Top 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite ‘Yellowstone’ Actors: PHOTOS

by Jon D. B.
Kevin Costner as John Dutton on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

Did you know Cole Hauser got to choose his role as Rip Wheeler? Or that the Yellowstone cast includes a former bodybuilder, an opera singer, and a world-renowned Shakespearian actor?

Hauser’s story is one of many surprises that television’s #1 cast holds, and it could’ve made the show radically different. So let’s start there. Then, you’ll find 12 fascinating behind-the-scenes facts about your other favorite stars below as we roll into Yellowstone Season 5. For good measure, we’re including some rare cast photos for those favorites, too, straight from Paramount. Let’s get to it!

12. Cole Hauser Got to Choose His Role on ‘Yellowstone’

Cole Hauser as Rip Wheeler on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

It’s a popular rumor that Hauser was co-creator Taylor Sheridan’s only choice for Rip Wheeler. But the truth is far more fascinating. In an interview with Men’s Journal, the film and television veteran revealed that he was actually given his choice of characters as one of the very first actors to read the pilot script for Yellowstone. And it was all thanks to his friendship with the show’s other co-creator, John Linson.

“John Linson is a good friend of mine, so he was the one who made sure the pilot first got to me. I was excited at the idea of working with Taylor Sheridan and, of course, Kevin Costner,” Hauser told the trade. At the time, Costner was the only actor to have signed on for the series after falling in love with John Dutton. But who was Hauser to play?

“Looking at the script, the roles that were open at the time were of John Dutton’s sons and the smaller character of Rip. He only had two scenes in the pilot, but something about that guy really pulled at my heart strings,” Hauser revealed. “I could already sense there could be some amazing growth with him.”

Sheridan agreed. “There was the understanding that if I came in to knock out those two scenes, and was able to show them something, that Taylor might grow Rip in the series. I’m thankful it worked out the way it did and what we created has resonated with so many people around the country,” Hauser praised.

So are we, big fella.

11. Gil Birmingham is a Former Bodybuilder

Gil Birmingham as Thomas Rainwater in Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

Gil Birmingham isn’t just the iconic Chief Thomas Rainwater, a phenomenal actor all around, and steward for the Indigenous Peoples of America. He’s also a former petrochemical engineer and a bodybuilder. Both careers were passions of Birmingham’s before he decided to pursue acting well into his 30s.

In fact, the Yellowstone star even appeared in the “Muscles” music video as a bodybuilder for the one and only Diana Ross. And yes, you definitely need to see it:

Interestingly, Birmingham was also told he was of Mexican descent while growing up in San Antonio, Texas – just like his Yellowstone. In reality, he is of Comanche descent.

10. Jefferson White was as Painfully New to Horses as Jimmy

Jefferson White as Jimmy in Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

If there’s one actor who has risen to the challenge of being a newcomer to Yellowstone‘s world, it’s Jefferson White. His troubled Jimmy Hurdstrom is a complete outsider when Rip finds him in the pilot (in much more of the meth-head sense than proper Outsider). But over the course of the first four seasons, we watched as both this character and the actor became something more through redemption and a whole lot a trial and error.

It’s so effective, too, because Jefferson shares much of this journey with Jimmy (again, minus the drugs). A New York City native, White hadn’t so much as touched a horse before joining Yellowstone. But Taylor Sheridan’s infamous Cowboy Camp would soon change that.

“We were really given every opportunity to learn as much as we could and still fail constantly,” White recalls of the experience. “Now, four years later and we are still learning. It’s a life-long pursuit.”

Thankfully, however, White still uses talented stunt doubles for the rodeo scenes and rides a mechanical horse as to not break his entire body. We don’t need him ending up like Jimmy himself.

9. Forrie J. Smith‘s Lloyd is Now a ‘Yellowstone’ Family Tradition

Forrie J. Smith as Lloyd on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Forrie J. Smith, who’s been rodeoing and ranching since he could walk. Born to a generational Montana ranching family, he would transition into Hollywood stunt work as a master horseman in the 1980s. In short, there’s no better fit for Yellowstone.

Today, Smith owns a ranch in New Mexico, something his son Forrest shares a passion for. Which is exactly why Forrest Smith appears in Yellowstone as the younger version of Lloyd. The role has become a generational one for the Smiths, and their legacy has impacted the show, and vice-versa.

There’s a whole lot more to it, so be sure to see our Everything to Know About ‘Lloyd’ Actor Forrie J. Smith, as well.

8. Smith Isn’t the Only Real Cowboy on ‘Yellowstone

Jake Ream and Ethan Lee on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

The Lloyd actor and horsemaster is far from alone on the Yellowstone set, however. A real life cowboy himself, Taylor Sheridan keeps authenticity as his #1. So whenever he can, he casts other cowboys on the show.

Sheridan himself plays Texas horsemaster Travis, who is based on – you guessed it – himself. But the Dutton Yellowstone bunkhouse is also full of other real-life cowboys. Jake is played by Jake Ream, who was the horsemaster for the show before becoming a supporting character. He would teach many of the inexperienced riders after being cast.

Bunker Ethan Lee, who plays Ethan (we’re sensing a pattern, here), is also a true-to-life cowboy. Even Ryan Bingham, who most know from his music career prior to Yellowstone, grew up as a wandering cowboy much like his character, Walker.

7. Piper Perabo Knew ‘Yellowstone’ Intimately Long Before Being Cast

Piper Perabo as Summer Higgins in Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

Yellowstone audiences wouldn’t meet Piper Perabo’s Summer Higgins until Season 4, when she became the most unlikely of love interests for John Dutton. But the experienced actor knew Yellowstone intimately for years prior.

Perabo wasn’t only a huge fan of the show, but she’s also married to Stephen Kay, one of Yellowstone‘s most prolific directors. Kay entered the fray with Season 2, and directed that fantastic season finale. So good was his work, in fact, that Sheridan would have him back to direct every season finale since alongside the Season 5 premiere.

As such, Perabo had been to the Yellowstone set long before being cast. And when her time came, Sheridan had the perfect fit for her grit in activist Summer Higgins.

6. Jen Landon is the Daughter of One of the Most Famous Western Genre Actors of All Time

Jen Landon as Teeter on the Yellowstone Season 4 set. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

There’s no denying that talent runs deep in the Landon family. While Yellowstone is where many fans would discover Teeter’s Jen Landon for the first time, the actor has a decade’s-long history in television. And it’s all because of her father, the late, legendary Michael Landon.

From Bonanza to Little House on the Prairie, Michael Landon was a household presence for generations of Americans – and still is to this day. Jen was young when her father passed, but the two had a remarkable relationship that she is still exploring through watching his old re-runs.

“When I was little, it took me a while to realize he was really famous. I had no idea. In a weird way, there’s something mysterious about the person. I know all parents are mysterious to their children, but I feel like people who are in the public eye have this kind of elusive quality,” Landon said of her father in a Smashing interview. “It’s weird to me that I get to feel close to him the same way that somebody who has never met him would that’s turning on the TV. That’s how I do it as well. I do it the same way that anybody who really adored him does it.”

5. Ian Bohen Knew Kevin Costner Decades Prior to ‘Yellowstone’

Ian Bohen as Ryan on the Yellowstone Season 4 set. (Photo credit Paramount Network Press)

Speaking of legends, Kevin Costner had the chance to mentor a Yellowstone co-star when Ian Bohen was just a boy. The two worked on Wyatt Earp in 1994, in which Bohen played the younger version of Costner’s titular character.

“He would talk to me, he guided me, he was nice! He was – a dude!” Bohen said of working with the legend as a child. Fascinatingly, “The age that I am now is the age he was when he did Wyatt Earp,” he adds of Costner in their current show. “And here we are playing Cowboys & Indians!”

For more, see our How Ryan Actor Ian Bohen Felt About Being Mentored by Kevin Costner on 1994’s ‘Wyatt Earp’.

4. Kelly Reilly Is an Award-Nominated Shakespearian Actor

Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton in Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

If it feels like the world is still a little too obsessed with Kelly Reilly being very British (she’s a London native), it’s because she’s so utterly convincing as Beth Dutton. When the Dutton daughter is on our screens, she is a ruthless, loyal, and love-til-you-die Montanan heiress and nothing else. No hint of Reilly’s own English origins seeps in.

But Reilly is a Londoner through and through. In fact, her career blossomed as a Shakespearian thespian. Her stage work garnered her nomination for the highly-prestigious Laurence Olivier Award through multiple productions; her 2009 run of Othello among them.

“When I first wanted to become an actor, I never thought about movies, or TV even. It was purely about the theatre,” Reilly said in the Dutton Family Interview on set for Yellowstone Season 5. “That’s where the beginning of my career started. And that’s where I lived for about 15 years before doing anything else.”

She did, however, have a deep love of American Westerns as a child. “I did watch Dallas and Dynasty, or Die-nas-tee, I don’t know how you guys say it, with my mom, in South London in our house,” Reilly revealed in another interview. “And this faraway world of Americana and, of course, the culture of American movies I was always in love with.”

3. Reilly’s Also the ‘Best Rider’ of ‘Yellowstone’s Cast, According to Taylor Sheridan

Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton in Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

Sheridan put the entire cast through “rigorous training” via his Cowboy Camp, this we know. But did you know that the Dutton actor who rides the least on-camera, Kelly Reilly, is actually the most skilled rider of them all?

In an interview with Deadline, the Yellowstone mastermind said, point blank, that Reilly is the best rider of the bunch, hands down. “Ironically, the person who gets to ride the least, Kelly Reilly, is the best rider,” Sheridan revealed. “She grew up riding.”

Reilly may have grown up riding English style around London, but she was clearly a natural when it came to tackling Western style, too. And thankfully, she says we’ll see more of her Beth Dutton on horseback in Season 5 than we have in any season prior.

2. Luke Grimes is Starting a Country Music Career

Luke Grimes on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

Not only has Luke Grimes won over the world as Yellowstone‘s Kayce Dutton, he’s set to take on a country music career, too. He announced his intent earlier this year and has made a splash since. He’s even garnered a lucrative Nashville record deal in the process.

“I was writing some stuff, singing it into my iPhone, and sent it to a few friends,” Grimes told New York Post earlier in October. “One thing led to another, and I get a phone call from this great music manager, and he says, ‘Do you really want to try this?’ And I said, ‘Well, why wouldn’t I?’, not really thinking much of it. Now here I am signed with Universal Nashville, I’ve got a record deal, and I have a show booked!”

It’s not come out of nowhere, though. Grimes has always been a talented musician. “The first place I moved after Ohio was New York City. Having a drum set in New York is impossible—your neighbors would kill you—so I got a guitar and started teaching myself chords,” he revealed to Country Living. “It’s been a part of my life ever since. If I have an acting gig, I always have a guitar. And not just because I’m working on an album. It’s always been a little buddy that I can take around anywhere. It’s somewhere to put some of that energy when you’re in a new place and don’t know what else to do.”

1. Kevin Costner Wrote Songs from John Dutton’s Perspective

Kevin Costner as John Dutton on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

If there’s one headliner Yellowstone fans associate with a long music career, though, it’s John Dutton himself: Kevin Costner. With his rock band, Kevin Costner & Modern West, the icon has released several albums and tours on a near-yearly basis.

But did you know that their 2020 album titled Tales From Yellowstone actually features songs written from the perspective of John Dutton? Costner has fallen so deeply for his cherished role that he wrote his entire part of this album from the patriarch’s point of view.

“This project was really special to me and the band—a chance to get into the mind of John Dutton, my character on Yellowstone, and express his emotions musically,” Costner said in a Tweet to fans after the album’s release. Taylor Sheridan is a fan of it all, too, as several of the songs have made it into the show.

BONUS: Denim Richards is a Trained Opera Singer, and He’s Damn Good

Denim Richards as Colby on the set of Yellowstone Season 4. (Photo credit: Paramount Network Press)

As Outsider’s own Jim Casey puts it: “Denim Richards has some serious singing chops—opera singing chops.”

The 33-year-old actor, who plays Colby on television’s #1 show, grew up in musical theater. Then, he began taking opera lessons as a 16-year-old. “In fact, to this day, the California native’s favorite vocalist is opera legend Leontyne Price,” Casey continued of the star ahead of our Outsider exclusive interview. But don’t let us speak for the man, You’ve got to hear Richards’ voice for yourself:

For more from the actor, be sure to see our Watch ‘Yellowstone’ Star Denim Richards Show Off His Opera Skills next.