‘Yellowstone’ Actress Lilli Kay Talks About Playing Dutton’s Confidante And A “Lesbian On The Range”

The only Yellowstone character who managed to survive John Dutton’s decision to clean house in the governor’s office was Clara Brewer (Lilli Kay), a green behind the ears assistant who becomes an important ally to the family. It’s a dream role for Kay, whose dad Stephen Kay is a director/EP on the drama while her stepmom Piper Perabo plays Summer, Dutton’s current lover.

“My dad would brag to me about how he was spending every single day with horses and amazing actors,” says Kay, whose credits include Your Honor and Madam Secretary. “I was like, ‘hey, I’m a horse person! I want to come hang out!'”

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Here, Kay talks about the midseason finale and how her brief kissing scene in episode 7 had tongues wagging about how there were now “lesbians on the range” in the popular Paramount Network drama. (You can find a recap of the midseason finale here.)

DEADLINE: So John finds out that his son is trying to impeach him!

LILLI KAY: It’s the beginning of the disaster, with John trying to deal with Jamie who is starting an impeachment process and trying to turn the state against him. There’s some drama with the herd and a potential disease going around with the cattle. It’s sort of like juggling a bunch of disasters that are concurrently exploding in everybody’s face.

DEADLINE: At this point, Clara is all in when it comes to John Dutton, right?

KAY: I think so. She’s been given access to a part of his life and having seen what she’s seen on the ranch and what his focus is, she wants to stand behind him and is is pretty loyal going forward.

DEADLINE: What’s Clara’s origin story?  

KAY: She was his assistant and now she’s kind of John’s everything. She’s the kind of person that’s wrangling all the political things that he’s dealing with. She’s fairly inexperienced compared to the people that were on his team, so she’s had to step up in ways that she did not expect. But she’s able to do it pretty well.

DEADLINE: How does Clara get along with Beth? 

KAY: I was really nervous at first because I love Kelly Reilly so much and it’s so fun acting with her because you never know how Beth is gonna respond to something. At first there wasn’t closeness but Beth was pretty relaxed around Clara, which I was really happy about. Clara gets more and more entrenched in the Dutton family’s life. Beth just got used to having her around.

DEADLINE: How were you first cast?

KAY: Well, it’s a very weird thing. I’ve sort of been on the edges of it. Lucky for me, I was a fan and already had family who was working on the show. I had heard such amazing things from them. And then a part came along that I might be right for. Taylor Sheridan had seen my work. I had known him for a while and he knew that I could ride, so he threw me in the mix. My dad directs a lot of the show and EPs the show, which was a very sneaky move that I made. I’ve not been able to do jobs with my dad. It was literally a dream come true. The number of days that I like came home from work crying over how amazing it was to hang out with both dad and Piper at work … I was like, ‘oh my God, this is my dream.’ It was so lame of me, but also so much fun. I grew up in LA but I worked on a ranch when I was in high school. I was a horse kid my entire life.

DEADLINE: Do you know how to cut?

KAY: Yeah, I used to cut. That was my fun thing that I used to like to do. But I had a great horse so I looked way cooler than I was. That’s the best sport. If you wanna get into a cow sport, that’s the one. You get a great horse and you’re like, I’m the best.

DEADLINE: Talk about that scene from Episode 7 when you guys were out and about moving the cattle. That’s when your character got to ride for the first time.

KAY: We got really lucky. It was beautiful out and we were using a field that’s behind the ranch. So we were coming down with these cows and trying to push them up, but then every time we’d have to move them back down as soon as they’d call cut. It would basically double your shooting time. But it was so much fun ‘cuz everybody really knows what they’re doing. As actors we very seldom have skills that are helpful to other departments. It’s nice to be able to help the wranglers and get these cows moving. Everybody’s getting their hands dirty.

DEADLINE: Are the cows friendly? Do you, can you go up and pet them? 

KAY: This is a thing. I freaking love them, and I think they’re so cute. Some of them were really chill, but they’re not super socialized because they’re out in these big open spaces, which is how cows should live all day. But it made me sad ’cause I wanted to snuggle them. We had the little calves for the branding scenes. There was one that I wanted to take home.

DEADLINE: We should probably talk about that kiss at the fair in Episode 7 that happened right before Summer and John kissed. Who was that you were making out with, anyway?

KAY: I’ll tell you something about that. We were in our Covid protocol. It was written that Clara is making out with someone in the background behind John and Summer. And we were trying to figure out who was easy and comfortable [to cast] who was also in the testing cycle. My partner, Juli Kocemba, was there with me in Montana so they said, ‘oh, let’s just have you guys make out in the background.’ My partner’s non-binary, se were like, ‘well it’s a gender fluid make out in the background.’ We thought, nobody’s gonna make a big a big deal about it. And then a lot of people made a very big deal about it.


KAY: It was very funny because I did not expect anyone to even really catch it. And then people were like, lesbians on the range! It was very, very funny. But it was a fun little evening. We got to listen to some really good music and hang out and quietly make out in the background. Lesbians on the ranch!

DEADLINE: Who made the ultimate call that it was gonna be Juli in the scene with you?

KAY: I’m not really sure. My father was the director. He was really wonderful and great. It was also the most awkward day for him at work, directing his wife kissing Kevin Costner and his daughter making out with her partner.

DEADLINE: So going forward, are you gonna be performing any shenanigans for the Dutton clan?

KAY: I’m curious to know because this first part has come to a close and I haven’t seen any scripts past this point, so I’m just operating off of what I know. In a weird way, the whole situation with Jamie puts Clara in a position where she needs to indicate where her allegiance lies. This is gonna get really messy. She’s in it now and has a real attachment to this family and this life. She wants to jump in and and defend them. I’m curious to see what lengths she has to go to.

Yellowstone will return in the summer.

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