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Exclusive: Yellowstone star Wendy Moniz on her role as Governor, John Dutton and more

Wendy Moniz
Yellowstone star Wendy Moniz talks about her love affair(or not) with John Dutton (Kevin Costner). Pic credit: Paramount

Yellowstone fans who dine on the tense romantic interplay between star Kevin Costner (John Dutton) and the Guv, Linelle Perry (Wendy Moniz) can look forward to seeing her throughout season three.

And also season four, as Monsters & Critics learned in an interview with Moniz, who gave us great insight into her character and the nature of their affection for each other.

The modern-day drama is a proper western tinged with the big money wheels and deals of a show like HBO’s Succession, where one powerful family has a host of sibling secrets and resentments, and the patriarch grieves his lost love.

Costner and showrunner Taylor Sheridan picked a perfect Governor for their series that focuses on the ebb and flow of land grabs in modern-day America.  Moniz is part of the family now as her character has history with Costner’s and still finds herself drawn into his orbit.

What is to come of it? Only producers at the Paramount Network know, and they are not telling.

Governor Lynelle Perry in Yellowstone has a bona fide soft spot for John Dutton, owner of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch.

Despite his mourning of the late love of his life (Evelyn) and mother to his children, he is toying with the idea of getting to know his long time acquaintance a bit better. But the state of Montana and the needs of her political office may be the huge fly in that amorous ointment.

Moniz came up like many great actors do, learning her skills on the soap opera Guiding Light as Dinah Marler. Her work was noticed and she was nominated for two Soap Opera Digest Awards.

Moniz altered the course of her acting career in 1999, Moniz landed a role in the primetime CBS drama pilot Partners. and then Battery Park for NBC. Then she was cast for the CBS hit Nash Bridges.

Loads of guest-starring roles on network shows continued and of late, her work on DirecTV hit series Kingdom won her critical praise. She has also starred in Netflix series Daredevil and House of Cards.

Monsters & Critics spoke to Wendy Moniz about her tough-as-nails character who more than interests her lead, Kevin Costner starring as John Dutton.

M&C: Very happy to see you on Yellowstone. I love your character. And I wanted to ask you when you were presented this character, you’re playing a woman in the West. You’re the governor of Montana, a big, rugged state…were there any real-life, female Western politicians you wanted to model Linelle after?

Wendy Moniz: There were, but I didn’t know of any. But I’ll tell you when I got the audition, I got the script and in the first season and the first few scenes that I had, you see a little bit of a connection with John Dutton, and then mostly you’re in this political world. It was really foreign to me. A lot of the script was like the language that they were speaking.

It was like another language, like the way the laws are with the livestock commission and what was going on with the reservations. My audition was not huge, but I just felt like I needed to really research what was going on.  I did Google the region’s governors to get a sense…mostly I just looked up what it was, what goes on in that part of the country.

It felt like I was so not versed in any of it and felt kind of ignorant about it. And I thought it was fictional. And then I started researching it and like, ‘Oh, no, wait a minute.’ There are stories [and] this is happening now, or this has happened in the past, with these stories of people…

They have their own police there, basically, and that there really isn’t an issue with the land. Is it the government can come in and take over the land?

And it was fascinating when I started researching it, because I wanted to go into the room to read, even though I wasn’t giving speeches about that stuff. I wanted to understand who she was, and what she might have to deal with.  I just wanted to really understand the world. Because I did not.

That’s the long answer to your question. I did not have anybody to model it on or, or any sort of information about it.  So it was such a gift to learn about all of that.

M&C:  The West is different. I’m from the East coast and I live out west, so I’m learning too, along with you.

Wendy Moniz: Yes. I’m from the East coast of Virginia as well, and I’ve never, and I’ve never been to Montana and I’d never even been to Utah, which is what, when shoot, where the studios were and where we shoot a lot of Montana for. But, um, so that, it was all, a lot of, it was all brand new and I really wanted to educate myself and immerse myself in it. So it’s been a lot of fun doing that.

M&C: Yellowstone is akin to Ozark and that a lot of people are discovering it kind of late in the game. A big part of that, I think, is the chemistry you have with Kevin between your characters. I want you to talk about the allure of the unrequited love affair that viewers want, figuring out how Linelle and John are going to fit together.

Wendy Moniz: Yes. I love that aspect of the story. and it’s something that it’s on the page to a degree. You get a little bit of a bit of their background about how they’ve known each other for a long time.

And there was always probably a flirtation there, but obviously, she was married and lost her husband and he lost his wife. And so they’re connected through having just known each other forever in this world. But they’re also connected by this great loss that they’ve suffered.

Then obviously there’s all of these politics and the family connections, so the love part of it is it is interesting. It’s outside of the box. I think that they really are attracted to each other. I think they care about each other deeply, but I think that there’s a sadness with them, because they can never quite get over those people that were their true loves.

And so the being together is filling a void that is a loss when they’re romantic, but they’re also reminded it’s also a memory of the sadness of their loss. So it’s complicated.

Then there’s also this fear that there’s a competition of who’s going to be on top because John Dutton is not to be messed with. And Linelle is the governor and they’re both in positions of power.

So it’s a bit of a chess game. but I think that when the love and the romantic connection that they have is really genuine and that everything sort of goes out the window when they’re having those moments. And those moments are really showing up this season more than the past two, which has been so much fun to play and work with Kevin in that way.

M&C: I know you can’t give spoilers and you can’t give away what’s going to happen ultimately by the end of season three. But I feel like your character is going to have to choose between her state and John Dutton and your interests.

The larger interests of Montana, the events and developments that fly in the face of what John doesn’t want to have happen for his ranch. It’s going to really kind of pivot on you and where you decide to put your loyalties and your heart and everything. Am I wrong?

Wendy Moniz: Yes. I mean no…certainly that. She’s a decision-maker on many levels, and I think that she’s trying her best to find the balance to make everybody happy. It’s challenging and in the end, you have to pick a lane… and so we’ll see where she goes.

M&C:  That’s the big question. I think people just love the interplay and they dine on that. The intense buildup of that chemistry. You two are perfect for each other…

Wendy Moniz: Kevin and I share the same birthday. We’re both born on January 19th. So maybe that’s why.

M&C: I did not know that

Wendy Moniz: Isn’t that a fun fact?  I found that out after the fact as well, but we do get on very well.

It is a privilege to work with him. He’s obviously he’s a great actor, but he’s a famous director too, and so he is really someone that gets it all, gets in there and talks about it, and is playful and collaborative.

I think that the more that was written for us, the more you got to see that we had and that we gelled and worked well together… and that there was that chemistry there.

So it was a pleasant surprise, I think for us too, we had a lot of fun together with those scenes.

M&C: That’s great to hear. So you can’t tell me how season three ends, but will we see your character in season four?

Wendy Moniz: You will see her in season four. I don’t know exactly when or where, what capacity, but, you will see her.

M&C:  You began in the soaps and Guiding Light, and so many great actors came out of the soaps early in their career. What were the skills that you learned, or you took away from that kind of a grind and the quickness of production that have been to your benefit as your career has gone into more the dramas with slower pace production?

Wendy Moniz: That’s a great question. And it was sort of being on a soap opera could be considered low on the totem pole and starting out, for me, it was just a great place to train and work every day. I loved every minute of it.

And I’ll tell you, I learned a lot… to be disciplined and when you have to turn out an episode a day, or whatever it was, it’s been a long time, we’re going back to the early nineties, but you had to turn out a lot.

And, God bless the writers for those shows. The writing was always tricky. So what I learned was to really take some time with the writing that was not as strong as it is now, when you go into primetime TV and working with other writers.

[In the soaps], you were talking a lot more and there was, it was the melodrama of it all.   I had to learn how to take that and make it more nuanced and make it really real. And that was always a challenge.

So that when I moved into primetime, I noticed the difference, the pace was different. It was much slower. The writing was not as wordy. It was not as melodramatic. And the soap opera is its own world. So I try not to fall into the tricky traps, and then have to shed that baggage.

I always really tried to make the work really honest and really real, no matter how outrageous those soap opera situations were. I think that served me really well when I left and started working in primetime.

M&C: We’re in the age of COVID.  It’s been a terrible year for so many people. How have you had to alter or change or adapt your work, work style to COVID?

Wendy Moniz: Well, I mean, honestly, our industry… it’s been a serious blow to our industry.

Everything came to a screeching halt because being an actor on a TV show or on a film requires you to be in an intimate setting with a large group of people and you just can’t do it. So everything just sort of stopped.

Since March they’ve starting to adopt the protocols that will allow us to go back to work safely. So it’s going to be a whole new world. I mean, I know I used to fly in and out of Utah for Yellowstone, for example, and that was an easy flight from California. I have two children and it was easy to go to work and fly back and forth and now, we are shooting everything in Montana because they need to keep everybody in one place.

I know there’s not going to be everybody eating together [during meal breaks] and the same sort of area with craft services. Obviously people are wearing masks, and I haven’t been back yet, but it’s definitely going to be different.

I’m looking forward to going back to do it because I just miss working, and it’s been heartbreaking to watch all of my friends that are actors that are directors that cannot work. Nobody can really work.

And it’s just now starting to inch back in and we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that we can manage it without people getting sick and things having to shut down again.

But I really haven’t been able to do anything. I’ve had the same manager for over 20 years and there are just no productions really happening. They’re starting to now. So, I hope that answers your question, I’m going to understand what it’s like when I’m back at work, what it’s like was COVID. But right now it’s just been crickets, silence, a full stop for our industry until they get it figured out which, which they are starting to.

Yellowstone airs Sundays at 9/8c on Paramount Network.


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