Academy Award winner Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves) is producing and starring in the TV series, Yellowstone, for the new Paramount Network (formally Spike TV).
Written and directed by Oscar nominated screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario), the drama spotlights John Dutton (Costner, Field of Dreams, The Bodyguard, Hidden Figures), the head of the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. But along with success he is bombarded with plenty of conflicts between members of his family and also with people who border his ranch – an Indian reservation, an expanding town and America’s first national park.
Kevin Costner came to the TV critics tour to talk about his new 10-episode series which premieres on June 20th 2018 at 9 pm ET/PT.
Yellowstone - Kevin Costner
Yellowstone – John Dutton (Kevin Costner) ©2018 Paramount Network

Yellowstone seems to be a natural fit for you, but did you think twice about producing and starring in a TV series?

I’m drawn to writing, and I’ve tried to conduct my career based on writing. That’s why you haven’t often seen me do the same movie twice. Because even though the sequels are worth a lot of money to studios, they’re often not written as well as the first one.

So while that may have been a better business decision for me along the way, to make the same movie over and over, I’m drawn to writing and it’s what led me to Hatfields and McCoys and it’s what led me to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone - Kevin Costner and Brecken Merrill
Yellowstone – John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and Tate Long (Brecken Merrill) ©2018 Paramount Network. photo by Emerson Miller

You don’t often get the writer and the director, and that was really appealing to me. Taylor has such a good feel and he loves this way of life. I think what made Bull Durham successful is Ron Shelton loved baseball. But he also loved the vulgarity of it and he realized you couldn’t find the poetry without the vulgarity, without the roughness.

Writer and director Taylor Sheridan

I think this life (is what) Taylor loves so much, this modern-day ranching, this salt of the earth kind of person. He also loves the level of sophistication and the rawness that goes with it. That was all reflected in the writing.

When I like a script it’s not because I just think I have the best part, because that’s a trap in life. (It’s) like being a head flea on a dead dog. Oh, I got a really good part, but the thing is not very good.

When I read (this) part, I was satisfied with what my participation would be in it. But the reason I was able to say yes was because I saw all the other roles integrated with the story. And so the combination of the guy who writes it, is going to direct it, and all the roles are really doing a nice dance, that’s appealing to me.

Yellowstone - Pete Sands, Mo Brings Plenty, Gil Birmingham, Cole Hauser, Kevin Costner, Wes Bentley
Yellowstone – (l to r): (Pete Sands), Mo (Mo Brings Plenty), Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), John Dutton (Kevin Costner), Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) ©2018 Paramount Network. photo by Emerson Miller

Are the roles better on TV for you now compared to before?

I will move back and forth between feature films and television. But you dance with the prettiest girl. You go to the best script. And the best script was Yellowstone, and it was obvious.

The level of commitment is something I’m not used to, three years for me, if that. But I like long movies, so I like the whole idea of this. I like the world that Taylor created. It was an easy decision for me.

Yellowstone - Kevin Costner
Yellowstone – John Dutton (Kevin Costner) ©2018 Paramount Network

Can you talk about your character?

(John Dutton) is a pretty complicated guy. He’s kind of a fourth?generation man who’s grown this ranch that probably started off itty bitty to now the size of Rhode Island.

He’s half in the Western world and he’s half modern-day CEO. And Taylor’s managed to create a really nice dance and still have a man who exists in this world, who hopefully looks like he fits. I just love the way of life too. And I get to play it, but I get to play it with the modern problems.

He’s living in the modern world. It’s confusing to him. He’s half dinosaur, if you will, but, I think, pretty proud of it. And he’s satisfied with what’s around him but not what’s pressing in against him. He’s a single father. And a lot of things fall through the cracks when you’re a single parent.

I know a lot of effort has gone into making this look theatrical. Could you talk about the experience of shooting in Utah?

Well, you know, actors are able to make things real even on a stage, sometimes without all the trappings. But sometimes you’re able to look over at a barn that’s not fake and look at horses that are truly running free. I think there is a thing called environment and we’re able to exist in one of the most beautiful places in the country.

It was hard fought for. These places don’t just magically appear even though they’re there. There were people that were out for a couple months, panicking, trying to find a place in that State that would match up with the script that Taylor had (written).

When you wake up in a place as beautiful as that, when you feel like you are armed with the words, it feels like the thing is almost 90 percent done.

Yellowstone - Kevin Costner
Yellowstone – John Dutton (Kevin Costner) ©2018 Paramount Network

The network is leaning heavily on Paramount’s reputation as a movie studio, so tell us what that means to you. And are you one of these people who always wanted to go under the studio gates.

Yeah. I still love our business. I’m aware of the difficulties it’s had over its entire existence. But I’m still in love with (the fact that) every time you make a movie, you have a chance to make something great.

When I go to MGM, (I) think of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. I like our history. It’s flawed and it’s great, but we’re all standing on the shoulders of people. We’ve been able to watch movies during our lifetime. And what’s really cool is to look back even before we were born, the movies that were made. And our hope is to match some of them and somehow do better.

Does Paramount in particular mean anything to you?

Well, I made Untouchables at Paramount.

Any final words about the Yellowstone?

Taylor’s drawn a real world and we’re all playing in it. And our hope is that it would look different out there. It would be not different for different’s sake but it would just be a different offering. And I think that’s what Yellowstone is. It’s a different offering. And the hope is that people will just get into this world.

Yellowstone - Kevin Costner, Ryan Bingham, Forrie Smith, Cole Hauser, Jefferson White, Denim Richards and Luke Peckinpah
Yellowstone – John Dutton (center – Kevin Costner), owner of the Dutton Ranch is surrounded by his ranch team (pictured l to r) Walker (Ryan Bingham), Lloyd (Forrie Smith), Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), Jimmy (Jefferson White), Colby (Denim Richards) and Fred (Luke Peckinpah) ©2018 Paramount Network. photo by Kevin Lynch

Kevin Costner Soundbyte

Kevin was asked about his fascination with the old west – click here to listen to his reply.



Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.