What Drew Kevin Costner to His ‘Yellowstone’ Role as John Dutton
Kevin Costner is one of the biggest movie stars of his generation, but for the last few years, he's made his biggest impact as the star of the runaway hit TV show Yellowstone.
Costner spoke to Variety for an in-depth new article about the show's creator, Taylor Sheridan, and in the course of the interview, he opened up about what initially drew him to his headlining role as Dutton patriarch John Dutton.
“I saw that the dialogue had a fun, realistic approach to it. It was raw. It was dysfunctional,” Costner tells Variety. “And it was set against the backdrop of mountains and rivers and valleys and people on horseback, which is very appealing.”
Paramount Network rose from the ashes of what used to Spike TV in 2017, and as part of its re-branding effort, the fledgling network committed to offer high market value to a major star to help launch Yellowstone as a flagship show. Costner made a deal for $500,000 per episode before the show began filming, and the enormous offer was a strategic move on Paramount's part, network head Kevin Kay told the Hollywood Reporter.
"The statement we wanted to make was that we’re open for business and we’re willing to pay top-tier actors whatever their quotes are," he said in 2017. "It sends a message and that’s what we want to do."
Even with such a big-name star, Yellowstone wasn't a mainstream hit straight out of the gate. The show has built into a television ratings phenomenon over the course of four seasons, starting off with strong support in America's heartland and eventually building strong numbers in more urban centers. Season 4 in 2021 saw Yellowstone become the most-watched cable drama on television after building its audience significantly during the pandemic lockdown, during which many new viewers discovered the modern-day Western through binge watching marathons of repeats.
“I don’t start something unless I think it has a chance to be great,” Costner states. “I felt that the people that would see it would appreciate it. But when something gets this kind of extra kick — you can’t predict that.”
The Oscar-winning actor, director and producer attributes the show's broad appeal to the fact that it shines a light on a gritty, rural way of life that some viewers don't get exposed to otherwise.
“Whether people want to admit it or not, some people don’t realize that that way of life is still alive,” he observes. “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’s a way of life still. You know that the country still has some big open spaces. And [Yellowstone] takes that all in."
Yellowstone has been renewed for Season 5, and Sheridan has already capitalized on the success of the show with a massively popular prequel titled 1883, which starred Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and told the backstory of how the Duttons came to settle the ranch in Montana. There's also another prequel titled 1932 on the way, which will tell the story of the Duttons through the Great Depression, and yet another upcoming spinoff titled 6666 is set at a ranch in Texas that Yellowstone has introduced as part of Jimmy's (Jefferson White) storyline in Season 4.
A premiere date for Yellowstone Season 5 is to be announced.