In an age where streaming television is king, Taylor Sheridan’s neo-Western Yellowstone is a rare prime-time cable hit. Described as Bonanza meets The Godfather, the star-studded show explores land-use politics through the emotional trials of the Dutton family, modern-day ranchers struggling to hang on to a fading way of life. It’s brutal, bold, and breaking ratings records with millions of fans wondering how it will all end. Saddle up for these facts about Yellowstone, the rope-opera making its mark.
1. Creator Taylor Sheridan Is No Overnight Success
Taylor Sheridan appeared in a number of television shows before landing a steady role in the series Sons of Anarchy, but when negotiations for a raise ended badly, he quit the show and decided to focus on writing.
It was a bold move for a 40-year-old in Hollywood, but it paid off: his critically acclaimed screenplays for Sicario and Wind River received multiple award nominations. Yet, when it came to creating his juggernaut, Yellowstone, Sheridan was no Lone Ranger.
2. There’s a Co-Creator
As Yellowstone’s showrunner, main writer, and first season director, Sheridan is having a moment, and deservedly so. But the show’s creation was a team effort. John Linson was already the producer of successful films like Lords of Dogtown and The Runaways when he developed the popular Sons of Anarchy.
He met Sheridan on set and later helped him brainstorm Yellowstone into creation. They had a major star in mind from the start, but getting him onboard would prove to be a nearly-impossible task.
3. Kevin Costner Almost Said No
Kevin Costner sure loves a Western! Sheridan was a huge fan of the actor's films Silverado, Dances With Wolves, and Open Range—to name a few—and was "hungry to find something to do with him". He had approached Costner with other scripts before Yellowstone, but timing was always an issue. Costner, for his part, was impressed with Sheridan’s storytelling, but he almost turned down the role of family patriarch John Dutton for a very interesting reason.
4. Taylor Won Him Over
Though he’d starred in the 2012 miniseries Hatfield’s & McCoys, Kevin Costner was uncomfortable with the idea of committing to a television show. The main issue? He hated not knowing what his character’s full story arc would be. Luckily, he changed his tune after reading Sheridan's script. Costner signed on, but there are others who passed on the show—bet they're not too happy about that, now.
5. Sidetracked By Scandal
In 2017, Paramount announced it was partnering with the Weinstein Company to produce Yellowstone as its first scripted drama series. Great news, right? Not when only months later, accusations against Harvey Weinstein exposed him as a predator and the poster-villain for the #MeToo movement.
Paramount wasted no time distancing themselves from Weinstein, removing his name from the credits and vowing he was never part of the show’s creative process. Luckily, cutting ties worked and the show went on.
6. Sheridan Writes What He Knows
Taylor Sheridan isn’t just mining cowboy mythology. He’s the real deal. Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, he spent summers working on the family ranch in Cranfils Gap.
He also owns horse and cattle ranches in Wyoming and Texas, as well as the real life Four Sixes Ranch featured on the show. Most of the horses on Yellowstone actually belong to Sheridan. So, why isn’t the show filmed at home on the range?
7. Montana Made Room For Yellowstone
Prior to season four, most of the filming took place in Park City, Utah, but thanks to tax incentive programs, the show is now shot entirely in Montana. Production built all new soundstages on a 3,700-square-meter (40,000-square-foot) space in Missoula, while the Crow Indian Reservation—the largest in Montana—stands in for the show’s Brocken Rock Reservation.
As for the Dutton Ranch, it’s real and it’s spectacular.
8. The Ranch Takes Reservations
Want to feel like part of the Dutton clan? All scenes at the family ranch are filmed at the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana and you can stay there! For a minimum of $1,200 a night, guests can choose between Lee’s Cabin or Rip’s Cabin. The 560-square-meter (6,000-square-foot) main lodge isn’t for rent, but a set tour is included with every reservation.
Visits are limited to when Yellowstone isn’t filming, so unfortunately there’s little chance of sharing Rip’s cabin with the charming actor who plays him.
9. Cole Hauser Chose His Role
Cole Hauser, who plays Rip Wheeler, didn’t have to audition. Sheridan knew he "wanted him from day one" and gave him the option of playing any character. Though Hauser's management team pushed him to play Jamie or Kayce Dutton, the actor could only see himself as Rip, saying, "He has a darkness that I love". He had one condition, though, and for a hilarious reason.
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10. Rip Got A Makeover
Cole Hauser put on twenty pounds because he wanted Rip to be bigger than everyone and have a "country strong" look. "He’s not going to a gym", Hauser said, "He’s lifting bales of hay". He also insisted on dying his naturally red hair dark so that he and Beth wouldn’t look like brother and sister! Good idea, Cole. And speaking of Beth...
11. Kelly Reilly Wasn’t Sure She Could Play Beth
Kelly Reilly aced her audition to play the complex, sometimes vicious, Beth Dutton, but the Shakespearian trained actress wasn’t sure she could pull off the role. She said transforming into Beth was like "stepping into a sportscar" and having to go from zero to 100 "in three seconds". Safe to say, she’s got it under control now. Beth is Taylor Sheridan’s favorite character to write for, but the actress has been hiding a big secret in plain sight.
12. She Has A Coach
Kelly Reilly is British and has, you guessed it, a British accent. She worked really hard with a dialect coach to get her Montana accent just right—all the better to sling Beth’s savage one-liners with, my dears. Reilly even went so far as to barely speak to anyone off camera during the first two seasons of filming because she "didn’t want to break the illusion" of strong-willed Beth. Interestingly, one of her earliest scenes left the crew speechless—and changed Rip and Beth’s entire storyline.
13. Beth And Rip Have Crazy Chemistry
Taylor Sheridan admits he had no idea that Cole Hauser and Kelly Reilly would have such intense chemistry—until they did a scene that blew his mind. He always intended for Rip and Beth to have an on-again, off-again relationship, but when their first steamy love scene left the stunned crew glued to their monitors, Sheridan started focusing his writing on giving the couple more screen time.
Lucky for us. The pair are fan favorites, holding their own against some Hollywood heavyweights.
14. Gil Birmingham Had History With Taylor Sheridan
Probably best known for his role as Billy Black in the Twilight films, Gil Birmingham also starred in Taylor Sheridan's Wind River. Sheridan called Birmingham before writing the Yellowstone pilot to ask if he’d play Chief Thomas Rainwater, leader of the Broken Rock Reservation and John Dutton’s main rival.
Birmingham, who is of Spanish and Comanche descent, is thrilled to play "a prominent Native American in a contemporary" show, and praises its respectful handling of Native issues. For Sheridan, authenticity is key.
15. Casting Caused An Uproar
Prominent members of the Native American community called for a boycott of the show over the casting of Kelsey Asbille. The actress—who plays Kayce Dutton’s Native American wife, Monica Long Dutton—claims to be of Chinese and Cherokee descent.
Yet, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians weren’t happy to find that there’s no proof to support her statements. And she’s not the only actress facing accusations of being a phoney.
16. One Actress Is Facing Charges
In July, 2022, the California Department of Insurance charged Q’orianka Kilcher with two counts of workers' compensation fraud. The actress, who plays attorney Angela Blue Thunder, received $100,000 in disability payments because she claimed she was unable to work for a year due to a prior on-set injury—a year that included her time on Yellowstone.
Lawyer Camille Vazquez, who represented Johnny Depp in his defamation case against Amber Heard, will defend Kilcher in an upcoming trial. There’s no arguing film sets can be dangerous places, as we’ll soon see. But first...
17. Yellowstone Actors Go To Cowboy Camp
Taylor Sheridan wants his actors to look like they know what they’re doing. Before season one began filming, cast members went on a "pack trip" so they could learn how to be cowboys. It was horse trainer/actor Jake Ream’s job to show them what it’s like to live and work on a ranch.
He also taught them how to ride horses and earn their trust. While they all look like pros after cowboy camp, the best rider in the cast may come as a surprise.
18. Kelly Reilly Has The Others Beat
Anyone who watches the show knows Beth Dutton rarely saddles up. However, your mother using her last words to blame your lousy equestrian skills for her demise is a pretty solid reason to not get back on the horse.
It’s a shame, though, because according to Taylor Sheridan, Kelly Reilly is the best rider on the set. She grew up riding horses in England and is by far the most experienced. That is, if you don’t count the real cowboys in the cast— and there are quite a few.
19. They’ve Got Real Rodeo Stars
As mentioned, Taylor Sheridan and Jake Ream are experts in the saddle. So are Ethan Lee and Ryan Bingham, who play ranch hands Ethan and Walker. Lee was a trick rider whose job helping with Yellowstone horse scenes turned into an on-screen role.
Bingham also made a living in rodeos before becoming a country singer and actor, but there’s one cast member who’s had the rodeo in his blood since birth.
20. Forrie J. Smith Is A Rodeo Champ
Forrie J. Smith, who plays Lloyd, has been competing in rodeos since he was eight years old. His mother was a barrel racer and his father and grandfather were rodeo stars as well. He’s been a Hollywood stunt man for over 20 years, and now has his first recurring acting role on Yellowstone. He also serves as a consultant on the show, but not to the department you’d think.
21. The Bunkhouse Needed A Cowboy’s Touch
Set decorator Carla Curry asked for Smith’s advice on details that would give the Dutton Ranch’s bunkhouse an authentic look. The ranch hand’s living quarters are filled with Smith’s own personal items from his rodeo days, like photos and trophies. But he hasn’t left his stunt days behind.
22. The Actors Are Doing Their Own Stunts
The pack trip paid off! Stunt co-ordinator Jason Rodriguez confirms most of the actors are doing a lot of their own stunt work—when the studio lets them, that is.
In addition to horse riding, there’s a lot of roping going on—calves, horses, bad guys, you name it! Let’s not forget there are also a ton of fight scenes. They are meticulously choreographed, but that doesn't mean safety is guaranteed.
23. Luke Grimes Has A Favorite Stunt
One scene called for Luke Grimes, as Kayce , to chase a group of wild horses through a pasture. The stunt double did it first before Taylor Sheridan asked Grimes if he wanted to give it a go. "I was scared to death, but of course I wanted to try it", Grimes later said.
Charging his horse at full speed, he caught up to the racing mustangs and felt like he was part of the herd. Grimes still says it was his greatest day on set. Unfortunately, not everyone has such fond memories of being in the saddle.
24. Screaming With Wolves
Kelly Reilly tells a terrifying story of filming a scene where she had to run and yell at a pack of feeding wolves. The wolves were tame, but very real, and Kelly worried their attack instincts might kick in while she was screaming at them.
Two animal wranglers hiding in the grass and holding leashes made of invisible fishing wire were her only safety net. When she asked if the wire would be enough to protect her if the wolves reacted, they said, "Well, we can’t do anything else". Yikes!
25. Ian Bohen Faced His Fears
The cast and crew trained for weeks to do a season five scene in which Ian Bohen and Denim Richards, playing ranch hands Ryan and Colby, have to brand a cow. Animals don’t always take direction well and the cow kept getting away. "We kept going when we should have bailed", Bohen said.
When they finally caught up to the runaway bovine, Bohen was met with a painful surprise: one of the cow's legs smashed the bridge of his nose. Richards describes Bohen on the ground with blood all over his face. If you think that’s scary, Wes Bentley has an even more terrifying story with the roles reversed...sort of.
26. Wes Bentley Fought A Bear
On the red carpet for Yellowstone’s season five premiere, Wes Bentley—who plays Jamie Dutton—wore a medical boot that got everyone talking. He claimed that while on a camping trip with his family in Montana, a bear caught them by surprise.
He "roundhouse kicked" the beast and broke his foot! The actor later joked that he only hurt the bear emotionally and afterward let it stay and eat with the family. Sounds like a tall tale, but maybe cowboy camp had a "bear karate" day.
27. Everybody Wants To Be Kevin Costner
Ian Bohen played the younger version of Kevin Costner's character in Wyatt Earp, but now it’s Josh Lucas’ turn as the young John Dutton in Yellowstone. Lucas originally wanted to play Rip, but Cole Hauser had dibs. Lucas has admitted to feeling a little "sad" that he didn’t have more to do in the show’s earlier seasons, but Taylor Sheridan assured him that season five would be flashback-heavy.
As it stands, it’s been worth the actor’s wait. It doesn’t seem to matter much to fans that he acts like Costner more than he looks like him. Turns out, that’s by choice, and the story's incredible.
28. An Accident Led To An Opportunity
Josh Lucas was standing over a wood splitter when a chunk of wood flew into his face and badly damaged his nose. His plastic surgeon knew of his role on Yellowstone and made an unbelievable suggestion: the surgeon offered him a nose job to match Kevin Costner’s face.
When Lucas balked at the suggestion, the surgeon said, "why would you want your nose when you could have Kevin’s?" Fortunately, the doctor’s flattery got him nowhere. Besides, if anyone’s face needs to be changed there’s a whole makeup department for that.
29. There’s A Special Effects Makeup Team
Yellowstone characters play rough, and special effects make-up artist Abigail Steele is on hand to make all those bruises and stitches look painfully realistic. One of her favorite pieces was the scar Beth had under her eye as the result of an explosion in season two.
It actually took five separate prosthetics because as Beth healed, the scar had to diminish. Steele also uses her techniques for dealing with burns—a lot of them! Someone’s got to make those branded Ys look like they hurt.
30. Yellowstone’s Making Its Mark
It’s not only the livestock getting branded on the show. That Dutton Ranch logo gets sizzled into the skin of ranch hands as a sign of both ownership and loyalty—forced or otherwise.
And viewers know that betraying the family has deadly consequences. The fictional brand is a combination of two historical cattle brands used by real ranchers: The Hooked Y and The Rocking Y. "Cool fact", thought no cow ever.
31. PETA Had Beef
In 2018, animal rights advocacy group PETA went on the attack. They called out the show when a whistleblower claimed that real, potentially toxic bovine carcasses were used in a scene depicting deceased cows.
Paramount denied it was true, saying they take animal safety—and the safety of their cast and crew—very seriously. PETA dropped the accusation, and Yellowstone hasn’t had a claim of animal mistreatment since. Yet, there's at least one Yellowstone character who would be all over that sort of uproar.
32. Yellowstone Is A Family Affair For Piper Perabo
Piper Perabo, who plays environmentalist Summer Higgins, has been around the Yellowstone set longer than you think. She made her first appearance on the show in season four, but her husband, Stephen Kay has directed every season finale since season two. He's also directed every season premiere since season three. But Perabo's not the only star keeping it all in the family.
33. Nepo Babies Hold Their Own
Jen Landon, the foul-mouthed ranch hand Teeter, is Michael Landon's—of Bonanza and Little House On The Prairie fame—daughter. Eden Brolin, who plays Jimmy’s love interest, Mia, is the daughter of Josh Brolin and granddaughter of James Brolin.
Danny Huston, the son of legendary director John Huston and half-brother of Angelica Huston, is one of the most recognizable faces in the cast. He’s been Hollywood’s go-to character actor for years, but being famous didn’t save his character, Dan Jenkins. No one’s safe on Yellowstone.
34. The Body Count Keeps Climbing
Who knew the cowboy lifestyle was this dangerous? From nasty shootouts to snake bites, by the end of season four, 21 characters had pennies over their eyes—and that number keeps growing.
It’s mostly the Dutton crew getting their hands dirty too. Kayce got away with four murders in the first four episodes of season one alone. Viewers were rooting for revenge when he and John sent a pair of ruthless brothers to meet their maker. But which real life brothers were the inspiration for the fictional villains?
35. Fans Try To Solve A Mystery
Taylor Sheridan has said the power-hungry Becks share similarities with real life brothers who own 300 gas station casinos in Montana. Die-hard fans speculate they are fictional versions of Charles and David Koch, billionaire businessmen infamous for using their wealth to influence US politics.
This has not been confirmed, but Yellowstone’s fandom likes to form its opinions known. For example...
36. Fans Threatened A Boycott
If anything bad happens to Beth or Rip on the show, fans will go bonkers. After a clip of the couple talking about birthdays appeared on Instagram with the cryptic messages, "Celebrating Rip Wheeler today and always", and "Get ready...something big is coming", some fans lost their minds.
Fearing an unhappy ending was in store for them, fans banded together to make a bold move. Within a few hours, a thread of comments from viewers vowing never to watch the show again went viral. Fortunately, it was a case of jumping the gun...for now anyway.
37. The Show Strikes A Chord With Music Fans
Yellowstone attracts a lot of music lovers for putting the spotlight on up-and-coming country talent. After Whiskey Myers performed live in season one, three of their albums made the Top 10 list of country albums on iTunes.
Musical supervisor Andrea von Foerster discovered Zach Bryan online and helped him re-record an album. This led to a bump in sales after one of his songs appeared on the show. Several cast members have a musical following, too.
38. Ryan Bingham Was Already Popular
Ryan Bingham is a prolific songwriter with six albums under his belt. He also won a Grammy and an Oscar for co-writing the song "The Weary Kind" with T-Bone Burnett for the 2009 film Crazy Heart.
Taylor Sheridan originally wanted Bingham to write music for Yellowstone. When he learned of his rodeo background, Sheridan gave him a role where he gets to sing as well. But Bingham's not the only talented musician on set.
39. A Multi-Talented Cast
Kevin Costner has performed with his band The Modern West for years. In 2020, they released the album Tales from Yellowstone, featuring songs from John Dutton’s perspective and tunes included in the show.
Other talented cast members include Gil Birmingham, who is a talented guitarist, and Denim Richards, who is a classically trained opera singer. Even the set caterer rings a mean dinner bell. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but he’s pulling double duty, too.
40. Gator Cooks On And Off-Screen
Gabriel "Gator" Gilbeau plays the Duttons’ chef, Gator, but he’s actually in charge of feeding the entire cast and crew. He described his first ever acting scene, in which he hilariously serves John grilled octopus, as a "baptism by fire" because Taylor Sheridan just threw him into it.
In fact, most of his scenes have come as surprises. "Taylor thinks it’s funny", he says. It won't be funny if he spills anything on those costumes, though. Some of those threads are expensive!
41. Cowboys Don’t Just Wear Plaid
Costume designer Ruth E. Carter says that modern cowboys like to dress really well, which means John Dutton doesn’t just splurge on his helicopter. "Dutton is a well to-do-man", she says, "so everything is custom".
She infuses vintage clothes with modern designers, and Kevin Costner is very particular about what he wears. He’s got 15 pairs of the same Ralph Lauren jeans and his custom-designed orange and beige puffer jacket is one of his favorite items.
Of course, Carter’s not just designing barn wear. There’s biker gear, too—for the ultimate revenge scene.
42. Taylor Took A Swipe
Remember those sour Sons of Anarchy negotiations mentioned earlier? Producers told Taylor Sheridan that he wouldn’t be paid more because "he didn’t deserve more". Is it any wonder that there are some who think season three's brawl between ranch hands and trespassing Anarchy-like bikers was a subtle dig at Sheridan’s former bosses?
They did dig their own graves, after all. Let’s call it Sheridan’s satisfying revenge. He’s come a long way since then.
43. Taylor Sheridan Is Not Retiring
When the Four Sixes Ranch went up for sale in 2020, the estate offered it to Sheridan for $350 million. He was "about $330 million short", but he just couldn’t let the historic property fall into unworthy hands. He inked a multi-year development deal with Paramount to help pay for it.
This meant putting off his plan to retire at 50 and live his rancher’s dream. However, it’s a win-win for everybody because Sheridan only has to work a few more years and more great shows are coming down the pipeline. In fact, some are already here!
44. Spin-Offs Galore!
Taylor Sheridan's Yellowstone universe is expanding with four spin-offs. 6666 will follow the lives of ranchers on the Four Sixes Ranch, and 1883: The Bass Reeves Story will tell the tale of the African-American lawman believed to be the inspiration for Lone Ranger.
Prequels 1883 and 1923, which are already on the air, reach into the Dutton family’s past and feature big stars like Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford. Surprisingly, though, one major celebrity is not a Yellowstone fan—in fact, he despises the show.
45. Sam Elliot Refuses To Watch Yellowstone
Sam Elliot, who stars as widowed union officer Shea Brennan in 1883, has made it clear that he doesn’t like Yellowstone. He won’t even watch it, saying, "I love Costner...but it’s just too much like Dallas".
Elliot's been an open critic of recent Westerns and thought he was done with the genre. It was Taylor Sheridan’s script, which he said read like "poetry", that won him over.
47. Taylor Sheridan Strives For "Responsible Storytelling"
Spending part of the 90s on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota opened Sheridan's eyes to the struggles that Indigenous communities continue to face. AJ Not Afraid, chairman of the Crow Nation, calls Yellowstone’s portrayal of modern-day Native American characters "a lot more realistic than other shows".
Actor Mo Brings Plenty, who plays Mo, knew Sheridan from Pine Ridge and has nothing but respect for the creator. Yet, as we saw, that didn't stop the show from facing intense controversy.
48. Poor Jimmy
Jefferson White, who plays Jimmy, grew up in New York and had never ridden a horse before the show. Filming his earliest scenes were agonizing. He developed severe saddle sores and "bled through his jeans all over the saddle". But he never complained.
So, how did he get through those rodeo scenes? Close-ups in the show are of Jefferson on a mechanical horse and wider shots are a stunt double. Saddle sores are one thing but, as we learned earlier, others on set have had to show their bravery when it comes to something even more perilous: working with unpredictable wild animals.
49. Yellowstone Is Number One
Yellowstone is the most watched TV show on basic cable, if you don’t count Sunday Night Football. The 2021 season four premiere saw a massive ratings jump to 14.7 million viewers, thanks to streaming services giving late-comers a way to catch up.
With season five currently breaking ratings records, one has to wonder, how long can the show keep it up? Is the end in sight?
50. How’s It Going To End?
Though Taylor Sheridan still has more of the Dutton story to tell, he assures us the show won’t go on indefinitely. "I know how it ends, and I am writing to that ending", he’s said. But fans still need to brace themselves for the inevitable. Sheridan's also said we won’t see the show "going on for nine seasons".
Will Beth and Rip get a happy ending? Will John be able to hang on to his land or will he let it go? Only Sheridan knows for sure, so the rest of us better have fun guessing while we can.