‘Yellowstone’ TV: How Monica Actor Kelsey Asbille’s Child Acting for Disney Prepped Her for Series

by John Jamison
(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Disney has long served as a stable for young actors and actresses who grow up to be stars. The sheer amount of family-friendly content they produce has historically provided countless opportunities for young performers. “Yellowstone” star Kelsey Asbille got an early education in television acting via Disney more than a decade ago. Now, it’s paying off in her role as Monica Dutton.

The list of Disney child stars is an extensive one. Perhaps the most recognizable of them these days is “Hannah Montana’s” Miley Cyrus. But making child stars is far from a new phenomenon for Disney. In fact, the studio was pretty much built on child performers. Famously, one of Walt Disney’s final acts was giving a young Kurt Russell a huge contract that set up his entire career.

And long before “Yellowstone,” when “Hannah Montana” was its peak, Kelsey Asbille had an opportunity to work with two other Disney channel stars. At 17 years old, the Monica Dutton actress landed a role on an episode of “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” The one-off part on the Disney sitcom was Asbille’s first official acting credit. Despite it being such a brief stop, the “Yellowstone” star learned things that she carries with her to this day.

“It really is the best professional experience. Those live sitcoms are like a hybrid between television and theater. And with a live audience of kids, if you’re not funny you’re not getting any mercy laughs. It’s terrifying!” Asbille told W Magazine in 2018.

The ‘Yellowstone’ Star Got Mentorship from a Sitcom Legend

Guess who else happened to guest star in the same 2008 episode. None other than Jaden Smith. Apparently, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star Will Smith himself was present enough to drop some gems on the child actors.

“He was at the table read—which you really wouldn’t expect— and he sort of mentored us all through the sitcom. It was almost surreal.”

Someone who has been around the industry as long as Will Smith is an invaluable resource to a young actress like Kelsey Asbille, even in 2008.

Taylor Sheridan and Kelsey Asbille’s Movie Connection

Kelsey Asbille is partly of Cherokee descent. It was her heritage, in addition to her talent, that helped land her the role of a young woman named Natalie, who gets murdered on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Taylor Sheridan’s 2017 film “Wind River.”

The Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen-led movie cemented Sheridan as a writer/director and even fetched an American Indian Movie Award for the best film of 2017.

When Sheridan set out to do “Yellowstone” in 2018, he kept Kelsey in mind. And she couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity.

“It was all Taylor Sheridan. I owe him everything. Well, him and my mom. Make sure you get that last part on the record!” Asbille continued in the interview.