‘Yellowstone’ an epic tale of corruption, greed and violence in the modern-day American West

‘Yellowstone’ – Dirty dealings in America’s last frontier

“Yellowstone” premieres Wednesday, June 20, on Paramount Network.

It’s a dangerous world in the American West. But instead of cowboys and Indians, the major players are land developers, oil companies and politicians on the take.

It is in this setting that the characters of “Yellowstone” exist. Premiering Wednesday, June 20, on Paramount Network, the hourlong scripted series stars Kevin Costner (“Dances With Wolves”) as John Dutton, owner of the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S., one in constant conflict with its neighbors – developers, an Indian reservation and the country’s first national park, Yellowstone. It’s a violent, corrupt world that’s largely unknown to the rest of us, where land grabs make developers billions, oil and lumber companies buy off politicians, fracking pollutes the ground water and unsolved murders are commonplace.

Also starring are Wes Bentley (“American Beauty”) as Jamie Dutton, a polished lawyer eying a career in politics; Cole Hauser (“2 Fast 2 Furious”) as Rip Wheeler, a ruthless wrangler from Yellowstone Ranch; Kelly Reilly (“Black Box”) as Beth Dutton, John’s daughter, who assumes the role of family matriarch following her mother’s death; and Gil Birmingham (“Twilight”) as Thomas Rainwater, chairman of a neighboring reservation.

Directed and written by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario”) and filmed in Utah and Montana, the series features sweeping vistas that give it the look of an epic Western. And it’s working in this environment, Costner told a recent gathering of journalists in Pasadena, Calif., that made his job as an actor that much easier.

Kevin Costner stars in “Yellowstone,” premiering Wednesday, June 20, on Paramount Network.

“You know, actors are able to kind of make things real even on a stage, sometimes without all the trappings of what you want,” he says. “But when you think about acting and sometimes you’re able to look over at a barn that’s not fake and look at horses that are truly running free, I think there is a thing called environment. And we’re able to exist in one of the most beautiful places in the country and … when you feel like you are armed with the words, it feels like the thing is almost 90 percent done.”

Indeed, while the Sheridan-penned script and his love of Westerns initially drew the Oscar-winning actor to “Yellowstone,” the opportunity to tell this little-known story of how development and resource extraction are slowly consuming America’s last frontier also intrigued him.

“You see all the raw beauty of Yellowstone,” Costner says, “but the way the show has been tailored, it runs up against land development, land usage, who has the land, who doesn’t have it. There’s meth going on out there. There’s Native Americans issues. And in this beautiful place, there’s still politics and they seem to run the day and the thing that seems to be the first casualty, is always the land.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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