Right from the start, Taylor Sheridan had a fan in Kevin Costner, who credit’s the television mogul’s “realistic” dialogue with Yellowstone‘s wild success.
In fact, Costner says the very first script he saw from Sheridan was enough to pull him in. And as the Oscar-winning mastermind behind Dances With Wolves and one of Hollywood’s most prominent leading men, winning Costner over for a from-scratch television show was no small accomplishment.
“I don’t start something unless I think it has a chance to be great,” Costner tells Variety in an extensive op-ed on the influence of Sheridan’s work. “I felt that the people that would see it would appreciate it.”
So Costner put all his faith into Sheridan for the Yellowstone pilot. “I saw that the dialogue had a fun, realistic approach to it. It was raw. It was dysfunctional,” he praises. “And it was set against the backdrop of mountains and rivers and valleys and people on horseback, which is very appealing.”
Appealing, indeed – especially in rural America where the cowboys and ranchers who inspire Yellowstone continue to feed every corner of America. But Sheridan’s first network show wasn’t an overnight success. It took two full seasons to gain a foothold outside this target demographic. And by the time Season 3 had concluded, Sheridan and Costner had one of the biggest television shows in history.
Then, Season 4 would make it the biggest of the decade so far – by a landslide. And all of Hollywood took notice.
Kevin Costner Deeply Respects the Representation ‘Yellowstone’ Offers
The key difference between Yellowstone and rival studio efforts to copycat its success, however, is authenticity. Authenticity that can’t be faked.
“It’s a way of life still,” Costner states of the ranching Yellowstone depitcs. “You know that the country still has some big open spaces. And [Yellowstone] takes that all in.”
And “whether people want to admit it or not,” Costner says, “some people don’t realize that that way of life is still alive. This meat doesn’t get to our cities without somebody getting up early in the morning and late at night taking care of those animals in some way.”
It Helps, Too, That Costner’s Dutton Dialogue is Crafted By a Real-Life Cowboy
Costner is a ranch owner himself, and has been for many years. He’s well-versed in the equestrian world, too. But he’s not a working cowboy – and he’ll tell you as much. Taylor Sheridan, however, is a bonified American cowboy.
Raised on a ranch and as steeped in the culture today as anyone else alive, Sheridan imbues Yellowstone with an authenticity that speaks for itself.
“For me, a sense of place is so incredibly important,” he offers. “When I wrote Yellowstone, I went to Montana. Now, I lived up in that area for many, many years, so I knew it very well.”
And that was but the latest venture in his ranch-filled life. From becoming a Texas Cowboy Hall of Famer and raising some of the most prized show horses on the planet, to waking up to herd cattle before the crack of dawn, Sheridan walks the walk.
“Our job as artists is to hold a mirror up to the world and let people see the reflection, to teach them about a part of life and human experience that they may not be aware of,” he says of pouring his life experience into his monster hit. Four seasons and a critically-acclaimed prequel in, and the results speak for themselves.
“When something gets this kind of extra kick — you can’t predict that,” Costner says of Yellowstone and Taylor Sheridan’s success. But he has no problem giving credit where credit is due.