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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”