Yellowstone’s success as Paramount Network’s flagship TV series has prompted curiosity about the facts behind the scenes. How did Yellowstone end up on the screen and at Paramount? How did creator Taylor Sheridan choose the cast? Did the actors go into a training program to make their character depictions very authentic? Where are the breathtaking landscapes and sets filmed? Can fans experience the cowboy lifestyle? Was there any controversy surrounding the show? How did they pick the songs?
And so, we’re here to satiate the curiosity. Scroll down our list of 10 interesting facts about Yellowstone.
1. Taylor Sheridan originally pitched Yellowstone to HBO.
The now biggest cable TV show, with nearly 12.1 million viewers in its Season 5 premiere, was first presented by Sheridan to HBO, which has been known for its popular series like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Euphoria. In fact, he had already written two scripts. But when he sat down with the senior VP, he was informed they weren’t going to move forward.
He asked why and was simply told, “Nobody wants to see this.”
2. It was only supposed to be a 10-episode mini-series.
Sheridan initially wrote Yellowstone as a 10-episode mini-series. After he finished the pilot, he immediately sent it to Kevin Costner. In an interview, Sheridan shared he had been a fan of Costner’s work his whole life and was hungry to find something to do with the actor. Fortunately, Costner said yes to the project.
And it was that yes that turned the mini-series into a full-fledged TV show. And to show the actor their appreciation and that Paramount meant business, the network paid him $500,000 per episode for Season 1.
3. Sheridan already had specific actors in mind – aside from Kevin Costner – for a few other characters.
Actually, before Taylor Sheridan even started writing the series, he had already called Gil Birmingham. The two had previously worked in the 2017 thriller-mystery film Wind River. He told Birmingham he had a role that was right for him and hoped he would come and do it with him. Birmingham now plays Thomas Rainwater, chief of the Broken Rock Reservation.
For Rip Wheeler, Sheridan already had his eyes on Cole Hauser since day one. “There were some things he had done that I saw, where there was an intensity and a clarity of what that character wanted. There is no subtext with the guy and that’s what I really liked.”
And for the role of the iconic Beth Dutton, the central female character in the show, he only considered English actress Kelly Reilly.
4. Before Season 1 production, actors attended a four-night cowboy camp and did rigorous horse riding training.
The cast went on a trip to learn the ropes of being a cowboy. Horse trainer Jake Reamm who plays the wrangler Jake, led the camp on some property his grandfather owns.
Aside from the camp, they also did rigorous horse riding training. The best rider out of all of them turned out to be Kelly Reilly though she has the least riding scenes. Jefferson White, who portrays Jimmy, is a New Yorker who had never seen a horse prior to his casting. Sheridan had him out in an arena for two or three days in a row. Jefferson suffered from saddle sores, and it was so severe that he even bled through his jeans and all over the saddle.
And that is how actors could confidently do most of their stunts and give the show an authentic feel. Check out the behind-the-scenes of the camp in the video below.
5. Sheridan cast real-life cowboys.
Stuntman Forrie J. Smith, known to fans as Lloyd, was born to rancher parents and spent his early life on a Montana ranch. He has been riding horses since he was eight and bareback since 11. He also competed in rodeo competitions. And aside from Jake Ream, other seasoned cowboys in the show include Ryan Bingham (Walker) and Taylor Sheridan (Travis Wheatly) himself.
Five-million-dollar rider and reining champion Andrea Fappani even appeared a few times on the show. One of the most memorable ones was in S01E05, where he rode the sorrel stallion Lil Joe Cash during the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity event.
6. The Dutton Ranch is very real, and fans can actually experience it!
All the ranch and lodge scenes are filmed at the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana. The Dutton home is actually the private home of the property owners and is only minimally decorated. The show added a few modern touches, such as couches, drapes, chairs, and some family heirlooms to give a ‘modernized for present-day’ look while still maintaining the history of the generations of Duttons who lived before them.
As for the bunkhouse, set decorator Carla Curry had help from Forrie J. Smith. In fact, some of his actual memorabilia from his rodeo days are featured in his bunk.
And good news for fans as the ranch is actually open during off-season filming for guests. If you want to know the full details, you can check it out here.
7. Taylor Sheridan owns most of the horses in the show.
Aside from being a filmmaker, Taylor Sheridan is also a ranch owner with several horse and cattle breeding operations in Texas. He even regularly competes with his Quarter horses. Some of his horses who have been featured in the show include Dun It Chexinic and Walla Walla Starbuck.
Other horses in the series not owned by Sheridan are reigning rodeo champions like Metallic Cat and his son Metallic Memorey, Spookernickerin, Lil Joe Cash, High-Class Trash, Custom Made Gun, Smartly Starstruck, and Nineteen Ten.
8. Yellowstone is filmed like a movie.
Each Yellowstone season looks seamless, as if you’re watching a movie that happens to be hours long. That is, the show’s aspect ratio and camera lenses used to film have been intentionally picked to create that cinematic feeling. Even the script for Season 1 didn’t have any acting breaks or teasers, so they were basically formatted like a movie script.
9. There were mixed reactions to the casting of Indigenous characters.
Kelsey Asbille’s casting as Monica Long-Dutton was met with a lot of heat from the indigenous communities. The controversial fire was further fueled after the actress claimed to be part Cherokee and so playing the Native role was “in her blood.” But that was quickly disproved by a statement from the Cherokee tribe saying that they have no record of her. Adam Beach, a Native American actor, loudly expressed his frustration with the casting decision and called for other Native actors to refuse any role from Yellowstone until Monica is recast.
On the other hand, Gil Birmingham, who is of Comanche descent and grew up believing he was Mexican, has praised Sheridan for his sensitivity to the native aspect of his show.
10. Yellowstone’s impressive soundtrack borrows from catalogs of its actors.
Yes, Kevin Costner has a band, and it’s called ‘Kevin Costner & Modern West’. They have released a number of studio albums already and have also written songs for Yellowstone. Some of them include “The Killer” with Jaida Dreyer, “Heaven’s Gate” with Lily Costner, and “Dark Thoughts Ride.”
According to the actor, his role in the series has greatly influenced the band’s music. In fact, their most recent album, Tales From Yellowstone, is a 16-song collection written from his character’s perspective.
Aside from Costner, musician Ryan Bingham also lent his voice to the show with songs “Tell My Mother I Miss Her So” and “Snake Eyes” to name a few.
We hope you enjoyed this list of 10 interesting facts about Yellowstone. Stay tuned for more!