In the last moments of the Yellowstone Season 5 premiere, death devastates the Duttons once more as we learn Tate has just lost his little brother. Both he and his mother, Monica (Kelsey Asbille) survived their car crash, but her baby did not share their fate. It’s a heartbreaking string of events that continues to play out over the next few episodes, specifically in Episode 2 when young Brecken Merrill brings forth more of his best work as he navigates the aftermath of that crash.
“It wasn’t only an emotional rollercoaster for Tate, it was also an emotional rollercoaster for me, as well,” Brecken begins. “It’s a crazy process to put your own mindset into Tate’s traumatic mindset. It’s insane.”
To accomplish those intense scenes, “I do a lot of acting exercises,” the 14-year-old actor continues. “These kinds of scenes are definitely the hardest. To have that kind of traumatic mindset [is difficult] when really, you’re just Brecken chilling on set. It’s difficult to get there, but it worked. I’m proud of my work and the scene and how it turned out,” he tells me from a classroom in his California art school.
‘Yellowstone’ Season 5 Showcases Brecken Merrill’s Growth as an Actor
As Tate, Brecken was so still in that Season 5 premiere moment. As an audience, we learned everything we needed to know about what was happening through that stillness, and the few words Tate was able to speak to his grandfather, Kevin Costner‘s John Dutton.
Tate: I had a brother. For an hour, anyway.Yellowstone S5E01
John: A brother, huh?
Tate: They named him John.
A whirlwind of emotions flood John, but it’s all contained within a similarly calm shell. As Yellowstone fans know, this was everything John Dutton’s ever wanted: succession for his family. Under his name, no less; a potential John Dutton IV, and it’s all gone in the same instant it became a reality.
In the end, it’s a very good thing Brecken Merrill doesn’t have real-life experience to draw on for this sort of tragedy. No one wants to lose a little brother (let alone a son or grandson) so far ahead of their time. But the young actor is, at least, aided in these scenes by his “best friends on set,” on-screen parent’s Luke Grimes and Kelsey Asbille.
The ‘Yellowstone’ Cast is Truly a Family On and Off Screen
“Since day one, in basically every single scene, we’ve always been together,” Brecken smiles of the Kayce & Monica Dutton actors. “They’re my best friends on set. In between takes, we joke around, we have a lot of inside jokes.”
Yet it’s not just about friendship, he says. “I really admire their different acting styles. Luke taught me that you can’t just start acting, like ‘Boom! The camera’s on and I’m Tate!’ When you have a big scene, you really have to get your head ready for that scene. Whatever it takes, you’ve just got to switch your mindset. You can’t be Brecken when you’re doing these really harsh scenes,” he adds of the sort of devastating Dutton drama we see in Yellowstone Season 5.
In short: “Luke and Kelsey really opened up the whole world of acting for me, and I really, really admire them a lot,” an emotional Brecken offers.
As for where Tate and his parents go from here, “I really don’t know,” he grins. “All I know is it’s going to be a wild ride.”
Sounds like we better keep those belts buckled, cowboys. Yellowstone returns with Season 5 each Sunday at 8 PM ET exclusively on Paramount Network.