Exclusive interview: Yellowstone star Luke Grimes on Kayce, Monica, cowboy college, Kevin Costner, and more

Luke Grimes from Yellowstone
Luke Grimes from Yellowstone. Pic credit: Paramount Network

Yellowstone is the story of the Dutton family, headed by John Dutton (Kevin Costner), who controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States.

It isn’t an easy life as the ranch is in constant conflict with the expanding town, the nearby Indian reservation, and greedy developers.

In season 3 of the Paramount Network drama, the family’s ranch was threatened by new foes and the possibility of losing a good portion of their land to an airport’s development.

This forced the family — John, Kayce (Luke Grimes), Beth (Kelly Reilly), and Jamie (Wes Bentley) to form unexpected alliances and experience an unforeseen betrayal.

Just before the release of the Season 3 Blu-ray and DVD of Yellowstone, Monsters & Critics had a chance to talk to Grimes about the unexpected popularity of the series, making a cowboy out of a city boy, the Kacey/Monica love story, working with Kevin Costner and what we have to look forward to in Season 4. 

Monsters & Critics: Yellowstone has turned out to be this very popular summer drama. What do you see as the draw?

Luke Grimes: I think a lot of the strength of the show is Taylor Sheridan’s writing, the world that he has created. I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, and there’s just something that hits really close to home.

Even though a lot of his stuff can be macho or western or whatever, I think it appeals to everyone because it’s very human. That’s why I was drawn to it. I just fell in love with the characters first.

The world just happens to be the world that it’s in. I think a lot of people see a billboard for it, and they see cowboy hats and guns, and they think, “Well, maybe that’s not for me.”

But I think there really is something for everyone.

M&C: But you did get them to tune in, even if they thought it was cowboy hats and guns. That’s the interesting thing.

Luke Grimes: Yeah, word of mouth is a powerful thing.

M&C: You were born in Dayton, Ohio, and then you moved to New York City to study acting. So, to get ready to play Kayce, did you have to go to cowboy college?

Luke Grimes: Yeah. It started about two months before we began filming when I got the part. Taylor’s really into authenticity, so I was on horseback almost every day.

When we got to Utah, where we filmed the first season, a lot of us went on a cowboy camp where we went on a pack trip that went out for three nights. Taking these horses up mountains, jumping creeks, and doing a lot of stuff that a lot of us had never done before just to try to get us into the feel of the place and of the world.

Also, to try to make us fall in love with this way of life. It really worked.

M&C: So, do you see yourself as a natural? Was it something easy for you, or was it a hard transition?

Luke Grimes: Parts of it came semi-naturally. I think the horseback riding, thankfully, for me, clicked quickly. It’s one of those things, though, you could never stop getting better at it.

But at least for what we had to do in the show as actors, we felt pretty prepared by the time that we started shooting. Again, there’s so many facets to that way of life. For example, learning how to rope. It takes years before you can even begin to learn how to throw the rope, let alone off of horseback and onto a live animal.

There’s so many different disciplines and so many different things to learn that it’s never-ending. But it’s all a pleasure.

M&C: So you have stunt ropers, I love it.

Luke Grimes: Yeah, exactly.

M&C: Talk a little bit about Kayce’s relationship with his father. Kayce did escape for a while; he went and joined the military and did quite well there. But since he’s been back home, he seems not to be able to take a strong stand with his dad.

Luke Grimes: One of my favorite parts of the show is we have a lot of flashbacks. Not only to see where these characters are, but you go back, and you start to figure out how they got there. Obviously, Kayce and John have a strained relationship when you first meet them. And as the series unfolds, you figure out more and more why that is.

I think in the last couple of seasons, and even into the upcoming Season 4, there’s always a pattern of them mending that, seeing eye-to-eye, and figuring each other out. Those have actually been some of my favorite scenes, just filling each other in on who they’ve become. Every character is so complicated. Watching them bounce off of each other and attract and retract is part of why the drama is so fascinating.

M&C: In Season 3, Kayce was coerced into taking the job as livestock commissioner, which he wasn’t happy about initially. But it seems that he’s really good at it. Is it actually better for him than being on the ranch? Is this the path he’s supposed to take?

Luke Grimes: I think it’s a bit of watching Kayce man up but also seeing John recognize some leadership qualities in Kayce that Kayce might not realize himself.

Obviously, Kayce at the end of the day, will do whatever’s best for his family, meaning his own personal family and the larger family of the Duttons. Part of his character is that he wants to do the right thing, and I think, ultimately, he decided that taking that job would help both of his families out.

It’s been really fun to see. I remember the first time that we shot a scene where Kayce’s sitting at a desk. It just felt so foreign and definitely didn’t feel like something he would want to do.

But it’s been also nice to see him man up and take on more responsibilities.

M&C: In Season 3, Kayce and Monica seem to be in a good place. The kidnapping of their son in Season 2 could have driven them apart, but it actually brought them closer together, it seems. What do you think is making their relationship work now?

Luke Grimes: I’ve always just thought when I read that storyline and that love story that they’re twin souls. They were meant for each other, but the weight of the world has always gotten in the middle. It’s kind of that classic Romeo and Juliet storyline.

We’ve seen them go through a lot. With Tate disappearing, I was wondering how that was going to affect them. I had no idea what to expect before reading Season 3 because it could have gone either way.

But, I think, what we’ll continue to see with them is that there’s such a true love at their core, and at their core, they’re both such good spirits that they’ll always be attracted to each other.

M&C: So much of this series is about the land. You’re shooting in Montana for Season 4, and the vistas and scenery are so gorgeous.

Are you hoping that it’s inspirational and that people will note that and maybe say we need to take better care of the environment to ensure that these things stay as pristine as they are?

Luke Grimes: I hope so. It’s where my heart and mind go when I think about where we’re headed as people. Taylor’s always said this isn’t as much a show about cowboys as it is for cowboys. It’s about showing what’s become an antiquated, more simple way of life, but showing it in a light where maybe it’ll inspire some people to go seek it out themselves.

We’re finding out that a lot of the ways that we live now is not sustainable. There’s a beauty in the way that these people live and the places they live. Yeah, absolutely; I really hope people take that away.

I don’t think I know one person that watches our show that hasn’t booked a trip to the mountains at some point to go see it for themselves.

Season 4 has begun filming. Is there anything you can tease?

Luke Grimes: I always get myself in hot water when I start talking about this stuff. You can definitely expect more of the same. And the same meaning you never know where this show’s going to go. I think that’s what’s so brilliant about the writing.

Even working on it, it’s never where I think it’s going to go. Taylor always finds some new avenue to go down or explore some new thing that you just didn’t see coming. I think that’s why people are so drawn into it.

M&C: How is it different filming with the COVID protocols?

Luke Grimes: Very different. I feel incredibly lucky that we were able to complete an entire season during all this. I think that’s partially credited to the fact that we shoot in the middle of nowhere, so there aren’t a lot of people, and there weren’t a lot of cases where we were. So, that was very lucky.

Also, the fact that we had a really committed cast and crew of people who were down to get up there, follow the rules, and do it as correctly as we could, which meant staying in a bubble, not seeing people outside that bubble, getting tested three times a week, having different zones on the set depending on how many times we were getting tested.

And really just sticking to it, buckling in, and staying inside. Yeah, we pulled it off.

Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes from Yellowstone
Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes. Pic credit: Paramount Network

M&C: Working with Kevin Costner has to be like enrolling in a master class. What has he taught you about acting in the four seasons that you’ve worked with him?

Luke Grimes: Working with someone who is that iconic and who’s career is that legendary is always sort of a pinch-me moment, like, “Is this real?” It feels like a benchmark in your own career, and you try to soak in as much knowledge as you can.

Obviously, he’s done everything you can do in a film career.

One thing that I really enjoy to see in him is his passion for the work. It’s still very much there. He still wants to work and is still very curious and still wants to dissect the scenes and get everything out of the scene that he possibly can.

You never know if someone of that stature if they are still going to love the work the way that they did when they first started, and he really seems to.

Yellowstone: Season 3 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD with four hours of bonus content.  A limited-edition DVD gift set of the first three seasons is also available.

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
polly styrene
polly styrene
3 years ago

my fondest hope was that the unpleaseable, ‘listen to my issues’ Monica would take her sour face back to broken rock and stay there. I feel the writers want us to think she’s nice and a moral authority, but she’s part carmela soprano, enjoying the proceeds of the lifestyle with a big side of manipulative immaturity. Her 2-D performance and preachy scenes take time away from the interesting characters.