Here’s a tip for fans of the western-flavored drama “Yellowstone”: If you spot Kelly Reilly at the airport or at a coffee shop, you don’t have to worry about her confronting you. She has no desire to ruin your day.
Nor do you have to commend her for her vicious verbal denunciations of business interests, ambitious developers and others who are vying for her father’s sprawling Montana ranch so they can turn the scenic landscape into a concrete covered playground of holiday homes and resort attractions.
Because as the Paramount Network series, a true blockbuster that has become arguably the most popular series on television, launches its highly anticipated fifth season on Sunday, Reilly discovers that his performance in “Yellowstone” is so convincing that many fans believe what is Beth Dutton, the ruthless daughter of Kevin Costner’s John.
Armed with a volcanic personality and tangy rants for anyone who opposes her and her father, Beth has risen above the show’s other colorful characters to become a singular force of nature: “You’re the trailer , and I am the tornado” is just one of the brand lines that have appeared on T-shirts celebrating Beth. But Reilly is very not a Beth type.
“My life couldn’t be further from Beth’s world, but people really think I’m her,” Reilly said during a Zoom interview from her home in London. “In a cafe, they’ll say, ‘Hi, Beth.’ I’ve been acting since I was 17, and I’ve never had a character that’s been so strong in taste and received such a passionate response. It’s horrifying and exciting, depending on the day.
The British actor, whose previous projects included the films ‘Flight’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes’ with Robert Downey Jr. credits Beth’s response to executive producer Taylor Sheridan, who co-created ‘Yellowstone’ and is its lead writer .
“Taylor writes women with great love, but with great complexity,” Reilly said. “They’re shameless. Men are never written as strong male characters. They’re just themselves. It’s that attitude and that energy that Taylor wrote into Beth and all her fabulous intoxication. As an actor , it got my blood pumping. As a woman, it intrigued me. There’s a carelessness about her that I find arousing.
She added: “It was a quality that didn’t come easy to me. How do you play a woman like that and also bring people to her side? If you hate her or despise her, I haven’t done my job. properly.”
The two main men in Beth’s life alongside her father are her husband, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) – the main employee of the Dutton ranch, whom she loves dearly – and her brother Jamie (Wes Bentley), whom she openly despises. Beth has never forgiven Jamie for an incident when they were teenagers when he took her for an abortion and, unbeknownst to her, arranged for her to be sterilized.
Beth continually reminds Jamie of her life’s mission to punish and destroy him. Their toxic relationship was exposed in the first season when they got into a violent fight in a barn.
Said Bentley: “Beth is extreme, and for Kelly it was a long distance to go because she’s the opposite – adorable. She went further in that role than I think even she thought it would be. It was possible. That fight scene was the moment I saw that click, fully formed. It’s one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen as an actor.
Both performers feel that a twisted type of love is central to the dynamic between Beth and Jamie.
“Kelly and I agree there must be a desperate desire for connection,” Bentley said. “We also saw it as something they were working to fix. The connection was gone, and the painful part is that they realize that through the fight.”
He added: “To get there as an actor with another actor, to go as far as she has to go as Beth pursues Jamie, we have to trust each other to a degree that goes beyond even the friendship. We can let loose on each other, and Wes and Kelly will be fine at the end of the day. We naturally had it from the start. We get along so well. It allows us to really dig into that hate. And there is real hatred.
During the interview, Reilly spoke about the popularity of “Yellowstone,” her relationship with her male co-stars, and the challenges her character will face this season.
When did you realize Beth had become such an escape character?
Halfway through the second season, I started feeling there was more conversation about her. People dressed up as her on Halloween. It was then that I began to realize that it had entered the air of time. It was fascinating to watch and – I’ll be honest, as an actor – slightly intimidating and a bit scary. I try to keep what people have to say about her at bay. For some women, she is a hero. Others find her despicable. Neither side is right or wrong, and that’s kind of the joy of her.
I heard that when people recognize you, they want to clap your hands or fight you.
They are more disappointed when they meet me. They expect me to have Taylor Sheridan’s verbiage and Beth’s attitude. As soon as I stop playing with her, I drop that attitude pretty quickly. Also, I’m British, so it’s always an eye-opener for people. I actually think it’s better if they don’t know anything about me so I can fully inhabit myself and disappear and people can think she’s real. Strangely, I like it.
She is certainly a life force. Is it harder to play the raw Beth or the more vulnerable Beth?
It’s the same character. But in other circumstances, who does it reveal? People talk about the angry woman, the sensitive woman, the emotional woman. I have all these women in me. Beth is a force of nature, so that comes with an incredible amount of adrenaline. An energy rushes through my body and mind. It’s like riding in a sports car or driving a thoroughbred. There’s something more powerful than you, and you better hang on. I don’t always agree with her. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I wish I could have more of what she has.
The chemistry of this cast is so front and center. Kevin really looks like your dad, and Beth adores him so much.
When I first read the script, the strongest thing that stood out was his devotion to his father. She is a warrior for him, and there is a virtue in that. I find that really beautiful and tragic. It’s not hard with Kevin – he really is this American patriarchal. He is iconic playing this character. I love my scenes with him.
We really need to talk about the toxic relationship between Beth and her brother Jamie. She has so much hostility towards him, but I wonder if it’s not mixed with love. They were both young when this crucial rift in their relationship happened, and people make mistakes.
[Laughs] I wish you and I could sit down with Beth and tell her that. But she’s not interested. It’s such a deeply rooted wound. “Yellowstone” is this all-American TV show, but it has some tragic Greek elements in it. She is blinded by her rage and her feeling that her brother betrayed her. He agreed to have something done to him that would affect the rest of his life, and she can’t make peace with it. I can’t wait for her to find forgiveness for herself and Jamie. But it is a relationship where there is a deep wound, and it comes from love. If they didn’t love each other, why would it matter so much? She would push him away like another guy at the bar. But it is important. She loves him. She hates him too.
On the other end of the spectrum is this popping romance between Beth and Rip. Again, there’s such electricity between you and Cole Hauser, who plays him.
I had just turned 40 when I got the role of Beth. I think Cole is three or four years older than me. We have both been working for many, many years and we were both aware of how lucky we were and how rich the material was. None of us are on the phone. We work very hard and we both love each other as people. We are both happily married people and we are in a playground of absolute safety and respect. The writing of these two characters together is beautiful, and we’re not going to spoil that.
You grew up in another country. How familiar were you with the western genre before joining “Yellowstone?
It’s definitely not in my DNA. I didn’t think of it as entering a genre. I just thought of it as stepping into another character. Beth became my primary responsibility and obsession. Now I live in Montana five months out of the year. We’re shooting on a real ranch. I ride horses every day. I’m friends with cowboys, cowgirls and ranchers. I embarked on a journey of understanding a culture and a way of life that I did not know before. It was a real gift for me. It’s really humbling and complex.
So, without spoiling what’s to come, what can you say about the show’s theme this season and Beth’s story?
Beth inhabits a depth of fury this season. We’ve seen this before with her, but she goes one step further. There’s a hint of fear in it – will she be able to save the ranch or is it some fatality that will elude us?
Also, Taylor gave Beth – I don’t want to spoil this, but Beth rides horses this year and goes on rides with her dad and brother and 50 or 60 cowboys. It’s like that annual pilgrimage to bring the cows home. Beth never did, but now she wants to go. Rip thinks she’s crazy. There’s something about seeing Beth, who is a rancher’s daughter and a cowboy’s wife, embrace a part of her soul that she never had much time for.
At first, someone showed her a horse and she said, “I don’t go near that f— stuff.”
Exactly. She is afraid of horses. A riding accident caused the death of his mother. I just wanted Beth to go deeper into her own soul, and you see a little glimmer of that. There are also so many moments this season where she is a furious woman. This is probably the most difficult aspect of her – her violence. Taylor does not deprive himself of it. And me neither.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.