Josh Lucas Explains How He 'Stalked' His Way into 'Yellowstone' Role

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Josh Lucas says he initially wanted role as one of John Dutton's sons on 'Yellowstone.'

Add Josh Lucas to the list of actors who are so taken with Taylor Sheridan’s writing that in his case he “stalked” the creator/showrunner of Yellowstone to land a role on the hit Paramount Network series.

Lucas recalls when he first read the script for the pilot, he wanted to play one of John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) two sons—Kayce (Luke Grimes) or Jamie (Wes Bentley), but Sheridan had other actors in mind for those roles, so Lucas had to let it go. Still, he occasionally texted Sheridan saying, “Hey, man, if anything ever comes up.”

His luck changed one night when he got a phone call from Sheridan asking him, “Hey, man, can you be in Montana tomorrow morning to play John Dutton 20 years earlier?”

Lucas, of course, said yes, and during a conversation with Sheridan about the role, Sheridan was very clear about the idea that there was not going to be much for Lucas to do the first couple of seasons, but that in the fifth season, there was going to be more to do.

“I remember I was literally laying in my kids’ bunk bed, and it was late at night,” Lucas tells Parade. “I thought, ‘This guy’s crazy, he’s just crazy. There’s no Yellowstone yet, there’s no fifth season.’ The idea that a series goes one year, or two years is hard enough. Still, I jumped at the idea, and I wasn’t worried that Kevin and I don’t look terribly alike. It was more the idea of finding the tone of John Dutton.”

During our chat, Lucas also talked about the differences between his John and Costner’s John, attending cowboy camp, the beauty of the Montana ranch, and the possibility of a single flashback episode featuring his John Dutton.

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I understand that you “stalked” Taylor Sheridan to get a role on this series. How did that happen?

Look, I “stalked” Taylor because I, obviously, had seen Sicario and Hell or High Water. I thought they were amazing. I knew that Hell or High Water was somewhat Taylor Sheridan’s actual story, that he had had a ranch in Texas and had lost it and that Taylor was a true cowboy. He was also a contemporary of mine in terms of we’re actors, we’re about the same age, we’d been in Hollywood, we’d had success, and we’d had failure. There were so many different ways in which I related to him. But then when I saw Wind River, I was really blown away by it, including the fact that he directed it, as well. Actors oftentimes are slaves to whatever script we get. That this guy had taken being an actor for hire and turned it on its head and was writing material that was so, so deep and so good and visceral, it was electrifying.

Since you started in season 1, there probably wasn’t a lot to watch, but have you watched the episodes with Kevin in them to see if there were any nuances you could emulate so that there was some continuity of the character between when you’re playing it and when he’s playing it?

When I first started, they showed me a couple of pieces of dailies, just a couple different scenes. I didn’t have much to go off of. But when I got called for season 5, I went back, and I watched all 40 episodes in about a week and a half. I became obsessed by it, and I really became obsessed by trying to understand Kevin’s voice or what Kevin was doing with John Dutton. Kevin is not playing Kevin. You see in the first couple of seasons that John, in Kevin’s version, grows deeper and darker and his voice becomes more gravely, like someone said, he’s got boulders in his voice. He doesn’t even have gravel in his voice, he’s got these huge rocks.

To try and—I don’t want to say emulate, but to try and do homage to what Kevin is doing vocally and his movements and there’s different little tics that I see Kevin does as John Dutton that I don’t think he does in any of his other movies, I think some of that has to do with when you spend time around Taylor, there’s a lot of Taylor in John Dutton, too. And I’ll be interested to see what Harrison Ford does with it. There’s a DNA between these men, there’s really strong blood between them.

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We’ve seen who the John Dutton that Kevin plays is now, but how do you see who John Dutton is when you were playing him? He seemed to take more risks than the current John Dutton.

I think older John, in a way that I think would almost break young John’s heart, has become a politician. I think older John does that because he has to. He feels he has no choice in order to protect the family and the ranch. But I think young John Dutton is much more hands on. He’s still a wrangler himself, he’s still a cowboy. He’s still involved in the day-to-day operations and, therefore, even the violence of the ranch.

You’re going to see in the upcoming episodes that they show some of that stuff the way that young John is not protecting himself, but he’s also not protected by a family or an operation.

In a way I look at this show a lot like The Godfather. I talked to Taylor about this early on, if you look at what Marlon Brando did, it’s so different than what Robert De Niro does, but they’re the same character. They’re just at such incredibly different points in their life.

In this way we’re almost dropping in on the earlier version of John, where he’s able to be involved and he wants to be involved. He’s still leading these men in a sense, he’s leading them into battle everyday. Older John can’t do that anymore. Not just from a physical standpoint, because I think he can do it physically. It’s just that he’s protected himself with layers of safety nets so that he doesn’t get in trouble.

You mentioned how young John is still very much a cowboy. Every year at the beginning of the season they do cowboy camp. Did you have to be a part of it? How did you do?

Yeah. I’ve ridden on and off my whole life and I love being on horseback. That’s probably my favorite element of this job, is that I get to go spend time on horseback on these ranches in Montana. It’s the most beautiful thing that this job offers. There are a lot of beautiful things that this job offers.

I wanted to be a part of cowboy camp this year and it’s great. You get to go there and you’re on horseback and you’re training. You do things like you ride horses carrying a spoon with an egg on it. The point is: How gentle can you be? The frustration sometimes becomes I think I can do it and the stunt people are like, “No, no, no, we want to protect you.” I’m like, “Yeah, but I want to do it.” Cowboy camp is a unique and fantastic experience. It’s City Slickers on steroids, that’s what it is.

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You mentioned how beautiful it is to be out there on the ranch. One of the things I think is on the one hand, it’s really something that makes people more concerned for the environment when they see it in all its glory. But, on the other hand, there’s a dichotomy because raising cows is one of the biggest producers of methane that leads to global warming. Is there a balance?

Well, I can’t answer that for Taylor, but I would assume what Taylor would say is that mass produced meat farming is awful for the environment. But that free-range cattle on a ranch is actually one of the best things you can do for the environment. I know this.

Cattle basically work the land. They truly work the soil. They spread seeds, they fertilize, they do all the different things. So, you’re absolutely right. When you see these mass meat cattle farms where there’s tens of thousands of heads of cattle stuck in these pens and they’re destroying the land, that is a terrible thing for the environment.

One of the reasons I think that the show is so interesting is if you were to ask John Dutton why he wants to protect this ranch so much—now, it’s a fictional ranch, it’s huge—there’s no ranch this big anywhere in America. But the idea that Taylor wanted to tell with it is that the reason why he wants to protect it so deeply is because he believes it is the best thing in the world for the environment. Particularly for Montana but for all of America for that reason.

I like your question, but your question is nuanced in that I think one of the things that makes this show unusual is that if you truly look at the show, you’re not going to get a clear perspective on what the politics of it are. It’s telling politics on multiple layers. I think it’s been very easy for people to dismiss the show as one thing. In speaking to Taylor and listening to podcasts when Taylor talks about what the show is, I think it’s way too nuanced. I think it’s way too multi-layered. I agree with you that the environment is under attack on so many levels these days, but I think this show and John Dutton and the ranch are in some ways talking about it from a historical past and a truth that is very old.

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There was one episode of Yellowstone that completely took place on the 6666 ranch. Is there any chance that we might have a whole episode with young John Dutton?

I’ve heard some rumors of that. I don’t know. I would love it. I would love to have scenes where you see my relationship with Gretchen Mol’s character, my wife’s character, where you see an entire scene seeing the family in happier times.

There’s one scene that they did in season 2 at Christmas where the ranch had a beauty to it and a happiness to it that you almost never see. At least the house. When John’s wife was still alive.

To me I think it would be not just fascinating to see that, but I think it would be informative because then you’d see why the tragedy, or the loss of this maternal female mother was so damaging to this family. Besides the obvious of losing a mother.

But in this particular case, I think she was a matriarch at a level that was—again, I can’t wait to see what Helen Mirren does with it—to see the matriarch of the Yellowstone Ranch. Obviously, I think Faith Hill did a beautiful job with that. To me that’s what I love, that’s what I also love about the rage and anger of Beth (Kelly Reilly), that she has not been able to be that person because of what happened.

Yellowstone airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on Paramount Network.

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