Prepping For A Season Of Yellowstone Requires The Cast To Go Full Cowboy

After four highly addictive seasons, Taylor Sheridan's "Yellowstone" has emerged as a fairly authentic depiction of ranch life coupled with some of the most outlandish, overblown action ever seen on the small screen. Led by long time foreman Rip Wheeler (Cole Houser) and reluctant son Kaycee Dutton (Luke Grimes), the day-to-day grind of roping and driving cattle is shown in vivid, convincing detail in the hit series. In a show like "Yellowstone," it's crucial to have the actors look the part considering the reverence series creator Taylor Sheridan has for ranch culture and horse training. A large swath of the viewers are watching closely, too, making judgments about the quality of the riding, roping, and general cowboying that's constantly on display. 

Before every season begins, Luke Grimes and some of the other actors head to Sheridan's "Cowboy Camp" to learn new skills in the saddle and get brushed up on old tactics. It's a necessary component to make sure the actors and the wranglers are on the same page when shooting actually begins. Grimes even has to pull double duty, at times handling high-powered weaponry in police style raids that are regularly featured in some of the more violent episodes. With season 5 set to premiere on November 13, it will be interesting to see if Kaycee winds up breaking down more doors carrying his Glock or begins to adjust more to life on the Dutton ranch. 

Regardless, Grimes is confident the hours of prep help the show immeasurably, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "We all do our best to get as good at it as we possibly can. It just makes the production side of things go more smoothly."

Another kind of boot camp

Now that Grimes and the other actors are almost five seasons deep, there's a newfound level of freedom when "Cowboy Camp" rears its head each year. As he told THR, the young actor has also developed a passion for riding: 

"We're allowed to ride whenever we want on our days off. They've been really cool about letting the actors continue to sharpen their skills on horseback as much as they want. So it's up to you how much work you want to put in. So it's not only helpful for production, but it's also become very fun at this point. We're four years into trying to learn this stuff and you get the bug after a little while."

That liberating feeling of riding in big country is felt the most during the energizing morning rides that Kaycee makes with his resolute father, John Dutton (Kevin Costner). Seeing Costner and Grimes side by side in a wide shot is undeniably powerful. "It really does add something onscreen when when you can see an actor actually ride their horse," adds Grimes. It certainly seems like the performers have come a long way since their very first "Cowboy Camp," a bonding exercise where they embarked on a lengthy mule packing trip in Montana's backcountry. "I don't think we could do that every time just because it proved to be such a challenge to even organize that and make sure we all made it back safe," Grimes recalls, "being the city slickers that we all were at the time."

Balancing reality with the soap opera

The training is essential to keeping "Yellowstone" grounded in some semblance of the real world. When the extreme side of the show kicks into gear and Rip Wheeler has to become the "fixer" for the family, or firecracker Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) has to destroy someone's life in the blink of an eye, there needs to be a balance between believability and insanity. Famed professional trainers also make appearances to spotlight the world-class horse wrangling filmed for the series. The sliding competition in season 2, episode 5's "The Last Cowboy" features the famed McCutcheon family, for example, the Texas legends who own a nationally known reining operation near Sheridan's ranch. Million dollar riders like Andrea Fappani and Tim McQuay also cameo to add another level of authenticity. 

For an R-rated melodrama that continually goes in some truly ridiculous directions at times, there also seems to be a directive to ground the red state western in cowboy traditions and workmanlike attention to detail. The mix of soap opera storylines and the grueling tasks of ranch life make the show dangerously watchable, and the fervor for "Yellowstone" is finally reaching both coasts. Maybe season 5 will actually be worthy of a little awards attention at next year's Emmy celebration?