The siren call that brought many movie stars to television has called Kevin Costner too. After the success of his miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, Costner signed up for open-ended series Yellowstone, created (with John Linson) by acclaimed screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water.
Yellowstone is the name of the sprawling ranch that John Dutton (Costner) owns. Land developers would love to get their hands on Yellowstone and pave it over. John would like to leave the ranch to one of his four children, but none exactly follow in their father’s footsteps.
Kayce (Luke Grimes) lives on a Native American reservation with his wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille). Lee (Dave Annable) has the most ranch experience, but may not have the savvy to fight the corporate side. Jamie (Wes Bentley) is a lawyer and aspiring politician who can help navigate the paperwork and bureaucracy. Beth (Kelly Reilly) is a killer in the boardroom, and she has tricks for getting what she wants outside of the office too.
Sheridan, Reilly, and Bentley spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about the new series. Here are five things we learned from them about Yellowstone.
Costner’s most popular film roles have exemplified a strong moral position: Dances with Wolves was about respecting the people who were here before us. JFK was about fighting for the truth (whether you believe Oliver Stone had the truth is a different story). There was also Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Field of Dreams, even Man of Steel to name a few.
“He’s an extremely gifted actor with a very strong presence and a moral compass that comes across in his acting,” Sheridan said.
In Yellowstone, Sheridan can craft a cautionary tale about what could happen if people like John Dutton are overwhelmed by developers, government, and other forces.
“Storytelling is a great way to examine issues and play out different consequences without the burden of those consequences being real,” Sheridan said. “So it gives us an opportunity to look at events and go Hey, if this happened, what’s the cost? What’s the price? How does it affect people. It lets us learn. That’s our purpose as storytellers.”
Beth may be the best choice to take over Yellowstone. If she’s got the cutthroat attitude to fight the corporate world, she can learn roping and riding.
“Beth has no desire to own it or inherit it, but she’ll help him save it,” Reilly said. “Beth would probably be capable, but she lacks the love for the place right now. I feel like Beth is more of his general. She’ll fight for him. She’ll play dirty for him. Her loyalty to him is what she’s tethered to.”
For all the dysfunction in the Dutton family, one relationship that’s strong is between John and Beth.
“I actually don’t think her relationship with her father ever went astray,” Reilly said. “He didn’t know how to raise a daughter. He knows how to raise cattle and take care of land. That’s the woman she is. There’s this little girl, but there’s a disconnect somewhere.”
Or maybe John is just enabling Beth to get what he wants.
“He says to Jamie, ‘I need Beth because she’s one thing that you’ll never be. She’s evil, and I need evil,’” Reilly said. “There’s something about her that he uses to his advantage. Is that loving? Is that a nurturing? So every relationship is pretty dysfunctional.”
Jamie wants the ranch more than anyone else, but he’s John’s last choice.
“He also is not his dad’s favorite,” Bentley said. “There may not be any love there from his dad. He’s useful as the best he can provide is a useful son who knows the law, potentially a politician, things his dad hates but needs.”
From the boardroom and courtroom, Jamie pushes John to modernize the ranch, but that may be where their relationship frays.
“I think he challenges in a business sense, like how can we make this business more modern?” Bentley said. “How can we progress from here? I think he tries to subtly influence his dad to help modernize the business in a sense. Jamie I think butts heads [with his father] about that.”
In episode three of Yellowstone, Beth decides to take a bath in the horses’ trough.
“I think they heated it up for me, but it was August so it was pretty hot, so I probably didn’t mind if it was cold,” Reilly said, about setting the scene in which Beth gets drunk to commemorate a tragedy.
“Incredibly emotional scene,” she said. “Beth is so intense in her emotions. The stuff that I was really interested in her was her pain.”
The trough scene also includes a major confrontation with Jamie.
“I think Jamie is angry at her about it, but also Jamie’s got to work every day and he’s got to work hard every day,” Bentley said. “Part of that struggle in that scene and why he’s losing it on her is because she’s taking up all of that space. A sort of kid in Jamie comes out that day, screaming at his sister to get out of the bath and to shape up.”
Sheridan put all the actors through training. Even Costner, who has his own ranch, worked with his Yellowstone horse so they could perform together. Reilly was a rider in England.
“I’ve ridden all my life,” she said. “That’s a big passion of mine.”
Bentley even owned horses that even got some movie work themselves, but he gifted them a comfortable retirement. And he plays the lawyer who barely rides.
“I gave them to somebody who had a pasture who could take care of them for the rest of their life,” Bentley said. “I eventually decided they probably would do best to not have anybody on their back for a while.”
Yellowstone premieres Wednesday, June 20 at 9 p.m. on Paramount Network.