Yellowstone’ TV: Show Creator Taylor Sheridan Lived a Dual Identity in High School

by Anna Dunn
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Taylor Sheridan, Academy Award nominee and creator of Yellowstone, lived a bit of an unusual life in high school. According to Texas Highways, Sheridan lived a double life as a musical theatre kid and a wrangler on his parent’s ranch. At 16, Sheridan landed a role with well-regarded Stage West Theatre. This is where he began his true acting career.

“The play was held over, and I had to miss a school dance,” he said, “But I was getting paid to act.”

While it’s clear Sheridan has pursued a life of screenwriting, producing, and acting, he’s still an equestrian. He’d apparently rather go to horse shows and rodeos than the movie theatre. He now has a new family ranch near Fort Worth, Texas.

The Sheridan Family Ranch: A Big ‘Yellowstone’ Inspiration

“Everybody wants to be a cowboy. It’s a romantic way of life.” Sheridan told Texas Highways, “But it’s rarely portrayed realistically in Westerns. We want to show the real cowboy life.”

And Sheridan would truly be one to know. The inspiration behind Yellowstone lies in his own family ranch. It’s not the only work of his that drew inspiration from the ranch. His films Sicario (2015), Hell or High Water (2016), and Wind River (2017), are all westerns that were inspired in some way by his life growing up on the ranch.

How Losing the Family Ranch Inspired Sheridan’s Work

And when it came to Sheridan’s love of the family ranch, losing it inspired some of the most important parts of his work.

“When you write, it’s always of an autobiographical nature,” he told Texas Highways, “Our family ranch has informed Yellowstone in many ways, but losing it was the biggest one.”

In 1991, Sheridan’s mother decided to sell the ranch after she and his father divorced, feeling like she couldn’t work it on her own. Sheridan’s mother had grown up on a ranch, while his father was a cardiologist. The ranch sold while Taylor Sheridan was in the tentative transition period that is college.

His mother told Texas Highways, “I don’t think Taylor spoke to me for a year.”

Hell or High Water, which was nominated for multiple academy awards, also has clear roots in losing the ranch. The movie is about two brothers who go to extreme measures to try and save their family farm.

Knowing that Sheridan spent a lot of time on a ranch as a kid, it makes sense why Yellowstone feels authentic to fans. He wanted to make a western accurate to what the real cowboy life looks like. While dramatized when it comes to the action and political intrigue, the core of the life portrayed on the ranch feels true for many.

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