Jefferson White Interview – Yellowstone Season 4

Screen Rant talks exclusively with Jefferson White, who plays fan-favorite character Jimmy Hurdstrom in Yellowstone season 4 on Paramount+.

Yellowstone season 4 on Paramount+ has been a streaming dynamo, becoming one of the most-watched and most-talked about TV dramas currently playing, which just debuted on Blu-Ray/DVD. Created by Taylor Sheridan, Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner as John Dutton, the patriarch of The Yellowstone Ranch, the largest cattle ranch in Montana. The drama series revolves around the Dutton family and their attempts to keep hold of their land, while fighting off local and outside interests. In addition to Costner, the show stars Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Kelsey Asbille, Gil Birmingham, Forrie J. Smith, Ryan Bingham and Jen Landon. Jefferson White plays Jimmy Hurdstrom, the fan-favorite underdog character who has grown immensely in popularity as the seasons go on.

Screen Rant spoke with Jefferson White about Jimmy’s journey in Yellowstone season 4, from inexperienced ranch hand to bonafide cowboy, working with Kevin Costner, the brilliance of Taylor Sheridan, and Jimmy’s future on Yellowstone, as well as the potential for his involvement in the planned Four Sixes spinoff show and more.

Oh, man, it is such a true honor. I’m such a huge fan of the show and this is amazing. I’m so happy to be talking to you today. Yellowstone has exploded. It’s one of the most popular shows on TV. I watch it with my fiancé and we absolutely love it. We hinge on every moment, we talk about it the whole time. It’s such a great show; it’s like a community show. I’m curious what has it been like to witness the growth of Yellowstone into what it’s become now?

Jefferson White: It’s incredible, man. And, it’s stuff like that, stuff like you just said. You watch it with your fiancé, that’s an incredible honor. There’s so many families that watch it together, there’s so many communities of friends that watch it together. That’s a real gift. It really feels like an honor to be a small, little part of the lives of all these families and little micro communities that have sprung up around the show. So, I love it, it’s amazing. To be honest, it’s silly to say, or perhaps obvious to say, but it rocks. It feels great. It feels so cool to be on a show that people really like. That’s an amazing feeling.

Oh, for sure. So, Jimmy started off Yellowstone season 4 in pretty rough shape. I’d argue the worst of his life, just from watching the show. But, John Dutton sends him off to become a cowboy, which stirs a big amount of emotions for him, particularly for Jimmy and Mia, as he basically has to choose between staying with her and going to four sixes. So, I’m curious why you think Jimmy chose that route over the easier route of staying with Mia?

Jefferson White: Well, it’s an incredibly difficult decision I would say, and it’s not really clear what the easier route is. Basically, he’s being asked to choose between his job and his girlfriend, which is a heartbreaking scenario that a lot of people face in their lives. ‘Hey, you got a great new job, it’s five states away, two time zones away, are we going to try to make this work?’ I think that’s an incredibly difficult situation that people find themselves in all the time. The experience of being an actor often means getting on a plane and flying two time zones, three time zones away from everybody you love, y’know? So, I found it a very relatable, difficult moment for Jimmy. And, I think to a certain extent, Mia made an ultimatum. She said, ‘If you go to Texas, it’s over’. And, I don’t think that Jimmy actually felt like he had a choice. He owed John Dutton hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills in addition to having seen anybody who wears the brand and betrays the Yellowstone being killed over the course of four seasons-

The brand is a good incentive right there…

Jefferson White: Yeah, it really is. Once you’ve seen Rip shake somebody around you’re not very likely to go back on your employment contract at the Dutton Ranch. So, y’know, I don’t that Jimmy really felt like he had a choice. I think he feels like Mia made the choice when she made that ultimatum.

Jimmy kind of started off Yellowstone as a kind of troublemaking aloof kind of guy, almost like comic relief to a point. But, he’s evolved. Jimmy has evolved from season-to-season and has become, again, at least for me and my fiancé, the fan favorite. I feel like Jimmy has had the most complete arc of any character on the show, which I never expected, and I think a lot of people didn’t expect it. I’m curious how much did you know about where Jimmy’s path was going or was it kind of season-to-season cliffhanger for you as well.

Jefferson White: It’s been a series of cliffhangers for me. There’s been a couple times where I’ve read a script that ended with ‘Jimmy lies face-down in the dirt, motionless’. And, making any art, making any sort of creative project, is a real exercise in trust. You’re putting a lot of trust in your collaborators. In our case, we’re all putting a lot of trust in Taylor Sheridan. And, he has lived up to and exceeded our trust over and over and over again. He’s a brilliant, brilliant writer. I learned a long time ago, pretty early on, that trying to guess what he’s gonna do next is a futile exercise, because what he comes up with is so much richer, so much fuller, so much more interesting and curious than anything I could’ve guessed. And he’s kinda kept surprising me over the course of the last four years. So, it’s been an incredible journey just trying to keep up with what Taylor writes. And, I think a lot of us are in that position of putting all this trust in Taylor, because he’s incredible. He’s one of the best writers in the history of television or film. I think he’s really amazing. And, it’s our job to just try to hold on to this incredible bucking bronco that is his imagination. And, I’ve felt really lucky that it’s brought Jimmy up to this point, but I also don’t labor under any delusions that Jimmy’s future is certain or secure in any way, because that’s the west, that’s life. That’s the brutal world of Yellowstone. Nothing is certain. So, I’m trying to hold on a few more days. That’s all you can do. All you can do is try to hold onto the horse that’s right in front of you.

Well, talking about Jimmy’s future. In season four he finds new love, he finds new purpose, becomes a bonafide cowboy and many have said that Yellowstone season 4 was secretly the backdoor pilot for a Four Sixes show. What are your thoughts on that as far as Jimmy’s future in that rein?

Jefferson White: I wish I knew, y’know? I really can only reiterate that I want to go wherever Taylor wants me to go. I want to go wherever the show needs me to go. In many ways I, Jefferson, feel like Jimmy, which is, ‘Tell me where to go, boss.’ Taylor has given me the best job I’ve ever had in my life. Paramount has given me the best job I’ve ever had in my life. Wherever they need me, I’ll go. If they don’t need me, I’ll say, ‘Thank you so much for the time, it’s been an incredible gift.’ If they need me, I’ll say, ‘Thank you so much for the time,” y’know? I’ll be way more excited. I hope I get to keep working on this show for a long time, I hope I get to keep working in this world for a long time and we’ll find out together, y’know?

Well, from my perspective, we need Jimmy. If my vote counts in any way, Jimmy is needed. Paramount, anybody that’s listening, you’re watching this interview, Jimmy is needed.

Jefferson White: Yeah, go ahead and put that in writing and just mail it. Let’s just start mailing it in. I don’t know exactly where to mail it to. Maybe just mail it to the Sixes [laughs]. Yeah, yeah, thank you.

You have some almost fatherly-like scenes with John Dutton in Yellowstone season 4. What is it like working with Kevin Costner on scenes like that, where it’s just you and him in one scene. Does his legacy ever add any stress to those more personal scenes. Talk to me about that experience of working with Costner on those one-on-ones..

Jefferson White: Y’know, it does. Who Kevin is, he’s both an incredibly present actor who’s with you in that exact moment in that exact room, he’s right in front of you. He’s incredibly present, which is like all you can hope for in a scene partner. But, he’s also a legend, he’s also a sort of modern myth. And, the good thing is that that is also true of John Dutton. John Dutton is with you in the room, he’s gonna saddle the horse, he’s gonna sweep the stables, but he’s also a myth, he’s also a legend in the world of the show. So, my relationship to Kevin is pretty similar to Jimmy’s relationship to John Dutton. He reveres this person, he’s know about this person his whole life, even before he met him. So, my task as an actor there is to sort of take those real-world circumstances and allow them, not try to fight them off or keep ‘em out, but allow them to color the scene, ‘cause I’m intimidated by Kevin the same way that Jimmy is intimidated by John. So, all of that just flavors those scenes and makes them hopefully feel that much more authentic and sort of lived in, y’know?

I mean, I’m intimidated for Jimmy when I see Kevin Costner in the scene with John Dutton. I’m like, ‘Oh, man, this is gonna be a rough one.’

Jefferson White: I know, it usually doesn’t go well for Jimmy. Anytime you’re talking to the boss you worry something’s wrong. Anytime Taylor calls me over, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s it, I did it, I finally blew it.’ But, I’m so lucky ‘cause I get that not just with Kevin, but I also get that in these scenes with Cole Hauser, who’s an incredible actor, I get that in these scenes with Forrie J. Smith. There’s so many amazing actors and cowboys on our set that I get to learn from and so I really think of it as my job just to stay open to that learning, to stay sort of receptive to that learning, ‘cause in this world, in both acting and in the western world, the world of horsemanship, as soon as you think you know it all, you’re wrong and you’re done and you’re limiting yourself. There’s so many people on set that I’m learning from every day, so many experts of a million different fields. You got Forrie J. Smith rodeo’d his entire life. Forrie J. Smith has dozens of belt buckles from rodeo events. He’s an incredible rodeo cowboy.  And also our crew. We also have the most talented crew in the world. Our camera operators, our DPs, our directors, our sound operators, our costume designers…there are so many brilliant artists to learn from on our set, that I really just think of it as my job just to stay open to all that learning and just allow myself to be a student.

Lastly, you’re also the host of the Yellowstone podcast. How did that happen and what’s the future of that and is that going to continue?

Jefferson White: That’s been an amazing gift, too, I mean talk about learning. That’s an opportunity to sit down with Mo Brings Plenty and talk to him about his experience on the show. It’s an opportunity to sit down with Jake Ream, with Forrie J. Smith, with Ryan Bingham, with these people who I admire so much and really learn about where they come from, what they’re bringing to the show, learn about their authentic experience with the west, with cattle ranching, with rodeoing. So, that’s been an incredible gift. And, y’know, like Yellowstone, I never know what’s going on. I don’t know what happens next. I just go where they tell me to. I get on a plane and I go where they tell me to and I’m grateful to be there. So, if we get to do more of that that would be awesome. The reception to it has been incredibly heartwarming. If you haven’t checked it out yet it’s the official Yellowstone podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, pretty much anywhere that you get your podcasts. And, it’s a sort of a companion piece to the show. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the artists that work on the show. And, it’s fascinating. It’s fascinating to hear about Forrie J. Smith’s early life in the rodeo, Ryan Bingham’s early life in the rodeo, how Kelly Reilly and Cole Hauser approach the day-to-day work of creating Beth and Rip. Those conversations are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for me to learn from those actors and I think that it’s a really interesting podcast if you’re a fan of Yellowstone.

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