‘Yellowstone’: Real-Life Cowboy Recalls Getting His Acting Start in Bar Brawl Scene

by Liz Holland

“Yellowstone” gave one real life Louisiana cowboy an unexpected start as an actor. Ethan Lee is a cowboy from Amite, LA who grew up riding horses and bulls. He also worked as a rodeo trick rider for several years, making him the perfect candidate for a crew like the one on “Yellowstone.”

While Lee was originally only on set to teach actors how to ride horses, his job quickly evolved. One night, he stepped in to perform a stunt that Ian Bohen didn’t feel comfortable performing. It involved riding a horse at night with tons of distractions, so Lee stepped in. “Hey, I need you to get in wardrobe and stunt double for this guy, Ian Bohen, he’s not comfortable,” Lee said he was told. “I said, ‘Sure, no problem.’”

From there, Lee stepped in when necessary. There was one particular stunt that lead to Lee being written into scenes. 

The cowboy explained the memorable moment in an interview with WWLTV. “They pick me up and they throw me over the bar, and I hit the back wall. Coming down, my foot hit one of the beer taps, and so I’m down on the floor and this guy jumps over and is beating the heck out of me, and just beer is running all in my face. And it was just super cool because hey that could have actually happened,” Lee said.

‘Yellowstone’ Show Creator Gave Cowboy a Real Role

Show creator Taylor Sheridan began writing Lee into scenes as a ranch hand. By the end of season two, Ethan Lee was part of the official cast. 

Surprisingly, Lee’s first experience in Hollywood wasn’t with the Sheridan series. The cowboy was offered a job on the set of Matthew McConaughey’s war drama “Free State of Jones” in 2016. The film needed some extra help tending to the horses on set, so Lee decided to give it a try. He wasn’t really a fan of the job and didn’t intend to return to similar work initially. 

However, once he realized that the hefty paychecks from entertainment business jobs could help him provide for his family, he was more open to the idea. “I told my wife, ‘I can’t make what I’m making on set shoeing these horses and doing the things I do. So, maybe, I should get this, you know, take advantage of it while it’s here,’” Lee said in an interview with WWLTV. 

Lee’s Heart Belongs to Louisiana

Lee found jobs making saddles, prepping horses, and teaching actors how to properly ride. When Paramount offered Lee a job on “Yellowstone” a few years ago, he initially turned it down. The job would take him away for six months, and he didn’t like the idea of being away from home and his family for that long. “I even told my wife I kind of regret turning that down,” Lee confessed. 

Lee and his family decided that if “Yellowstone” called him again, he would move forward with the job. Sure enough the call came, and Lee headed out to run a “cowboy boot camp” that preps the actors for each season.

Now, he gets to experience every aspect of the “Yellowstone” experience as a real actor. Even though Lee says he loves the job, his heart will always prefer Amite. “I love it. I love coming home,” Lee said.