Yellowstone alumnus Neal McDonough recently sat down with TV Insider to discuss his time on the show, what makes Taylor Sheridan’s writing great, and much more. For the uninitiated or forgetful, McDonough played explosive villain Malcolm Beck in season 2 opposite Kevin Costner’s complicated, yet steady John Dutton.
Before even delving into his own personal time on the hit Paramount+ series, McDonough credited the character-driven writing for getting the most out of actors.
“[Yellowstone is] one of the most character-driven shows I’ve ever been part of or watched. Taylor Sheridan figured out that instead of making something glamorous and glossing over issues, let’s get into issues. It all wraps into what is going to happen to the Dutton family. That became wildly successful because everyone is dealing with problems in their own family. That’s life,” he pointed out.
What specifically does Sheridan’s writing bring out of actors? According to McDonough, it’s the way Sheridan captures an actor’s cadence and delivery.
“Taylor Sheridan wrote amazing characters,” he said. “He understands the cadence of an actor and how they actually speak. For me to play Malcolm Beck, there is this one scene in my office. He wanted to pump it up a bit. He said let’s go again for an hour at the beginning of the day and tweak a couple of things.”
According to McDonough, Yellowstone completely changed the landscape of American television
In that extra session from season 2, McDonough said Sheridan really let him dig in and run wild.
“We spent seven or eight hours reshooting that scene until he liked it. It ended up me throwing my desk over and smashing a flat-screen TV and crushing everything,” he said. “Malcolm Beck just crumbles. It was the genius of Taylor to let Malcolm really fly. He let me have the keys to the villain’s kingdom.”
Of course, McDonough made sure to credit one of his very famous costars as another reason for the show’s popularity.
“I got to act across from Kevin Costner,” he remembered fondly. “We worked on The Guardian many years ago. Pound for pound the greatest actor on screen. I loved my time on that show.”
Besides good writing and a stellar ensemble cast, McDonough said he looks for stories that delve into the psyches of human beings when picking projects.
“When you look at shows like Yellowstone and how it has changed the landscape in such a short amount of time, now you can really dig into characters. Before it would be the first time you can swear on television or show someone naked, but we’re finally past that. Now we get to delve into interesting stories and psyches of human beings. Yellowstone really delves into all that,” he pointed out.