Exclusive Interview : William Sanderson

E.B Farnum on TV’s “Deadwood”


William Sanderson isn’t worried about being stereotyped – he’s just glad that his bank balance augments at the end of every fortnight. To celebrate the release of “Deadwood: Season 2 on DVD”; CLINT MORRIS talks to the actor about playing E.B Farnum, resident scumbag – oh, and Mayor – of the camp.

How did you get the role in Deadwood?
Like everyone else, I auditioned, but unlike everyone else, only one time. I heard about the project, so my agents got me the script for the pilot and then set up the audition with David Milch and the director of the pilot, who happened to be Walter Hill. Because I had worked with Walter before (on Last Man Standing), I was somewhat at ease. Also, because one of the traits in the description of the character, E.B. Farnum, was “nervous”, I wasn’t worried about being nervous in the audition.

Were you a fan of the western?
Yes. I love the escapism of watching westerns…especially an American Western. According to the brilliant David Milch, Deadwood is not a western though, ‘it’s about original sin’.

Now is your character based on a real person, like some of the others?
Yes. E.B. Farnum, Deadwood’s first mayor, was a real person…but parts of his life have been fictionalised in our show.

Who do you get along the best with on-set?
No one likes Farnum – he’s craven and sneaky. William Sanderson, nevertheless, tries to love and respect everyone on the set. It’s not difficult because this is the most professional and talented show I’ve ever been on!

And why do you think the show has been so successful?
David Milch’s writing plus great teamwork – in front and behind the camera.

Can you tell us what we can expect in the third season?
In one word Trouble – George Hearst, father of William Randolph Heart, continues to wreak havoc. Wyatt Earp comes to town. Democracy is developing – as in present day Iraq – it ain’t easy. Oh, E.B. Farnum struggles to survive.

Are you now recognized in the street, thanks to the role of E.B.?
Yes…people sometimes have too much class to say anything. I had a guy follow me around for a few minutes, from aisle-to aisle in a WalMart store, and finally he got up the nerve to ask me “are you E.B. from Deadwood?”

When’s E.B. going to get himself a girl?
E.B. got a handjob from one of the whores the first season. Guess the writers think that’s enough. If the actress is not as beautiful as my wife I don’t want one.

You did a lot of shows in the 70′s/80′s like ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ and ‘Starsky and Hutch’ – how do you think TV is different now to it was then?
I’m not going to analyse, I’m just glad to have a regular job and HBO, remember,
is “Not TV” (a reference to their promos/ads) – TV is my wife, movies are my mistress.

Done any films lately?
I’ve done a few I’d like to forget. Working 8 months a year on Deadwood leaves little time for anything else, but I did manage to squeeze in an independent film this past hiatus. I did the film because Kris Kristofferson was doing it and I really wanted to meet him.

DEADWOOD: SEASON 2 is now on DVD