‘Yellowstone’s Kevin Costner Defends Ranching: ‘That Way Of Life Is Still Very Much Alive’

by Jon D. B.
Paramount Network Press Center.

“This meat doesn’t get to our cities without somebody getting up early in the morning,” offers Kevin Costner of the modern-day America that inspires Yellowstone.

The Hollywood icon and Western figurehead’s latest statement on the content of Yellowstone doesn’t come from a malicious place. Rather, Costner offers up a fact; regardless of whether some prefer to gloss over it or not.

The world of Yellowstone is not extinct. Cowboys still roam the west. And ranches still feed every corner of America.

“Whether people want to admit it or not, some people don’t realize that that way of life is still alive,” Costner continues for an extensive Variety op-ed on the “authenticity” of Taylor Sheridan‘s flagship series.

“This meat doesn’t get to our cities without somebody getting up early in the morning and late at night taking care of those animals in some way,” he adds.

Kevin Costner stars as John Dutton in Yellowstone. Photo credit: Paramount Network Press Center.

Whether Yellowstone‘s critics (or far-off audiences) choose to embrace the reality of the modern American West or not, “It’s a way of life still,” Costner cites. “You know that the country still has some big open spaces. And [Yellowstone] takes that all in.”

But while the Hollywood veteran is well-versed in the ways of the American rancher, it’s series mastermind Taylor Sheridan that lives and breathes it. Raised on a ranch and as much a modern-day cowboy as any, Sheridan believes Yellowstone can not only entertain audiences, but teach non-agricultural viewers about the realities of ranching, too.

“Whenever we’re ignorant of something, then typically we fear it, or we judge it, or we dislike it. And it’s the job of all artists, I think, to try and find these little pockets of the world and show some humanity,” Sheridan says.

“Our job as artists is to hold a mirror up to the world and let people see the reflection, to teach them about a part of life and human experience that they may not be aware of,” he adds.

Kevin Costner Fell For ‘Yellowstone’ Through Sheridan’s Authenticity

Yellowstone Season 4 brought one of the most pertinent examples of this, too. With a scene’s worth of dialogue between Costner’s patriarch and a newly-introduced environmental activist, Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo), Sheridan laid down his staunch stance on ranching – and those who oppose it. Once delivered by Kevin Costner as John Dutton, it struck a deep chord with audiences and became instantly iconic:

“Ever plough a field to plant the quinoa or sorghum or whatever the hell it is you eat? You kill everything on the ground and under it. You kill every snake every frog, mouse, mole, worm – You kill them all. So I guess the only real question is how cute does an animal have to be before you care if it dies to feed you?”

John Dutton, Yellowstone Season 4

But the show’s star says this isn’t unique to Season 4. Far from it. Sheridan has been writing this flavor of “raw, dysfunctional” dialogue for Kevin Costner since the Yellowstone pilot.

“I saw that the dialogue had a fun, realistic approach to it. It was raw. It was dysfunctional,” Costner recalls of the first episode’s script. “And it was set against the backdrop of [ranching], which is very appealing.”

Sheridan’s vision of the modern American West had a Hollywood (and Western) icon hooked. And together they’d craft one of the staunchest defenders of Yellowstone‘s way of life.

“I don’t start something unless I think it has a chance to be great,” the John Dutton star says. “I felt that the people that would see it would appreciate it. But when something gets this kind of extra kick — you can’t predict that.”