Like many of Taylor Sheridan’s shows, the cast of his flagship creation Yellowstone is a major part of its draw. The cast is an intriguing mix of absolute icons, seasoned veterans, character actors, international artists and, at the time, up-and-comers. While their notoriety has certainly evolved to the point where they are inseparable from Yellowstone, this amazing group of performers has an equally amazing body of work behind them.

While these may not be the roles the cast are known for, or even remembered for, there are several stops along the way to the fictional Montana that are worth mentioning. With Yellowstone currently on hiatus, now is the perfect time to revisit these films and shows, and see how well rounded the cast truly is. 

Kevin Costner as Lieutenant John J. Dunbar in Dances with Wolves

“Absolute icon” is naturally referring to Costner and his unparalleled filmography. Costner’s name provided much needed weight to creators John Linson and a then-inexperienced Taylor Sheridan’s neo-Western drama, and has since set the precedent that Sheridan follows in his growing television empire. Since Yellowstone, the prolific writer has worked with similarly big names like Sam Elliott, Jeremy Renner, Helen Mirren, Sylvester Stallone, and Harrison Ford. 

Choosing one project from Costner’s paradigmatic body of work is challenging enough to be an article on all its own. But if fans consider what role he not only knocked out of the park, but the one in which he accomplished the most, it has to go to Lieutenant John J. Dunbar in Dances with Wolves. Forget the fact he produced the film (and won an Oscar for it). Forget the fact he directed the film (and won an Oscar for it). Forget the fact that the film took home seven Academy Awards in 1991, it was Costner’s performance that really carried the film.

Costner showed audiences he deserved to be acting beside great performers like Mary McDonnell and Graham Greene. Costner can often play second fiddle to his costars, and is rarely the most memorable performance, even if he is billed as the lead (see The Untouchables, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Field of Dreams and try to argue Connery, Rickman or James L. Jones don’t steal the spotlight). Yet in Dances with Wolves, Costner brought such range and emotional sensitivity to the role that it is by far his strongest performance. With everything else he did on the film, it’s truly an accomplishment. 

Luke Grimes as Marc Alan Lee in American Sniper

When compared to some of his more established castmates, Grimes, who plays the youngest Dutton brother, Kayce, is also the most green in terms of his career. Granted he’s portrayed Elliot Grey, brother to the raunchy Christian in the strangely popular 50 Shades of Grey franchise, but once again, less proves to be more.

Grimes pays tribute to real life solider Marc Alan Lee in American Sniper, opposite Bradley Cooper in the story of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Cooper) and his PTSD after coming home from Iraq. Grimes’ Lee was based off a real life SEAL as well, a man who was award the Silver Star and Bronze Star medal. Grimes give Lee the treatment he deserved, and does well to mesh with the rest of the cast to give the film its sense of honor and fraternity that director Clint Eastwood was trying to attain, and his story does well to lend the film its haunting truth about the horrors of war.

Kelly Reilly as Detective Anna Travis in Above Suspicion 

The Dutton family daughter and most intimidating character could not be a further departure from who Reilly is in real life. She has often spoken about how tough it is to play Beth’s no nonsense cutthroat personality, but the fact that Reilly does it so convincingly is why she’s an amazing actress. Strangely enough, however, Reilly seems to flip back and forth between playing “sweet” and “salty.” She’s received fan recognition for her role in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films, and is equally as memorable in her snobbish characterization as Caroline Bingley in the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice. 

However fans of Reilly’s work in Yellowstone can easily draw a comparison between Beth and Caroline. It is almost as if Caroline was a precursor to Beth, utilizing her own English accent a little more in the period piece, and trading in early 19th century gowns for cowgirl boots. If you want to see a change of pace, look no further than the British series Above Suspicion. The 11-episode limited series was critically acclaimed, as was Reilly’s Detective Anna Travis, the main character and heroine of the original novels on which the series was based. 

Reilly, herself, loved playing the role for several reasons. Her television debut was opposite Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, and so the role of Travis felt to almost complete a circle, but it went much deeper than that for Reilly. Her father, a veteran police officer was able to be on the set of Above Suspicion as an advisor to the role, and Reilly talked about her sense of personal pride she had to not only pay tribute to her father, but show him a character who is pure and true.

Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts in American Beauty

The cast of Yellowstone, as mentioned, is eclectic to say the least, but no one within the cast brings more eclecticism than the almost 30-year-acting veteran, Bentley. In his cobbled filmography, he has prestige pictures such as The Four Feathers, opposite the late great Heath Ledger, or a short role in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. He has shaved his facial hair into a work of art as the twisted games-master Seneca Crane in the original Hunger Games film, and also has a couple stints in two of the worst comic book adaptations made to date in Jonah Hex and Ghostrider. His movie work is truly hard to pin down. 

Much like his role as “Blackheart” in Ghostrider, Bentley’s trademark steely eyes have been often used to portray a villainous streak, and he’s done so before playing the love him or hate him Jamie Dutton. Creator Ryan Murphy and the showrunners of American Horror Story brought Bentley back several times for the anthology series, and that trademark look seemed to fit perfectly in that world. 

However, it’s another project that dares define America that is arguably Bentley’s best work. Those steely eyes that often seem as if they are hiding fury or violence conveyed real pain and emptiness in American Beauty. As the poetic yet tortured soul, Ricky Fitts, a very young Bentley, in only his fourth major role almost stole the show from Kevin Spacey (and remember, this was late ’90s Spacey). Bentley, at such a young age gave the film its soul, and when a clip package of American Beauty is shown, the iconic plastic bag scene is almost always included. While Jamie Dutton is a return to form in terms of a tortured soul, Bentley has yet to be able to top that crucial early role as Fitts. 

Cole Hauser as William H. Johns in Pitch Black

There is no doubt that veteran character actor Cole Hauser will forever be intertwined with Rip Wheeler. Rip skyrocketed as a fan favorite for all genders and age groups, quite literally embodying the old adage that “men want to be him, and women [and some men, surely] want to be with him”. Hauser could build his own ranch purely based on how often he has played a military man, or some other derivation of the “tough guy” with significant roles in Olympus Has Fallen, A Good Day to Die Hard, and 2 Fast 2 Furious

Many fans of Yellowstone will remember Hauser in one of his earliest roles as Benny O’Donnell in the perennial coming-of-age film Dazed and Confused, or in his too fast, too furious tiny role in Good Will Hunting. Yet, neither one of those roles is what sticks out in the mind of this writer. Hauser’s best role doesn’t involve numerical nomenclature or any kind of wicked-hard accent work, it is from the independent Australian sci-fi thriller Pitch Black. Yes, Hauser once again plays a tough guy in his role as William H. Johns, but it was the small differences he brought to Johns that separates it from the pack. 

The strength of Pitch Black, and why it became a cult classic is because, at its root, it is an extremely well written character piece. Writer/Director David Twohy had a rudimentary budget, and so had to create a taut and witty script. It’s a script that attracted the likes of Keith David, sci-fi mainstay Claudia Black, and Vin Diesel, who was immediately transformed into an action icon. Standing toe-to-toe with that future star, commanding the screen every time he was on it was Hauser. Every cast member understood what an amazing project they had, and gave a fanciful concept gravitas that was as grounded as Vin Diesel’s voice. Hauser’s Johns, and the film itself is definitely worth a rewatch. 

Jefferson White as Joshua Masterson on House of Cards

Delving a little further into the stellar Yellowstone cast, you begin to discover the tastier cuts – tougher to get to, but more flavorful. Jefferson White is just such a cut. White plays Yellowstone’s everyman Jimmy who has become a fan-favorite over the last five seasons of the show, as he’s truly built himself up and Sheridan has given him one of the best character arcs of any part. 

Jimmy is extremely relatable predominantly because of his struggles in life, but if audiences want to see Jefferson portraying someone not even remotely close to Jimmy, they’ll have to rewatch Netflix’s House of Cards. White portrays Islamic Caliphate terrorist Joshua Masterson, a home grown American terrorist who even webcast murders live on the internet. Jimmy might be a character whose pain is relatable, but the sheer darkness behind the character of Masterson is next level. White proved himself in this disturbing role, and is able to go toe-to-toe in scenes with some real acting powerhouses, which was no doubt excellent preparation for Yellowstone.

Kelsey Asbille as Swanee Capps on Fargo Season 4

Some of the actors within the Yellowstone cast, much like White, are just beginning what will undoubtedly be a fruitful career. Asbille, a relatively young actress, portrays Monica Dutton, who must be one of the toughest characters to play in the entire show. Monica is often the voice of reason, which audience members who love the chaotic aura that surrounds the Dutton family don’t want to hear. Monica’s loving, yet worrisome and often sullen character has made her a divisive figure in the Yellowstone fandom, but Asbille has done admirably to make her seem like a real person.

Yet recently, in another critically acclaimed show, Asbille had the chance to play a completely different character. Season four of Fargo, was not the show’s strongest outing. But Fargo is a lot like pizza – even the worst slice is still delicious. Asbille played Swanee Capps, trading in her cream-rinsed long black hair and unspoken beauty of Monica for a disgusting uncouth Tomboy. Monica is often about appearances, but is relatable as she only wants what’s best for her family. She thinks about the future, and so, often tries to distance herself from that Dutton-chaotic aura. Swanee, on the other hand, is chaos incarnate, farting her way through the life of an outlaw, only concerned with living in the now. The character is a delight to watch (like most of the characters in Fargo), and considering the over the top flare that creator Noah Hawley has created for the anthology series, it couldn’t be further away from Monica if they tried.    

The post The Yellowstone Cast’s Best Non-Yellowstone Roles appeared first on Den of Geek.

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