk about MGM per se, but Abe Silver definitely becomes a threat in his own right when [Sheriff Lamb’s deputy son] Dixon and Yvonne go out to L.A.”
THE MEN WERE MEN | In other words, no metrosexuals allowed in 1960s Las Vegas. “The best thing about the characters we’re getting to play, particularly the cowboys, is that these were the days when if someone looked at you wrong or said the wrong thing or insulted your wife or the woman you were with, you smacked them in the jaw and that was that,” O’Mara says. “You didn’t have to worry about a lawsuit coming back at you. You just get into a scrap and that’s how things were settled. Whoever came out on his feet with less blood was the winner.” In fact, O’Mara’s alter ego is due to win one such face-off in the very near future. “Jack finally gets some revenge on Savino for playing him like a flute,” he previews. “Jack bursts into his office, smacks him in the face with a phone and knocks him unconscious. I haven’t seen the final cut, but that was a lot of fun to shoot.”
THE FEMMES ARE FIERCE | Similarly, the ladies are not to be trifled with either. “What I really love about the characters played by Carrie-Anne Moss and Sarah Jones” — ADA Katherine O’Connell and mob daughter Mia Rizzo — “is that they’re strong, but they’re still very much women. They’re not acting like men to fit in,” O’Mara observes. “They’re holding on to their femininity while still getting stuff done.” Recalling one of Jones’ first episodes, O’Mara “was kind of shocked at how strong she was when she finds out about her father dying, and then within a couple of scenes she’s in Savino’s office going, ‘Hey, there’s now a vacancy in the management of the Savoy and I want in.'”
HITTING THE ACTING JACKPOT | From the original ensemble to post-pilot add-ons like Jones right down to guest stars, “The cast has been incredible,” O’Mara raves. “When they called me, a week after the Netflix deal didn’t go through on Terra Nova, they were like, ‘Do you want to do a pilot directed by [James Mangold] the same guy who directed 3:10 to Yuma, [co]written by [Nick Pileggi] the same guy who did Casino and Goodfellas, and starring Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Carrie-Anne Moss, Taylor Handley….’ It was just insane.” Add that’s not to mention recurring players such as Michael Ironside (Total Recall), Damon Herriman (Justified), Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad), Shawn Doyle (Big Love) and, debuting imminently, Nikita‘s Melinda Clarke, as Mia’s mom. “Every time a new script comes in, it’s like, ‘What actors are we going to be given to work with this time?'” O’Mara effuses.
YOU DON’T KNOW JACK | As hinted above, over the next stretch of episodes, Sheriff Lamb’s No. 1 will become “more proactive,” O’Mara shares. But is that perhaps a dangerous quality to have under the circumstances? “As Jack moves in on Savino and the whole operation, there’s also going to be the collateral damage of Mia and how she fits into the whole thing,” the actor teases. “When we left off last, Mia and Jack were estranged because she found out that he killed her father and lied to her about it. So, they have to sort that out first.” Yet once they do, “happily ever after” is still a ways away. “They’re sort of fighting for their lives,” O’Mara previews, “but at least she finally gets to see how much he really does love her.”
LOW-TECH EQUALS HIGH DRAMA | As period dramas such as Vegas and The Americans have proven, back in the day, the good guys had to git it done without the convenience of cell phones, GPS trackers or micro-dot phone taps. Recalling an instance where Jack had to deliver critical information in person, O’Mara says, “It’s so much more exciting to tell stories like that where an actual, physical human being has to be the messenger instead of raising a cell phone every time you get in the car. Also, there’s a certain overall simplicity to the Lambs and what they want out of life, and I think we could all do with a bit of that. It’s kind of enjoyable to watch cowboys be cowboys!”