If you've come here looking for detailed breakdowns of events transpiring on the third season of "Deadwood," William Sanderson can't help you.
It's not that he won't. He really can't.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the show -- I barely know what it's like during the season," says Sanderson, who plays craven hotelier E.B. Farnum on the HBO series, which begins its new season Sunday. "You may have heard -- scenes come out at the last minute [during filming], and we shoot out of sequence. It'll be fun to watch it."
The continual revision of dialogue on "Deadwood" flows from series creator David Milch, who is notorious for wanting each word of a script to be precise. It's not always the easiest way to work, but Sanderson says he tries to use the process to his advantage in portraying Farnum.
"I don't ever want to say anything negative. To have a job at my stage was a miracle -- providential, if you will," he says. "But I have the belief, because the teachers in New York said, we can only be as good as the time we put in on something. Fortunately, Farnum is on an emotional edge all the time, and fearful and nervous, among other things."
As "Deadwood" picks back up, the heretofore lawless mining camp is preparing for its first real election, and Farnum is running for mayor. It's a post he already holds, though he was more or less appointed and hasn't been much more than a figurehead while saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) wields the true power.
The election storyline "seems to draw an analogy to Iraq," Sanderson says. "We're trying to develop a democracy, and it's not pretty."
It also parallels the history of the real Deadwood, which by 1877 was starting to build up lawful institutions. Sanderson, though, can't rely too much on history in playing Farnum, because the character Milch created is far less upstanding than what the record indicates the man really was.
"This guy is a suck-up, a sycophant -- as David called him, a buffoon," Sanderson says. "I don't see him always like that; I see him as trying to survive. But I use those things -- the nervousness, fear, the cowardliness and the cravenness. ... So he's a really fun character to play. And fear is a hell of an adrenaline rush."
That fear may stem from the fact that Farnum is a bit of a pretender. Moreso than most of the characters on "Deadwood," he speaks in florid, elaborately wrought sentences and tries (not too successfully) to dress the part of a gentleman.
"I imagine he is denying what he is, though David has him spout that he's a follower and not a leader. But he looks like his clothes just miss it, at best," Sanderson notes. "But sure, he wants to be more than he is, attaching himself to Swearengen or whoever. ...
"So he is a follower. But if you can get yourself up near the king, that's not a bad spot."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun