11 Full-Throttle Facts About Renegade

Mill Creek Entertainment
Mill Creek Entertainment

Following a decade playing scheming vineyard heir Lance Cumson on the primetime soap Falcon Crest, Lorenzo Lamas landed the role that would cement him as the face of 1990s syndicated action beefcake: Reno Raines, the cop-turned-fugitive bounty hunter in Renegade. Airing from 1992 to 1997, the contemporary Western was an amiable exercise in two-fisted melodrama, with Raines “prowling the badlands” of the West Coast under the employ of bondsman Bobby Sixkiller (Branscombe Richmond) and evading capture by crooked marshal Donald “Dutch” Dixon (Stephen J. Cannell, who also created the series).

While never a critical success, Renegade—which is currently streaming on Hulu—enjoyed a 110-episode run. Check out some details on casting, how Bon Jovi helped sell it to syndicators, and how Reno’s trademark duster lives on.

1. BON JOVI HELPED SELL THE SHOW.

A prolific writer, Stephen J. Cannell (The A-Team, The Rockford Files, Wiseguy) hatched the concept for Renegade to capitalize on the burgeoning market for syndicated series. (In first-run syndication, original shows are sold directly to local stations as opposed to networks.) In order to summarize the show, Cannell hired director Ralph Hemecker to cut a montage set to Bon Jovi's “Wanted Dead or Alive” and showed it to buyers during a television convention. Although it didn’t feature any scenes that wound up in the series—like Lamas swinging from a rope while firing a machine gun—the package was impressive enough to secure buyers. The sequence was eventually used for the opening titles, minus the Bon Jovi track and with a voiceover narration (“He was a cop and good at his job, but he committed the ultimate sin and testified against other cops gone bad …") by movie trailer veteran Don LaFontaine.

2. STEPHEN J. CANNELL WASN’T HAPPY WITH THE FIRST SEASON.

Labeled “The Fugitive on a Harley” by critics, the debut season of Renegade struggled to find its bearings. Like Richard Kimble, Raines often found himself as the mysterious drifter who intervenes in a small-town problem, but the larger issue—being framed for the murder of his fiancée by crooked cop Dixon—was minimized. “The characters needed to be more human,” Lamas told The Washington Post in 1993. “Reno would just show up to where he needed to be, but how did he get there? Why doesn't he leave the country? Why does he hang around and wait to be picked up by a cop who sees his poster?”

3. THE BIKE WAS TREATED LIKE A CO-STAR.

A screen shot from the opening sequence of 'Renegade'
Renegade, YouTube

With its flame-paneled sides, Raines’s Harley was a perpetual presence in the series. A number of stunt bikes were used, but there was also a shiny model kept away from any dirt-caked scenes so it could be shown off. That bike was “for the glamour shots,” according to Lamas. The show was reportedly popular among Harley aficionados, who may have been pleased to hear that Cannell’s original title was Vincent Black, Raines’s alias as well was a play on his bike model: a black Vincent.

4. THE SHOW CONVINCED LORENZO LAMAS TO GET HIS PILOT’S LICENSE.

With most of the show’s shooting centered about 25 miles outside San Diego, Lamas was facing logistical problems in seeing his children, who lived with their mother in Lake Havasu, Arizona and would have to miss a school day traveling in order to see him. To expedite the trip, Lamas decided to get his pilot’s license so he could fly to Lake Havasu, pick them up, and have the weekend with them. He now operates commercial helicopter trips over New York City.

5. CANNELL PLAYED THE BAD GUY.

Writer and producer Stephen J. Cannell is seen at a public appearance
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

It’s unusual for a series creator to play one of the leading roles in a show, but Cannell saw Renegade as an opportunity to chew scenery as “Dutch” Dixon, the Lieutenant Gerard to Raines’s Dr. Richard Kimble. Cannell made a handful of appearances every season in numerous failed attempts to kill Raines. The writer later recalled that 10 to 15 actors had auditioned for the role before Lamas suggested Cannell play the role himself.

6. LAMAS HAD HIS WIFE HIRED—AND FIRED.

Married for a third time to actress Kathleen Kinmont in 1989, Lamas wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Renegade at Heart, that he feared that being on location in San Diego while Kinmont remained in Burbank would be detrimental to their marriage. Cannell agreed to cast Kinmont as Cheyenne Phillips, Bobby’s sister, who perpetually pines for Raines.

The couple divorced (offscreen) in 1993. According to Lamas, the presence of his new girlfriend, model and actress Shauna Sand, made his working relationship with Kinmont contentious. After hearing her make some disparaging remarks about Sand on The Howard Stern Show, Lamas petitioned Cannell to have Kinmont removed from the series. He complied, and Cheyenne disappeared from view.

7. JOHNNY CASH GUEST-STARRED.

Musician Johnny Cash is seen at a public appearance
Scott Gries/Getty Images

The famed country singer made sporadic appearances on television in the 1990s, including a recurring role on Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman. For a 1996 episode of Renegade, Cash appeared as a bail jumper who accompanies Reno on a Christmas Carol-inspired tour of how the world would be if he had been gunned down instead of becoming a fugitive.

8. APOLLO CREED DIRECTED AN EPISODE.

Actor Carl Weathers wound up behind the camera for some of Cannell’s shows, directing multiple episodes of the USA detective drama Silk Stalkings and one 1995 episode of Renegade, where Raines goes undercover as a male gigolo to bust a drug ring.

9. THERE WAS A HIDDEN VISUAL IN THE OPENING CREDITS.

A shot from the opening sequence of 'Renegade'
Jeff Cook, YouTube

Generally not a show that favored subtlety, Renegade still managed to pull off one fairly low-key nod to one of its inspirations. During the opening credits sequence, Raines can be seen biking down a dusty path that takes the shape of a "Z." That was director Hemecker's nod to Zorro, the pulp character who comes to the aid of strangers.

10. LAMAS ENDURED A PRETTY BAD WIG IN THE FINAL SEASON.

A screen shot from the television series 'Renegade'
Jeff Cook, YouTube

For four seasons, Lamas maintained Reno's outlaw-biker aesthetic by frequently appearing shirtless, tattooed, and wearing sleeveless leather vests to dinner engagements. Prior to shooting the show's last season, Lamas opted for a shorter haircut. That concession to conformity was out of character, so producers fitted him with a somewhat unfortunate-looking wig. The actor later referred to it as "roadkill" on Twitter.

11. THE DUSTER OUTLIVED THE SHOW.

With the badlands of California being excessively dirt-encrusted, Reno Raines kept comfortable by wearing a large duster—a full-length coat favored by horsemen—throughout the show. A similar jacket has been spotted periodically throughout FX’s long-running comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The character of Mac (Rob McElhenney) favors the attire because, as he once explained, “I look like Lorenzo Lamas and women find it irresistible.”

11 Surprising Facts About George R.R. Martin

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Game of Thrones fans know the epic HBO series is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, but beyond the TV show, how much do they really know about the author? Sure, they know it’s taking him a really long time to finish The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the series, but what about him as a person? Here are a few things you might not know about the man who brought us the world of Westeros.

1. As a kid, he made money selling monster stories.

The famed author grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, where his father was a longshoreman. "When I was living in Bayonne, I desperately wanted to get away," Martin told The Independent. "Not because Bayonne was a bad place, mind you. Bayonne was a very nice place in some ways. But we were poor. We had no money. We never went anywhere."

Though his family didn't have the means to travel outside of Bayonne, Martin began to develop a love of reading and writing at a very young age, which allowed him to imagine fantastical worlds beyond his New Jersey hometown. He also learned that writing could be a profitable endeavor: he began selling his stories to other kids in the neighborhood for a penny apiece. (He later raised his prices to a nickel.) Martin's entrepreneurial efforts came to an end when his stories began giving one of his kid customers nightmares, which eventually got back to Martin's mom.

2. He is obsessed with comic books.

In 2014, Martin sat down for a Q&A about his career at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Though, given his love of fantasy worlds, it might not be surprising to learn that Martin is a comic book fan, he also credits the genre with inspiring him to begin writing in the first place.

"I’m so grateful for comic books because they were really the thing that made me a reader, which in return made me a writer," Martin said. "In the 1950s in America, we had these books that taught you to read, and they were all about Dick and Jane, who were the most boring family you ever wanted to meet ... I didn’t know anyone who lived like that, and it just seemed like a horrible thing. But Batman and Superman, they had a much more interesting life. Gotham City was much more interesting than wherever it was where Dick and Jane lived.”

3. He built a library tower in Santa Fe.

In 2009, Martin bought the home across the street from his house in Santa Fe, New Mexico and turned it into an office space with a library tower built inside. The tower is only two stories tall, because of city building restrictions, but it seems only fitting that the author/history buff would want to be surrounded with books while he writes.

4. A fan letter got his professional writing career started.

Martin's love of comic books is what got his professional career rolling, too. "I had a letter published in Fantastic Four, and because my address was in there I started getting these fanzines and I started writing stories for them," Martin said during the same Santa Fe Q&A. "Funny enough, people writing stories in these fanzines at the time were just awful. They were just really bad, which was good because I looked at these awful stories and knew I could do better than that. I may not have been Shakespeare or J.R.R. Tolkien, but I was certain I could write better than the crap in the fanzines, and indeed I could."

5. A failed novel led to a television writing career.

More than 10 years before A Song of Ice and Fire debuted in 1996, Martin wrote a book called The Armageddon Rag in 1983. Though it was a critical disappointment, producer Phil DeGuere was interested in adapting the project with Martin's help. While that never came to fruition, DeGuere thought of Martin when they were rebooting The Twilight Zone in the mid-1980s and brought him on board to write a handful of episodes. He later did some writing for the live-action Beauty and the Beast series, starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton.

6. Network television standards were not a fit for Martin's style of writing.

Though Martin found success as a television writer, the constant back-and-forth about what they were or were not allowed to show proved to be too much for the writer. "[T]here were constant limitations. It wore me down," Martin told Rolling Stone. "There were battles over censorship, how sexual things could be, whether a scene was too 'politically charged,' how violent things could be. Don’t want to disturb anyone. We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to kill people ... The character had to remain likable."

7. He owns an independent movie theater.

In 2006, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe closed its doors, which saddened many locals who were regular patrons, Martin among them. Several years later, Martin decided to give the theater a second life and, after a slight makeover, reopened its doors in 2013. Today, in addition to independent films, the theater holds regular special events—including screenings of Game of Thrones episodes. There's also an onsite bar that serves Game of Thrones-themed cocktails, like the signature White Walker.

8. Martin credits HBO with changing the rules of television.

Network television standards may have been too tame and regimented for Martin's tastes, but all that changed with HBO and The Sopranos, which he credits as paving the way for a series like Game of Thrones to exist in its current form at all.

"I credit HBO with smashing the damn trope that everybody had to be likable on television," Martin told Rolling Stone. "The Sopranos turned it around. When you meet Tony Soprano, he’s in the psychiatrist office, he’s talking about the ducks, his depression and that stuff, and you like this guy. Then he gets in his car and he’s driving away and he sees someone who owes him money, and he jumps out and he starts stomping him. Now how likable was he? Well you didn’t care, because they already had you. A character like Walter White on Breaking Bad could never have existed before HBO."

9. Martin thinks it's important for writers to break the rules.

While he's an admitted fan of William Goldman, Martin has a very different opinion of noted screenplay expert Syd Field. "There is a book out there by Syd and it’s his guide to writing screenplays and it’s probably one of the most harmful things that has ever been done for the movie industry,” Martin said. “For some perverse reason, it has become the bible not for writers but for what we call 'the suits,' the guys at the studios whose job it is to develop properties and give notes to supervise screenplays. They take Syd Field’s course and they buy the book and they start criticizing screenplays like, ‘Well you know, the first turn is supposed to be on page 12 and yours is not until page 17, so obviously this won’t do!'"

"Syd just writes downs these ridiculous rules," Martin continued. "If there really was a formula as he says, then every movie would be a blockbuster. We would just connect A, B, and C and we would have a great movie and everyone would pack the theater to see it. But every movie is not a blockbuster. Many movies that follow his rules precisely actually go down the toilet."

10. He’s a skilled chess player.

"I started playing chess when I was quite young, in grade school," Martin told The Independent. "I played it through high school. In college, I founded the chess club. I was captain of the chess team." Eventually, Martin discovered that he could actually make some money off this skill.

"For two or three years, I had a pretty good situation. Most writers who have to have a day job work five days a week and then they have the weekend off to write. These chess tournaments were all on the weekend so I had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but then I had five days off to write. The chess generated enough money for me to pay my bills."

11. He has a very specific way of writing, which is why he hasn't finished the winds of winter.

Fans have been waiting for a while for the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and Martin has been honest about why it's taking him so long. "Writer’s block isn’t to blame here, it’s distraction," he said. "In recent years, all of the work I’ve been doing creates problems because it creates distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It’s like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who’s passing up a free trip to Dubai? I don’t write when I travel. I don’t write in hotel rooms. I don’t write on airplanes. I really have to be in my own house undisturbed to write. Through most of my life no body did bother me, but now everyone bothers me every day."

Can You Guess the Meaning of These Dothraki Words?

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER