30 Things That Happened Behind the Scenes of Yellowstone
If you’re not glued to the TV on Sunday nights right now, then you must not have heard about the Dutton family and their little ranch outside of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone has become a cultural phenomenon. Women claim that they’re Beth Duttons, and every male cast member registers on at least one viewer’s “crush list”.
Truth be told, Yellowstone wasn’t projected to be a hit and was even passed on before it became all the rage. Behind the scenes, you’ll find a talented cast of actors who have major acting chops, appearances, and some serious metal in the form of awards. As much as it was a shock to those naysaying producers who didn't want it, Yellowstone has become THE show that people just can't stop talking about. Sometimes audiences latch onto terrible TV shows, but that wasn't the case with this one. Yellowstone deserves every bit of praise that people give it.
Today, we're taking a look at some of the biggest, juiciest secrets from behind the scenes of this surprising hit TV show. From scrapped plans for the show to how you can have your own Yellowstone-themed dream vacation, here are the facts that every true Yellowstone fan needs to know! Let's get started.
Who is Series Creator Taylor Sheridan?
If you guessed “that guy who was David Hale on Sons of Anarchy", then you’re right. This Texan is right at home in a saddle and had been mulling over the idea of a ranching family in turmoil.
Sheridan is no stranger to successful writing either—he wrote the screenplays for Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River. With a slew of award nominations to his name, he set his sights on the wild west for his next big project.
Kevin Costner Has Been Part of 'Yellowstone' Since Its Inception
Sheridan and Costner had previously met before Taylor wrote Yellowstone. However, he wrote the pilot and sent it to Kevin Costner first, who was all in to play the patriarch of the family.
Costner’s characters in acting have often shown a strong moral position, which has helped Sheridan continue to write the series. And given the reception to the show, it appears that he’ll be writing a long while.
Yellowstone was Originally Intended for HBO
Originally, Taylor Sheridan wrote two scripts for the show before he was told that HBO didn't want to move forward with it. Paramount stepped in and took a huge chance that really paid off for them.
Yellowstone has gone on to be one of the biggest cable TV shows with nearly 14.7 million people tuning in during the Season 4 two-episode premiere in 2021. Those are normal network television numbers the likes of a Sunday afternoon football game, for perspective. And the show is only gaining more popularity.
The Show Nabbed Their #1 Pick for Rip Wheeler
Cole Hauser was who Taylor Sheridan wanted for the role of Rip Wheeler from day one, so no audition was needed. Hauser hails from Hollywood royalty—his great grandfather is none other than Harry Warner, co-founder of Warner Bros Studios.
Hauser is part of an acting group that came up though the ranks with Ben Affleck, Chris O’Donnell, Matt Damon, and Brendan Fraser—all staring in the film School Ties. The hat and beard, however, drastically change his dynamic or any you may have experienced before.
You Can Actually Stay at the Duttons' Lodge
All of the ranch scenes, including the interiors of the Duttons' lodge, are filmed at Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana. This historic landmark in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley is currently utilized as the western backdrop for Paramount Network's Original Series Yellowstone, as well as a guest ranch, and a family-owned working ranch.
Each reservation booked also includes a full tour of the sets and ranch, but book early in order to see where all the real magic happens!
The Actress Playing Beth Dutton is British
Kelly Reilly plays western spitfire Beth Dutton with such intensity you may think she hails directly from a ranching family out in western Montana. But you’d be dead wrong—even on the country.
The lovely Ms. Reilly hails from Chessington, London, where she pursued acting on both the stage and in film. Reilly’s big break came in Sherlock Holmes, where she starred opposite Robert Downey Jr. as Mary Watson. She holds 3 awards from the Empire Awards for her role in Mrs. Henderson Presents.
The Cast Had to Learn to Ride Horses
If you’ve never done it, horseback riding can be daunting. That’s why the entire cast had to go through horseback riding training for weeks prior to the show. While you may think it's as easy as sitting in that big ol’ saddle and kicking your heels, you’d be wrong.
Safe riding techniques are important for any newcomer, especially those thespians who have to portray a familiarity with horses. Many were horse-shy and had to overcome that problem for the show. Funny enough, the person with the least need to ride is the best rider: Beth Dutton.
Some Really Dangerous Stunts Are Still Done by Professionals
There are instances where doubles are absolutely used and for good reason. A rodeo is never a game. For Jimmy's rodeo scenes in Season 3, both stunt double work, as well as a mechanical horse, were used for the shots.
It's a combination of Jefferson White's stunt double riding a horse and Jefferson on a mechanical horse for close-up shots. And while this unfortunate ranch hand’s luck seems to be down a lot, it’s the winnings from the rodeos that help him earn his keep.
Kevin Costner is (Sort of) a TV Show Novice
While Costner’s fame comes from his major movie roles like Dances with Wolves, JFK, or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, his television credits were slim coming into Yellowstone save one: The Hatfields and McCoys.
He nabbed an Emmy for his portrayal of Devil Hatfield, and Costner’s love for the West is well known, so this role is a natural fit for the talented actor.
Most of the Show is Filmed in Montana
The majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming, but there is a small percentage that is in Montana, where the show is based. Shooting locations include parts of Montana as well as Utah.
Up until Season 4, about 70% of production took place in Utah, but limited tax incentive programs changed the full production to Montana. Filming in Utah took place in Park City, Spanish Fork City, and Odgen, where several bar/rodeo scenes were filmed.
Yellowstone was Originally Supposed to be a Limited Series
Yellowstone was originally slated to be a 10-episode limited series, similar to The Hatfields & McCoys. Thank goodness for Kevin Costner’s love of the show because the entire series depended upon him agreeing to do more than one season.
Can you imagine only 10 episodes of Beth Dutton? But this raises the question—where is the show going after four seasons? Clearly, Sheridan has a plan but everyone is keeping silent on how long the series may run. Paramount execs hope it’s a long time.
The Show is Really About the Breakdown of the Dutton Family
Taylor Sheridan has been quoted as saying that all of the storylines in every season so far have been about watching "the slow death of a family.” And while Season 2 certainly laid that groundwork, Season 4’s opener has us all asking if there is such a thing.
But don’t be fooled by the actors' fantastic work—everyone feels like a family on set and many have dealt with real-world issues due to the commonality and atmosphere of filming.
The Actors Went to Cowboy Class
Before production, many of the actors went on a "pack trip" together for four nights, during which they were taught how to be cowboys. It’s a unique experience that is held on working ranches across America.
Guests are usually doing much more than learning how to be a cowboy—they’re also helping with vital activities like cattle drives and sustainable farming as well as learning to live in harmony with the land.
The Creator's Favorite Character is Beth Dutton
It’s hardly a secret that Taylor Sheridan's favorite character to write is Beth Dutton. He really enjoys the challenge of her unpredictability and wildness.
In Beth, he’s given the audience a character that shows the strength of a woman in a man’s field. Sheridan has also written her as beautifully broken. Beth Dutton is nobody’s fool and is a delight to watch and wonder just what she’ll say next.
Kevin Costner Had a Crazy Season One Salary
During Season 1, Kevin Costner was paid $500,000 per episode. That’s an extraordinary sum for a pilot series about a family nobody knew about. Paramount was willing to pay in order to show that the network meant business for its first large outing and was probably a little nervous when audiences fell from 2.83mm for episode 1 down to 1.89 midseason.
It’s a great thing that they believed in it because Yellowstone pulled 14.7 million viewers in Season 4’s opener, and the streaming to catch up has been phenomenal. Paramount may be paying out, but it's seeing huge returns.
The Cast Do A Lot of Their Own Stunts
Most of the time, the actors are doing their own horse riding and roping stunts, which helps give Yellowstone an authentic feel. That’s in part to the extraordinary amount of training they’ve done in preparing for the roles.
Additionally, this cast is all in on the experience of the show and doesn’t shy away from their responsibilities and investments in their characters. In one episode, a raging bull even charged and broke a camera, all while the actors were in the corral.
Chief Thomas Highwater Has Had a Long, Successful Career
Gil Birmingham’s character, Thomas Highwater, was written specifically with him in mind. Gil previously appeared in two of Sheridan's movies: Hell or High Water and Wind River. If you’re a Twilight fanatic, then you know him as Chief Billy Black.
Gil Birmingham has a deep resume and hails from a Comanche family. He also has a BS from USC and worked as a petrochemical engineer prior to becoming an actor.
The Sets Stay Up Permanently
Beyond the little bit of set decorating that the crew does on the show, the Dutton family lodge actually stays up all year long, even when they aren't filming. This allows people to book a stay and see Montana through the Yellowstone lens.
Other businesses are also booming in Montana, thanks to the series popularity, like ranches, campouts, and hiking trails.
Many of the Actors Already Knew Each Other
Many of the show’s cast have worked in long-running television shows, showing how truly small Hollywood really is and how phenomenal this cast truly can be.
Wes Bentley and Danny Huston worked on American Horror Story together while Dave Annabel and Luke Grimes worked on Brothers and Sisters. Josh Holloway, as you may recall, spent six years on Lost. Neal McDonough even threw it down on Suits, Boomtown, Desperate Housewives, and Arrow.
The On-Set Food is Amazing
In an extraordinary twist of circumstances, Gator, who is the Duttons' chef, is played by real-life chef Gabriel "Gator" Guilbeau. As a very talented craftsmaster, he’s worked on several sets including Queen Sugar, American Horror Story, and The Maze Runner.
Gator, as you might expect, hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he honed his skills on gumbo and etouffee. He runs Cajun Studio Equipment out of Port Arthur and supplies food, drinks, and snacks to the cast and crew on Yellowstone.
Every Season is Meant to Feel Like a Long Movie
Much like The Sopranos, Yellowstone directors film each season like a movie in order to give the series a cinematic feeling. As stated before, the goal from the start was to make the show feel like "a very long movie that they showed on television", for 10 episodes.
Each episode has multiple storylines and a host of supporting characters that are as vital as the main actors are themselves. The world of Yellowstone is deep and wide, much like the canyons you see on the show.
Kevin Costner's Band Has Music on the Show
Kevin Costner's many accomplishments include a band he fronts called Kevin Costner & Modern West, and they’ve written and performed several songs that are featured on Yellowstone. So much, in fact, that they released an album in 2020, called Tales From Yellowstone.
Costner is quick to warn that it's a concept record, stating that, “many of the songs don’t have anything to do with John Dutton at all”. When checking the ratings on Amazon, there are only a few, but they’re all great.
The Set Decorator Asked Llyod Pierce for Design Advice
When it came to designing the cowboys' bunkhouse (which became one of the best sets on television), Yellowstone set decorator Carla Curry sat down with Forrie J. Smith, who plays Lloyd, and asked for his thoughts since he’s lived that lifestyle for years.
As most cowboys were traditionally single men, the standard is a large open room with bunks, not unlike a camp that you may have attended as a kid. The one featured on Yellowstone has more modern amenities than you’d expect with this time period. As the rodeo is in his blood, the personal items in his bunk are actually his.
Yellowstone Has Hired Fans of the Show
Before booking the role of Roarke Morris in Season 3, Josh Holloway considered Yellowstone his "favorite show on TV." So, it comes as no surprise that his turn as Roarke Morris is as convincing as a real conniving trader/real estate mogul looking to oust a certain rancher.
Even Tim McGraw is taking a turn in the Yellowstone franchise in the upcoming spinoff 1883. Will Patton has played the role of Garrett Randall brilliantly while James Pickens, Jr. plays an old cowboy, putting his true honest-to-goodness roping skills to use.
The Show Was in Limbo After Season 3
After the Season 3 finale, which featured most of the Duttons in dire situations, the central cast didn't know who would be returning for Season 4. The shocking finale seemed to be a reset for the show and had cast members wondering if the show was taking a turn or spinning off then.
Wes Bentley, who plays Jamie on the show, said that “big, big things happen that will ultimately decide the fate of the characters." Sheridan left himself wide open to go in a number of directions, with many to be hashed out in season 4.
The Show Has Its Own Wiki
The show is so popular that it has its own Wiki fandom where this collaborative community interacts about all things Yellowstone. At 235 curated pages, you have some history and fan theories to jump right into, along with thousands of pictures, recaps, and videos.
The fansite stays true to the series and even offers the jumping-off point for spinoffs like 1883. You can visit your favorite character pages and even their backstory/kid pages as well for some real insider information.
The Actor Who Plays Dan Jenkins Comes from Acting Royalty
Danny Huston, who plays Dan Jenkins is part of the legendary Huston family dynasty that includes actress Angelica Huston. His father, actor John Huston, was part of the golden age of Hollywood, a leading director, and screenwriter.
Danny may seem familiar to the audience due in part to a large number of roles across film and television including The Aviator, Marie Antoinette, Robin Hood, and American Horror Story.
Season 4's Activist Has Real-Life Experience With It
Season 4 brings an environmental activist who protests Montana’s Livestock department and ranching practices, which seems to have trouble for the Dutton family written all over it.
Piper Perabo, the actress who plays the role, is no stranger to controversy in her personal life. She’s been arrested over a Supreme Court confirmation hearing and has attended one of Jane Fonda’s weekly climate change protests. She’s a tireless advocate for voter registration and education, so this role seems to be right up her alley.
The Real-Life Yellowstone is Just as Exciting as the Show
In addition to being America’s first National Park, Yellowstone is home to over 67 species of mammals, 285 species of birds, has more than 290 waterfalls, is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and has more than 10,000 hydrothermal springs, pots, geysers, and fumaroles.
Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Yellowstone, you learned something new!
The Show Has Already Spawned a Spin Off
1883 is a Yellowstone spin-off involving the beginning of the Dutton Family, with an all-star cast of Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and the sheer brilliance of Sam Elliott.
The show will follow the family on the journey west across the Great Plains towards their final destiny. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner’s new project will showcase detectives who work inside national parks and solve crimes. These shows should give Yellowstone fans plenty to watch over the next several years.