There’s no watching Yellowstone without rooting for Lloyd Pierce. The beloved ranch hand is a staple of the series, and easily one of the best characters on the entire show. But did you know that the actor behind this grizzled, veteran cowboy is a grizzled, veteran cowboy himself?
If you’ve ever wondered why Lloyd feels so perfect a fit for Yellowstone, it’s because the actor responsible for his gate, skill, swagger, and timbre is none other than real-life-cowboy: Forrie J. Smith.
That’s right, Smith is one of America’s last remaining, true cowboys. And he’s lived it all his life – right up to his Hollywood career as a stuntman turned actor. Out of pure admiration for Lloyd, Smith, and our favorite show – “Yellowstone” – we’re diving deep into the life of the actor to tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the one and only Forrie J. Smith.
Forrie J. Smith: Real-Life Rancher and Cowboy
We’re preaching to the choir, but there’s no counting the strengths of Yellowstone for fans. It’s the best of so many worlds, all culminating within the best modern television has to offer. If we had to pinpoint one strength on behalf of the show, however, it’d be authenticity.
Through the watchful eyes of Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, the show remains as true-to-life as it can within such a high-stakes, neo-reality Western. At the forefront of all of this – is casting. While some actors like Kevin Costner have decades of equestrian experience, others, like Forrie J. Smith, are the absolute real deal. Lloyd is right at home on Yellowstone, too, as the show is just about the only one you’ll find today that shows the ways of the American West in all its rodeo glory.
Turns out, Smith agrees with this wholeheartedly. Speaking to TVFanatic, he breaks down, in his own words, how much the show’s reflection of his life means to him – and the details of that very life itself.
“I give Taylor a big kiss on the cheek for bringing our culture to the forefront and making a great show out of it, Smith starts off of showrunner Taylor Sheridan.” It means a lot to me, but it’s kind of too late… They’ve already got the water table sucked down. They’ve already subdivided a lot of good grazing land,” he laments of the fate of his lifelong career as a rancher and cowboy. “But [Yellowstone] is telling our story. And I’m glad to see that getting out.”
Early Life: Smith Grew Up Feeding America & Bucking Broncos
Indeed, Smith takes the responsibilities of the oft-glamorized life of an American cowboy as seriously as we all should. As a young’in on his family’s farm, Smith learned his skills as most traditional cowboys did – through generations.
“My granddad was whining and about the cow prices and how he wasn’t going to make any money, and I would ask, ‘Granddad, why are we doing it?’ He looked at me said, ‘Son, we’re helping feed our country. We’re helping feed America. We’re Americans’.”
Forrie J. Smith’s all-American family originates in Montana. The star was born in the city of Helena in 1959, and was raised on his grandparent’s ranch southwest of the city. “I went to grade school at Montana City – there were 13 kids in 8 grades,” Smith tells RodeoNews. “I fed cows with a team and sleigh when it was 50 below and it was 106 in August when I was setting posts,” he recalls of his Montana childhood.
As a boy, he up going to the local rodeo with his parents. By the time he was 8, he was competing himself. “I was on my second pair of chaps already – I wore one out riding at home. My granddad rodeoed when they circled the cars and snubbed the horses,” he recalls. “I was drawn to it. I’m known as a horseman. I’ve started a lot of warmbloods for the equestrian people.”
At age 11, Forrie was riding bucking stock bareback. “I would get on turnout horses and people like Pat Linger and Steve Loney would help me out.”
“I was raised in the back seat of a station wagon. My dad was winning checks until he was 52 in the RCA,” he continues. Both his mother and father were ranchers and riders, too. “I started working the labor list when I was eight under guys like Sonny Linger, Reg Kesler, and the Big Bend Rodeo Company. I’ve been on 17 horses in one day and 11 head of bulls in one day. Everything good in my life was because of rodeo.”
From Cowboy to Hollywood Stuntman
Ever since a young Forrie fell off a horse to the horror of his mother and stepdad at the ripe age of 6, he knew he wanted to be a stunt man. Now, some five decades on, he’s living the dream.
As such, Smith notes that “being a cowboy and a horseman are lifetime endeavors.” It’s a never-ending, lifelong process that one dedicates their heart and soul to.
“You never quit learning,” Smith says. “It’s something you just have to wake up every day, and it’s a new day, and you might make some plans, but they might go awry right off when you’re working cattle. And you have to go to plan C, D, E, or F.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s not just as fond of his Hollywood career. In fact, he has put this exact mentality to work as a prolific stuntman and bit-actor for television and film since the 1980s.
“I use a lot of the things I learned from rodeo in the film industry – like breaking things down into steps, thinking positive and not being negative. Thinking about what you did wrong and forgetting it; thinking about what you did right and building on it. Hurry up and wait – that’s all learned from rodeo,” he continues to RodeoNews.
Smith got his Hollywood Start with Willie Nelson & Sylvester Stallone
For nearly thirty years now, Forrie J. Smith has been a stuntman. And before his days as Lloyd on Yellowstone – he got off to a wonderful start.
“My first movie was that remake of Stagecoach with Willie Nelson, he recalls. “Then they needed a guy that could rope a guy off a roof. I was the only one that showed up with a rope long enough to reach him. Then I had to get the dialog … my name was Harley.”
As a result of this production, alongside his work on the TV special “Desperado” that same year in 1987, Smith went on the fast track to becoming a bonified Hollywood stuntman.
“I had to have references and they were all old rodeo partners,” he recounts of the day he went to become a unionized actor. “The guy looked at me and said ‘who are you, you come with some of the best and highest recommendations I’ve ever seen’ – that was 1986 – almost to the day I got my screen actors guild card.”
Ever since then, he’s had the acting bug. “I just wanted to do stunts,” he adds, “but I went to Lawrence Parks for acting lessons and learned how to break down a character and a script. That was 25 years ago and I’ve been in it ever since.”
From there, Smith would amass an impressive resume of film and television credits. Some of his most notable stunt work was also his earliest – as he’s credited for the major work he did with Sylvester Stallone for 1988’s Rambo III. Other notable works include Hell or High Water (2016) and 2 Guns (2013), and of course, 1993’s Tombstone.
Forrie J. Smith’s Never Stopped Rodeoing
Diving further into Smith’s career before his turn as Lloyd on Yellowstone, however, reveals quite a few dry spells. But they aren’t what they seem.
Whenever Smith wasn’t rodeoing for film, he was doing it for real. Whether in Arizona state, where he moved after breaking away from the family ranch in Montana, or in Texas during the height of the modern American rodeo, Forrie has never stopped doing what he loves.
“I drove my cousin back to Texas – 20 years ago – right after Urban Cowboy came out and cowboys were in,” he reveals to RodeoNews. Their interview reveals that Smith was “doing day work and rodeoing, competing in open rodeos.” Then, “he filled his permit in 1982 and started competing in pro rodeos.”
“That was easy back then,” Smith recalls. “There were 100 rodeos in Texas.”
“He was part of the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association, joining in 2006, when he was 47,” RodeoNews continues. “He competed for three years there, never winning the world, but winning his circuit twice and taking the average at the Finals.”
“I was raised to make money – if I didn’t make money rodeoing, I didn’t do it,” Smith adds.
Enter Lloyd Pierce of Yellowstone Ranch
If there ever was a brilliant “second life” to be had for Forrie J. Smith at age 60 – it’s Yellowstone. Paramount’s hit show has become the #1 drama on cable television and is slowly taking over America.
For proof of the show’s staying power, look no further than characters like Smith’s ranch hand Lloyd Pierce. The old-timer, played to perfection through Smith’s life experiences, is one of the show’s best personalities, secondary or not. This is good for both fans and Lloyd, as he’s in it for life as one of Yellowstone‘s brand holders.
Smith has been around for Yellowstone since Season 1, too. He’s come all the way from a guest-speaking role and horse-wrangling behind the scenes – to one of America’s favorite Hollywood cowboys.
“I was a guest star and now I’m on contract,” Smith tells RodeoNews of his work as Lloyd on Yellowstone. “I’m the cow boss. We started shooting season three the first week of August, and just finished up. It takes 8 days to do an episode.”
As for what the character’s future might hold, however, Smith remains tight-lipped. Fans are hopeful for an explanation of Lloyd’s brand – the oldest on the Ranch – in Season 4. But will we get anything of the sort?
“Well, there’s not much that I can tell, except that he’s been there a long time,” Smith tells TVFanatic. “The second episode, when they exposed my brand and introduced me in the script, it said that my brand was older than anybody else in the room. So whatever I did to get there happened a long time ago.”
Smith’s Not Slowing Down as Lloyd on Yellowstone, or Otherwise, Anytime Soon
Now in his sixties, Forrie J. Smith calls San Acacia, New Mexico, home. And there’s nothing he loves more than returning to his own ranch.
“I like sleeping in my own bed, petting my own dogs, and saddling my own horses,” he rounds up with RodeoNews. “It’s getting better around home about going out and having a meal and not getting interrupted. I’m not complainin’ – it’s so cool – the excitement and joy you bring people with just a hug and a picture. Without them, I wouldn’t have a show. It’s kind of wild.”
Despite this, however, Smith isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “Thank God to the movie business I’ll have a decent retirement through the teamsters guild. As long as I can stick my feet in the stirrup, I’ll always do day work and I’ll still do movies,” he says.
“I’m a very blessed man – I thank God and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I’m still on the ride. It ain’t over yet.”
Count us among the millions of others who are thankful for just that, Mr. Smith.