Outer Range has captured audiences’ imaginations with its engrossing twists and turns, outlandish science fiction elements, and genre-bending action. Set predominantly in Wyoming, the location itself very much plays an important part of the story, almost as if it is another character within the show. Without the Western motif of the beautiful plains, mountains, and prairie; the small town feel of the show would not be as successful.
Outer Range follows a rancher, Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin), fighting for his land and keeping his family together. Royal eventually stumbles upon a mysterious black void in a pasture on his property, coinciding with the arrival of Autumn (Imogen Poots), a strange drifter with some sort of spiritual connection to Abbott’s ranch. While the Abbott family copes with the disappearance of their daughter-in-law Rebecca, they are pushed further to the brink when a rival family, the Tillersons, try to take over their land.
Once again however, as is often the case in Hollywood, the real magic happens behind the cameras. Cyndy McCrossen, location manager and scout for Outer Range, gave a peek behind the curtains to unlock the magician’s secret. The show is not shot in Wyoming, but New Mexico, specifically Las Vegas and some of the surrounding community. Perhaps not an unveiling worthy of David Copperfield or Harry Houdini, but McCrossen, a native New Mexican, talks about how important the community was to the show and the cast and crew especially during filming at the height of the pandemic.
McCrossen was one of three managers and eight assistant location managers for Outer Range which brought a breadth of experience within episodic television and the Western genre. One of the first things McCrossen wanted to get across was how much the large production team appreciates the town of Las Vegas.
“The town is about 13,000 people, McCrossen says. “It’s not enormous. A few of the wonderful hotels and the merchants at the time were really hurting because of COVID. So their hospitality was key”.
When the show was in full swing and COVD restrictions had somewhat lifted, McCrossen believes the crew accounted for 80% of the hotel rooms in the area. She also shared how everyone in the cast and crew would often frequent the only restaurant in town, so production sounded like a real symbiotic relationship between Hollywood and Las Vegas.
The small town of Wabang, Wyoming, (the setting for the show), is merely the downtown area of Las Vegas with a little more movie magic done in post production, with McCrossen revealing that the show added its mountains in post-production. But while the geography may not have been picture-perfect, it was the feel of Las Vegas that seemed to be the real attraction.
When asked about the early production meetings the location crew would have with creator Brian Watkins, McCrossen recalls “I don’t ever remember there being sort of a defined era for the show. It quickly becomes evident it is contemporary, but there’s a certain attraction to that aspect of being ‘forgotten by time’. For instance, the Handsome Gambler, the lounge the characters are in… that is timeless. Time is a huge component of the show, so you start showing [locations] and you can see what you know what the creator’s sensibilities gravitate towards.”
In the case of Outer Range, the creators’ sensibilities seems to gravitate towards an era-fluid ‘any town USA’ that is both relatable and mysterious. Aside from the Handsome Gambler, the production crew built several other large set pieces, and there’s both a touching and somewhat sad story specifically with that. McCrossen goes on to say that with certain pieces like the Sheriff’s station, the community was happy to simply volunteer the space.
“Las Vegas has hundreds of buildings that are on historical register, and a lot of the buildings were sort of in flux, economically. During the pandemic there were a fair number of vacant properties. So that lovely property owner simply gave it to us to use”.
The Sheriff’s station ‘set’ was previously a bank, but when the crew got to it, it was merely a wide open space. The Pharmacy that Autumn visits was the converted foyer of an art gallery. The crew of Outer Range built many details in pre existing buildings. Everything from jail cells, to the interior of the bar was constructed from the ground up. Every prop was meticulously chosen, and every single piece of furniture had to be aged.
Yet one of the best peeks behind the curtain was the reveal that the Abbott Ranch house was completely built from scratch. The barn, the farmhouse, everything you see on that ranch other than the massive portal in the ground of the pasture, was built by the production.
“It’s called Buena Vista ranch in Buena Vista, New Mexico,” McCrossen says. “It’s north of Las Vegas, In beautiful northern New Mexico. It’s a family ranch, where there were no existing structures”.
To make the build even more exhausting, an exact replica of the house was built on a sound stage in Albuquerque, but McCrossen drives home that the show “couldn’t have done it without the ranch owners”. McCrossen, as a native of New Mexico wanted to ensure the Buena Vista ranch, the land, and the entire community was treated with the same respect they showed the cast and crew.
“They, of course, have access roads that they use so that they can move cattle and repair fences and whatnot, and the show had some leeway so we could create a drive up to the house, but we very much tried to stay to existing roads on the ranch, so that we wouldn’t unnecessarily destroy grassland. It’s important not to leave a mark if you can help it”.
This story would be remiss if it weren’t mentioned that the town of Las Vegas, a lot of the land surrounding the area, and the Buena Vista Ranch themselves are currently in very serious danger due to the wildfires raging in that area. The fire, when last reported, was only approximately 10 miles from the family ranch.
McCrossen, who has taken a new role as film liaison for the City of Albuquerque is still in touch with the owners, and mentioned that last she heard, the ranch had all horses loaded and ready to move, and the pasture gates open to try and help any of their cattle flee the impending danger. Tragically, much of the Northern Las Vegas area is bracing itself for evacuation at the time this article is being written.