Kevin Costner talks ‘Yellowstone,’ Paramount Network’s bold new western saga premiering June 20

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By Lori Acken

Kevin Costner is dancing with TV audiences once again.

In his first television project since his Emmy-winning role in History’s record-breaking Hatfields & McCoys, the 63-year-old actor — who ascended from movie star heartthrob to bona fide power player when he helmed and starred in 1990’s Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves — returns to his favored frontier sensibility for Paramount Network’s sweeping drama series Yellowstone, which premieres Wednesday, June 20.

Costner plays widower John Dutton, proprietor of the modern-day Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, his family’s Rhode Island-sized Montana sprawl of big business, modern technology and Wild West skill sets. Invulnerable to outside forces for generations, the estate’s prime location in the shadow of Yellowstone National Park now renders it a target for land developers, oil and logging corporations, the neighboring Indian reservation and locals who feel that the Duttons’ interests have usurped their own progress.

“There’s people that fight for ‘God and country,’ and there’s people that fight for the land that they actually live on,” says Costner of Dutton’s world, where a vicious brand of frontier justice still reigns. “If you’ve ever fought for the land and the people on it — where you sleep, where you feed yourself — you feel the difference. I’m not saying one’s better than the other, but this guy’s fighting for his way of life and his property against a lot of forces. Tricky ones. And he’s got one foot in one century and the other foot in another.”

The series is the creation of acclaimed filmmaker Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water), who grew up on ranches and has described the series as a sort of modernized Bonanza or “The Great Gatsby on the largest ranch in Montana.” He filmed on Chief Joseph Ranch, 60 miles south of Missoula, which sometimes put the actors in close proximity with the natural perils they were committing to film. But it also imbued them with the spirit of a landscape most of us know only from pictures and, well, the movies. Which means we don’t really know it at all.

“It’s not a world that we’ve explored very much, to be quite honest,” says Costner, who eschews Hollywood for a bucolic Aspen homestead. “And it’s something that I’m attracted to, with modern-day ranching and the issues that go with that — land use, water rights, the pressures on the people who have the land to keep it and the pressure that people who want it are putting on them. It represents a way of life, and [Taylor] has a grasp of that.

“I’m hoping that what I like, other people like,” Costner continues. “I’m hoping that what surprised me will surprise other people. There’s not much daylight between me and what I think the audience wants. You dance with the prettiest girl. You go to the best script. And the best script was Yellowstone.”

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