How to Get Cast on ‘Yellowstone’

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Photo Source: Paramount Network

Popular Western drama “Yellowstone” aired its Season 4 finale on Jan. 2, drawing more than 10 million viewers and becoming the most-watched telecast on cable. According to Variety, the show’s audience has continued to grow and “shatter records” ever since it debuted in 2018. After flying under the radar for years, the Paramount Network hit, created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, is finally being recognized in awards circles, too. It received a 2022 Screen Actors Guild nomination for best ensemble in a television drama alongside other heavy hitters such as HBO’s “Succession” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” 

If you have been wrangled into becoming a fan and hope to one day join the show’s all-star cast, we’ve got all the information you need. From audition opportunities to insider tips from producers and actors, here’s how the “Yellowstone” casting process works. 

Rancher leaning on a wooden fence


What is “Yellowstone” about?

This family drama revolves around the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch in Montana, which is owned by sixth-generation rancher John Dutton, played by Oscar and Emmy winner Kevin Costner. The plot revolves around the many challenges he and his family face as they fight to keep the ranch, fending off outside forces—land developers, a Native American reservation, and casino moguls—that threaten to overtake their land. Spoilers ahead!

In Season 1, the family goes toe-to-toe with the Broken Rock Reservation, whose leaders claim that the Duttons’ land actually belonged to them first. The family must also fend off land developer Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), who is looking to turn their ranch into a tourist destination. The family also faces internal struggles as John deals with a cancer diagnosis and the loss of one of his sons. 

In Season 2, the Dutton family goes up against casino moguls the Beck Brothers (Terry Serpico and Neal McDonough). John teams up with his former enemies, including Dan Jenkins and Thomas Rainwater (Gil Bermingham), the chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock. Meanwhile, John’s sons deal with troubles of their own: Kayce (Luke Grimes) finds his marriage floundering, and Jamie (Wes Bentley) spills too much to a journalist. Beth (Kelly Reilly), John’s daughter, tries to fight off the Becks on her own and rekindles her old fling with ranch hand Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser). 

In Season 3, Market Equities tries to turn the ranch into an airport and a ski resort, and Chief Rainwater and John find themselves on the same side once again. Jamie learns who his birth father is, and viewers find out what caused the rift between Beth and Jamie when they were growing up. The Dutton family faces life-threatening danger in the Season 3 finale. 

In Season 4, the Duttons are still locked in a fierce battle with Market Equities and are seeking revenge against whomever attempted to kill them in the Season 3 finale. Jamie grows closer to his biological father, Beth joins Market Equities in an attempt to destroy their operation from the inside, and Kayce deals with the challenges of being livestock commissioner and moving off the ranch with his wife and son. Family tensions come to a head in the season finale. 

Who is in the cast of “Yellowstone”?

The Season 4 cast of “Yellowstone” includes:

  • Kevin Costner as John Dutton
  • Luke Grimes as Kayce Dutton
  • Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton
  • Wes Bentley as Jamie Dutton
  • Cole Hauser as Rip Wheeler
  • Kelsey Asbille as Monica Dutton
  • Brecken Merrill as Tate Dutton
  • Jefferson White as Jimmy Hurdstrom 
  • Forrie J. Smith as Lloyd
  • Denim Richards as Colby
  • Ian Bohen as Ryan
  • Finn Little as Carter
  • Ryan Bingham as Walker
  • Gil Birmingham as Thomas Rainwater
  • Jacki Weaver as Caroline Warner
  • Piper Perabo as Summer Higgins
  • Eden Brolin as Mia
  • Hassie Harrison as Laramie
  • Jen Landon as Teeter
  • Taylor Sheridan as Travis Wheatley
  • Hugh Dillon as Sheriff Donnie Haskell 

Group of ranchers

How does the casting process work for “Yellowstone”?

According to Collider, Sheridan is the mastermind behind casting the stars of “Yellowstone.” In an interview with the outlet, the creator revealed that he always wanted Kevin Costner to be a part of the show. “I’d been a fan of Kevin’s work my whole life,” he said. “I was really hungry to find something to do with him, and I had the idea for this show. I wrote the pilot, and I sent it to him.” Costner told ET that he was initially hesitant about doing a TV show but was open to the opportunity

As for Reilly (“Pride & Prejudice,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “True Detective”)  she was immediately hooked when she read the script. “It was one of the best, if not the best, I think I’ve ever read. I was just floored by his writing,” she said of Sheridan’s work in a behind-the-scenes interview with Paramount.

Hauser (“2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Rogue”) and Birmingham (“Hell or High Water,” “Wind River”) didn’t even have to audition for their roles. Sheridan told Deadline that he wanted to cast Hauser “from day one.” He explained, “There were some things he had done that I saw, where there was an intensity and a clarity of what that character wanted. There is no subtext with the guy, and that’s what I really liked.” As for Birmingham, Sheridan told Cowboys & Indians Magazine that he talked to the actor about collaborating early on. He revealed, “I called him before I wrote [‘Yellowstone’]. Like: ‘Gil, I’ve got a role that’s right for you, buddy. I hope you come do this thing with me.’ And he said yes. And I was grateful.”

Man and a woman near farmland

Is “Yellowstone” currently filming?

Just a few days after the show’s Season 4 finale aired, news broke that “Yellowstone” has been renewed for another season. Executive producer David Glasser confirmed to Variety that Sheridan was already “deep into Season 5.” He added that Sheridan has “some incredible ideas…that I think audiences are going to be really excited about.” He said that production would likely begin in May, which means we could see Season 5 on our TV screens this fall. 

For the first three seasons, the show mostly filmed in Utah, according to the Sun. Per Parade, the Dutton Ranch scenes are shot on Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana, which is a real working ranch—one that you can actually stay at.  

“Yellowstone” has inspired multiple spinoffs. “1883,” which stars Sam Elliott, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw, premiered in December 2021. The prequel series follows the 19th-century Dutton family as they journey west toward Montana. A second spinoff, “6666” will take place on the titular Texas ranch introduced on Season 4 of “Yellowstone.” A premiere date for the new series has yet to be set. 

Group of men on horseback

Where can you find “Yellowstone” casting calls and auditions?

Back when Season 4 was in production, NBC Montana reported that “Yellowstone” was looking to hire local Montana residents to work as extras. The casting call was open to both men and women, aged 9 and older. Shooting was based in the Darby, Hamilton, and Missoula areas in August 2020. Extras were also paid for their time. 

As of now, there are no active casting calls or auditions for Season 5. However, you can always keep an eye on Backstage’s casting section for future opportunities, or check out this list of similar gigs that are now looking to fill out their ensembles. 

Woman holding a martini glass

Who is the casting director for “Yellowstone”?

Emmy winner John Papsidera has been the solo CD for “Yellowstone” since Season 1. He is best known for his work on Christopher Nolan’s films (“Inception,” “Memento,” “The Dark Knight,” “Dunkirk,” “Interstellar”), as well as “Independence Day” and “Westworld.” 

When it comes to casting, Papsidera told Backstage what he looks for in performers: “An actor who approaches [the audition] with a certain amount of confidence—and they do something that is not even bold or outrageous as a choice, but they have confidence—is what makes it work.” He continued, “It’s a very hard thing to put my finger on, because it’s in the performance of it and in the dialogue of how you present it. It’s a vibe of somebody going, ‘I’m going to take you on this journey.’ ” 

If you get the opportunity to audition for Papsidera, prepare to be vulnerable. “I hope [actors] feel like they have a space and a moment to share a bit of their soul,” he said. “I think that is what my job is. Everybody who works with me tries to create a space where that can happen. We really respect actors, and we want them to be able to feel like, when they walk into the audition room, they have the freedom to do the best work they can.” If you want to really stand out, Papsidera advises you to do your homework: “Being prepared certainly is part of it, and having an idea of what [you] want to do, making interesting choices—all of those things lend themselves to the overall experience of it.”

Rancher standing next to a helicopter

What are the best audition tips for landing a role on “Yellowstone”?

Here are some words of wisdom from the series’ actors and creatives.

Don’t play it safe. “All actors should bring a fearlessness to the audition,” Sheridan told Backstage. “I would rather watch somebody fall on their ass in the audition than play it safe.”

Learn from other actors. Even Costner started out by cribbing from the best. “I have learned my own patterns, and I have watched other good actors. I have done what every good actor does and stolen ideas. You see things; you stand on the shoulders of people,” he told Collider

Experience life. Kelly Reilly, who plays Beth Dutton, said she followed advice that Helen Mirren once gave her. “I asked her if I should go to drama school—I thought it was a good idea—and she said: ‘Bad idea. In fact, it’s probably the worst thing you could do. Travel for three years or go to university, but don’t go to drama school,’ ” Reilly recalled in an interview with the Daily Mail. “Helen reckons that, to be an actor, you have to experience life rather than disappear inside a drama school for three years. So I took her advice and carried on acting.”

Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!

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