How Yellowstone’s Vast Cast of Cowboys, Cattle Ranchers, and Native Americans Came Together
Yellowstone, a sprawling neo-western set in the striking expanse of Montana, is renowned for being a ratings juggernaut – the season four finale on January 2 beat season three viewership by 81%. But he also has several firsts under his cowboy belt buckle. It was the first scripted series for the new Paramount network, renamed Spike TV and launched in 2018. It’s the first television writing venture for the co-creator. Taylor Sheridan, who had already impressed critics with films Sicario, hell or high tide, and Wind River. He scores Kevin CostnerThe first regular returning appearance on a television series, in the lead role of cattle ranch patriarch John Dutton. And now the show’s family drama about century-old land grabbing, greedy developers, cowboy life and a Native American community fighting for its future, plus a regular clip of hard-fought street justice and brawls. crudely comedic, got his first screen Actors Guild Award nomination, for an ensemble drama series.
Costner, also the show’s executive producer, was already on board when he was a casting director. Jean Papsidera began assembling the rest of the cast – “You’re not going to eliminate Kevin Costner”, he says. But between Papsidera’s decades of experience working with people like Christopher Nolan and Roland Emmerich, and Sheridan’s many relationships through his work as an actor, screenwriter, cowboy (he also plays one, Travis, on the show) and filmmaker, they had everything they needed to put together a whole stellar to surround their Oscar-winning star. Says Papsidera, “It wasn’t so much about what names can we get? But, who can we bolster this cast with? It was more about who was really right and who really added to the collective soul of the series.
The Dutton Men
At the center of the series are Dutton’s three men – Costner’s patriarch, John, and his two sons, Kayce and Jamie, who will inherit the ranch if they can fend off its many threats.
Together, Papsidera, Sheridan and co-creator John Linson tapped into a deep well of possibilities for the family. “Taylor has a vocabulary of actors and actors that is less Who and more about if they are right,” says Papsidera. “[Sheridan] had strong feelings about the guys he had had relationships with. No one’s deal was done except for Costner, but he was aware of Luke [Grimes], he loved Luke. He knew of Cole Hauser and was friends with Cole. They had We s [Bentley]. So there was a handful of people he was already brooding over and leaning towards.
Grimes would play his son Kayce, a Navy SEAL veteran now living on the Broken Rock reservation with his wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille), and his son, Tate (Brecken Merrill), who is unsure of his future at the ranch. Bentley would take on the role of his son Jamie, a lawyer returning from the Ivy League to help protect the land by using ruthless legalese in their favor.
Beth and Rip
While Hauser’s role was still being worked on, Papsidera focused on the role of John Dutton’s daughter Beth, a shrewd, caustic, but hurt character who is now beloved for her outrageous, but especially for aliens. global chemistry with Rip Wheeler, a once wayward kid whom Dutton took under his wing who grew up to be his muscle and ranch hand, who we think has loved Beth since teenage years but now has an on-going romance. Papsidera thought of the Australian actor Kelly Reilly.
“Kelly was a discovery that [Sheridan] was unfamiliar with,” recalls Papsidera. The challenge with Beth was “how hard would it be to find someone who incorporates all the stuff he wrote for Beth. I was thinking about the women I found strong, smart, and beautiful, and Kelly was on that short list for me. Five or six actors received the script, but with only a weekend to decide. Reilly was among the first to connect with the material. “She said, ‘I love it, I get it. I want to talk about it,” recalls Papsidera. He sent Sheridan his work with Denzel Washington on the movie Flightand from there, he says, “it was a very quick process that we felt Kelly was the right kind of smart actress to portray her.”
Considering the central couple’s on-screen fireworks, it’s surprising that Reilly didn’t read chemistry with Hauser. And when Hauser first read the script, he hadn’t decided on a role yet. “I watched several different parts of the pilot, and Rip is in very little – two or three scenes,” Hauser said on Zoom. “But I kind of saw past that, and then I phoned Taylor and talked to him and kind of picked his brains out to find out where this character was going and who he was. We ended up talking for an hour and I fell in love with what he was talking about.