The so-called prestige television era has brought many faces familiar to movie audiences to the small screen, including Yellowstone star Kevin Costner. Before joining the Paramount Network series in 2018, the only major television role on his resume was “Devil” Hatfield in the 2012 History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. While making the transition from movies to television, Costner had to get comfortable with the idea of not knowing everything about John Dutton.
In an interview with IndieWire last year, Costner said he would prefer knowing everything about a character he is playing. That’s common for movies, where actors are presented with a beginning, middle and end in the script when they begin filming. Even with Hatfields & McCoys, Costner knew where the story was going since it was based on a true story. For Yellowstone and other television shows, writers are developing plot twists and character backstories as shows go on.
“Sometimes with [John’s] sons or wife or whatever, that’s been really kept in a creative ball. That’s a more vulnerable way to go through life as an actor,” Costner said. The two-time Oscar-winner for Dances with Wolves has now been playing billionaire ranch owner Dutton for two seasons, and Yellowstone’s third is set to debut on Sunday, June 21.
Costner told IndieWire the transition to television has not been easy and he “doesn’t like” not knowing where the story is going “too much.” One issue with Season 2 for Costner was the expansion of the writers’ room. Season 1 was written in full by co-creator Taylor Sheridan, but a handful of other writers were brought in to collaborate so Sheridan could work on other projects. “We’ve dealt with things but this second season was a combination of a writers’ room and him, so that wasn’t exactly clear,” Costner said. “Now it’s just a straight writers’ room.”
While Costner might not be comfortable with television as an actor, he sure knows a thing or two about storytelling. He knows a television show can’t burn through shocking plot twists quickly or the audience will get tired of constant shocks. “If your foot’s on the gas, you can run into a wall,” he told IndieWire. “Something can run quite a while if the architecture of it is careful — not explosive, but careful. You can run a long time if you make things really compelling, but that’s a really hard thing to do. It takes a lot of thought. It’s not impulsive writing. It’s writing with a lot of extended thought.”
Fans have a lot more Dutton family adventures coming, even after Season 3 wraps. Paramount renewed the show for a fourth season in February. The network pointed out that Yellowstone was the top-rated scripted summer cable series among the 18-49 and 25-54 age demographics.