The biggest surprise of last summer’s TV season was the success of Paramount’s “Yellowstone.” Taylor Sheridan’s (“Hell or High Water”) throwback to the bygone age of westerns drew an audience of 5 million viewers per week, proving that rugged family dramas never go out of style if you have the right star attached.
Kevin Costner’s fan base eagerly embraced him in his latest role as John Dutton, the devious patriarch of a Montana ranching family willing to kill to keep real estate developers off his land. Then there was that breathtaking location — the Chief Joseph Ranch near Darby, Montana.
“What Taylor does really appeals to a broad part of America. There are a lot of people who are looking for something like this,” says Luke Grimes, who plays Dutton’s son, Kayce, and is already filming scenes for the show’s third season (Season 2 premiered last Wednesday at 9 p.m.).
Grimes, 35, was en route to a training session not far from the show’s Park City, Utah, soundstage when he spoke to The Post. “Yellowstone” keeps the actors who play cowboys in good shape for riding before and during production. “We go to the barn where all the horse wranglers put you on a horse and oil that machine a little bit,” he says. “I try to do that as much as possible.”
The Ohio-born actor has developed a rapport with West, the grullo — or grey — stallion he rides, in his time on the show. “They are really sensitive animals. They really know what’s going on with you,” he says. “If you’re scared or not in charge, they know that. If you don’t become the boss, they’ll boss you around. It’s been fun to learn all this stuff. It’s like dealing with people. You don’t give everyone [you know] the same thing.”
The cast learned first-hand that working on “Yellowstone” was no bull when they filmed a scene that called for them to play “cowboy poker.” A card table was set up in the middle of a corral for the game with a black bull charging around while the actors played their hands. They made for the fences as the bull became more unruly, but the camera stayed in place.
“That bull broke a camera during the cowboy poker game and they turned [the footage] into an ad for the show,” Grimes says, with a laugh. “They’re no joke, man.”
“Yellowstone” is rife with butch cowboys making threats, throwing punches and generally getting the daylights knocked out of them. If the scene calls for Kayce to be on the wrong end of a body slam, Grimes gladly steps aside and leaves the rough stuff to the professionals.
“I’m not one of the actors on the show who say, ‘I do all my stunts,’ ” he says.
After playing a prodigal son arc in Season 1, Grimes has been more deeply integrated into the cast this year as John Dutton hand-picks Kayce to assume a leadership role in his affairs. “Kayce doesn’t want to run anything, but [he agrees] to learn how to run a ranch, starting at the bunkhouse,” Grimes says. “Part of that is to repair his relationship with his father.”
The chief benefit of this story development is that Grimes films many more scenes with Costner, who is something of a role model for him.
Grimes was 34 when he shot his first season. “Kevin won an Oscar for directing (“Dances With Wolves”) at 35,” Grimes says. “He’s very gentle with the other actors. It would be easy with the career he’s had to show up for the paycheck, but he really does the work and loves it.”