Happy Birthday Gil Birmingham: Celebrating the ‘Yellowstone’ Actor’s Best Moments

by Amy Myers

Today marks star actor Gil Birmingham’s 68th birthday. Currently best known as Chief Thomas Rainwater on Yellowstone, Birmingham has had a lengthy film career since 1982. Before his role in the current hit drama series, Birmingham has portrayed a wide variety of characters on both TV and in movies.

Take a look at the actor’s most memorable moments on screen, from his first gig in a music video to Yellowstone.

Chief Thomas Rainwater Brings Depth to Series

As the chief of the Broken Rock Reservation and owner of the Painted Horse Casino on Yellowstone, Chief Rainwater holds a lot of power in Montana. His complex background leaves many fans of the series conflicted over whether to root for him or against him. When he was younger, Birmingham’s character grew up believing he was from Mexican origins until he was 18. Now that he rose to power, Chief Rainwater has a vendetta against John Dutton and the ranchers that own previous Native American land.

One of his most defining moments in the show occurred when Chief Rainwater approached Dutton about his life’s mission. Rainwater told the rancher that he will buy his land once he dies, erasing him “from the future.”

“See, I’m the opposite of progress, John,” Chief Rainwater said to Dutton. “I am the past catching up with you.”

‘Yellowstone’ Chief’s Rise to Fame

Although the Yellowstone chief has played the role of men with various Native American tribal roots, Birmingham himself is of Comanche ancestry. Born in San Antonio, Texas, Gil Birmingham was the son of a military dad and moved around frequently.

Before entering the film industry, Birmingham entered body-building competitions. It wasn’t until the early 80s that a talent scout approached the 29-year-old and recruited him for Diana Ross’ music video, “Muscles.”

So began his career in acting.

Since that pivotal moment, the future Yellowstone star was a part of many successful series and movies. Similar to his current role, Birmingham has played a man in charge plenty of times before. In fact, his characters have frequently been members of the police force or military.

In 2019, Birmingham portrayed a Navy Captain in NCIS: Los Angeles. For other series like Siren and Animal Kingdom, the seasoned actor played the part of a sheriff and a detective, respectively.

Besides his current role as Chief Rainwater in Yellowstone, Birmingham’s most recognizable role was as Billy Black in the Twilight saga, the leader of a shapeshifting Native American tribe. However, this wasn’t his only appearance in a vampire-centered storyline. Back in 1997, Birmingham also appeared on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that Birmingham was a part of two different vampire storylines. With how little he’s aged over the years, we’re starting to think he may be one, too. But even if he is immortal, that’s good news for us! That means we’ll be seeing plenty more quality performances for centuries to come.