‘Yellowstone’ Stars Answer Whether They’d Actually Want to Be Branded Cowboys

by Jennifer Shea
Paramount Network

On “Yellowstone,” the Dutton Ranch brands some of its ranch hands, a painful process that binds them to the ranch for life. And in a recent episode of Stories from the Bunkhouse, Colby actor Denim Richards posed a tough question to his co-stars, who play branded cowboys.

Would they rather be branded cowboys with jobs for life, or be free to work anywhere, Richards asked. We already know how their characters have answered. But how would the actors choose?

“You’ve asked an incredibly difficult question,” Jimmy actor Jefferson White said. “You’ve asked a question that Jimmy himself is wrestling with. Over the course of Seasons 3 and 4, he’s sort of weighing these two things. ‘Cause the commitment to the Bunkhouse is starting to feel a little heavy.”

“Well, also, Jimmy’s already made the decision,” he added. “Jimmy’s wearing the brand.”

“My answer would be for me, I would like to be free,” Ryan actor Ian Bohen said. “But I don’t know, as we’ve seen, if it’s possible. You can be asked to leave. You can be made to come back… So I’m gonna ride the wave.”

“I’d like to be more like an independent contractor,” Richards said.  

Watch the actors discuss the decision here (at 7:50):

The Costs of Defying John Dutton Once Branded on ‘Yellowstone’

“Yellowstone” fans have seen where cowboys who cross Rip (Cole Hauser) end up: the “train station,” a.k.a. dead in a ditch. But what happens if a branded cowboy defies John Dutton (Kevin Costner)?

In Season 4, Jimmy finds out. After a rodeo accident in Season 3 put Jimmy in the hospital, Dutton paid all Jimmy’s hospital bills. All he asked in return was the promise never to rodeo again. But that didn’t go over well with Jimmy’s girlfriend Mia (Eden Brolin). So Jimmy got back on a horse again, training to return to the rodeo. The horse promptly threw him off, knocking him unconscious.

Then Jimmy saw Dutton in the hospital, where he was going through rehabilitation to learn to walk again, and where Dutton had just been treated for multiple gunshot wounds. And he knew he was in deep trouble.

“That moment he sees John Dutton, the world outside of that physical therapy room comes crashing back into the picture,” White said. Meanwhile, Dutton is not about to let Jimmy’s debilitating injury slide.

Bohen and Richards seemed to think that absent Mia’s intervention, Jimmy never would have wound up back in the hospital. But White insisted that the decision was about more than Mia. Unlike the other ranch hands, who chose the brand as part of an empowering revenge sequence, Jimmy passively accepted the brand from Rip. At the rodeo, he was his own man.

Alas, Jimmy couldn’t stay at the Dutton Ranch after that. And White will be moving on to “Yellowstone” spinoff “6666,” which will stream on Paramount+.

In Season 4, we’ll see how the newly-branded ranch hands fare. Moreover, maybe, as in the season premiere, Dutton will get to spend a little more time in the Bunkhouse, too.

Listen to an Outsider podcast about “Yellowstone” here: