Co-created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, the Paramount Network drama series Yellowstone follows the Dutton family, led by John Dutton (Academy Award winner Kevin Costner), who controls the largest cattle ranch in the United States. But with the ranch always in constant conflict with an expanding town, it’s no surprise that antagonistic hedge fund manager Roarke Morris (Josh Holloway) shows up with an interest in the land and a readiness to cause trouble.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Josh Holloway talked about joining a TV show that he was already a big fan of, the appeal of a project like Yellowstone, how much his character changed by the end of the season, why this is a guy who’s always up for a challenge, and getting to go toe-to-toe with Kevin Costner. He also talked about where things would have gone if his last TV series Colony had gotten a fourth season, how he feels about the way his story arc concluded on Lost, and the animated feature that he’s looking to get made.
COLLIDER: This is a great show, but the scenery is also a big appeal.
JOSH HOLLOWAY: That’s one big reason why it was my favorite show on TV. It just took me there. It takes you to the Rockies. It takes you out there. You’re like, “Oh, my god, I wanna be there.” That’s what attracted me to the show. They create such a beautiful world and do a hell of a job with that.
When this came your way, you were already a fan of the show and had already watched it. Because of that, was it an immediate yes for you?
HOLLOWAY: Yeah, I immediately started jumping up and down and going, “Yes, it’s my show! I’m on my show!” I loved it. I was so shocked. I remember, I was riding in a car to go on a fly fishing trip with my buddy in Oregon, and we got the call and I was like, “Wow, yee-haw!,” in the car. I love to work on things that I’m inspired by. Probably a week before, I was sitting on the couch with my wife going, “Babe, I’ve gotta get on a show like this. This is what I like.” We were just having that conversation, so it was pretty funny when I got the call. And I was all excited thinking, it’s been 17 years and no one has booked me as a cowboy yet. I’d ridden horses with Taylor [Sheridan] all day, a couple of years before. I was like, “Finally, he knows I’m a cowboy. I can do this.” And he cast me as a hedge fund guy. I was like, “Really, bro? You bastard.” But it’s awesome. I love being on the show, in any capacity. This is an interesting one. It’s not stereotypical for me, Josh Holloway, so I really appreciated him trusting me to handle it.
Does it feel different when you join something where you know the characters and you’re trying to figure out how your character fits into these characters that you’ve been watching?
HOLLOWAY: Yes, it is. As an artist, you got can’t prejudge things too much and you’ve gotta let them let them live, but it’s also great ‘cause I know their triggers and viewpoints. When you’re doing any sort of scene with anyone, the more secrets you know, and the more you know about them but they don’t know about you, it’s good. You can use that in a scene. But I was shocked when I went in. I was like, “Okay, this Beth character, I wonder what kind of person she’s gonna be to work with. My god! She’s been hard.” And then, I met Kelly
[Reilly] in the trailer and she was this sweet, wonderful English lady and I was like, “Oh, my god, this is not what I expected, at all.” So, that was cool. That was great. So, I knew a little bit about them, which to me, is an advantage. I enjoyed it.
Were you aware of the full story arc for your character, from the beginning, or was it something that you continued to learn about, as you played him?
HOLLOWAY: I continue to learn about it. This is a projection, ‘cause I don’t know this, but like on Lost, as the season goes on, they were tailoring the characters to our personalities, in a way, and that kind of happened with this. That’s the sign of an amazing writer, who’s very agile. They will adjust to the actors they’ve got, and pull out their strong points. So, Roarke grew, as it went on because he is not where Taylor and I discussed him being, at the end. He’s taken a different direction than what we discussed, in the beginning, which I love. I’m like, “Right on, man. You’re the writer. I’ll do it. You throw it on a paper, I’ll bring it alive.” It was cool.
This is a guy that seems to like and even enjoy people who give him a bit of trouble. Is that because he sees it as a challenge, and he’s somebody who’s always up for a challenge?
HOLLOWAY: It’s his comfort zone. This is what he does, every day. He goes to war with people. He is the inevitable progress. He’s the velvet steamroller. He will not stop, and you can’t stop it. He’s very confident in that because that’s what he does, every day. It’s like a surgeon. If I think about a surgeon, I’m scared to death, but if you’re a surgeon and you do it, every day, that’s your comfort zone, cutting somebody open. It seems messed up, but that’s what we are, as human beings. Our comfort zone becomes what we do, every day. So, yeah, he likes a little challenge and he likes something different. He’s always getting challenged, but if it’s by a beautiful woman, who is actually super smart, then he’s like, “Wow, I’m challenged and intrigued. I like this. Okay, let’s go!” That’s what he’s found in Beth, and that’s what he likes.
A show like Yellowstone seems particularly fun because it’s about the character drama and there isn’t a mythology there. It’s just these humans having interactions, which is a different kind of storytelling and doesn’t leave you with unanswered mythology questions.
HOLLOWAY: That’s true. There are all sorts of layers to Yellowstone, but it’s immediately understandable to our psyche will and our emotional body. Whereas when you have all of the mythology, everyone’s got a different idea about it, which is what I love. That’s what mythology does. With Yellowstone, they lay it out and tell you, this person represents this, this person represents that, and we understand those things ‘cause we deal with them, all the time. I was extremely attracted to this show ‘cause I’ve had a cabin in Jackson Hole for the past nine years, and I know all of these issues that are being discussed on Yellowstone. They’ve been around forever, from the clash with ranchers and environmentalists, and big oil and gas, and the Native Americans. All of those issues are real and they’re happening right now, and Taylor knows all about that. He’s got a place that’s not far from my place, and I could throw a rock and hit his mom’s house. He’s intimate with all of that and knows all of these issues, so the show is real and rich, in that way.
What’s it like to get to go toe-to-toe in a scene with an actor like Kevin Costner? What have you enjoyed about working with him and the way that he approaches the work?
HOLLOWAY: I love working with legends ‘cause it’s just so intimidating. Strangely enough, I’ve gotten comfortable being uncomfortable in this business. A lot of time, I get some nerves, but it doesn’t really shake you like that. When you work with a legend, you’re shaking in your boots for the first 15 minutes. I’m like, “Damn, I hope I don’t fuck this up!” Kevin Costner is a legend, and I’m one of his biggest fans. You don’t wanna be a fanboy. You wanna be professional and kick some ass. It was wonderful working with him because he was very present, very humble, and still doing the work and not phoning it in. I just have huge respect for that. I had respect for him already, but this is TV and not even a big movie, and he’s doing the work and very present. I was just happy to see that. When you meet a legend who just blows you off, and if they don’t care about the work, it’s disappointing, but this was not that. Kevin was awesome, and on fire.
The last time that we spoke was for Colony, and that show very much ended on a cliffhanger and didn’t really get to have the wrap-up that it would have had, if it could have wrapped up how hit wanted to. Had you ever had any conversations about what a Season 4 for that show would have been about and where things would have gone, in the story, if there had been time to plan a proper ending?
HOLLOWAY: Yes, they had a plan through Season 5, and we were all, of course, pretty bummed. Artistically, you bring a character to life like that and you want some redemption and some closure with it. So, it was about to be the big war. He was gonna be shot up to space and altered in a Jason Bourne kind of way, and come back as a bad-ass and have the big war. And then, Wayne Brady’s character had a redemption plan for the whole world, so that we would reset the world. It was a great ending. They had it all planned, but they didn’t get to do it. He got shot up to space in a rubber diaper. That’s how we got to end. Fantastic!
Is that hard, as an actor, when you play a character and invest yourself in that character, and then you don’t get to have that conclusion?
HOLLOWAY: It’s frustrating because that’s where you’re left. If I think of Will Bowman, I have a sinking little jab right in my bread basket. It’s right in my gut, like a knife jab ‘cause it’s not finished. They left my family, going on a death mission. Anytime I think about it, that’s where I’m left, right there. I’m like, “That don’t feel good.” But that’s my job, so you deal with it and it’s all good. They have a life. There are a lot of characters running around in this body of mine.
At the same time, Lost had its conclusion, but it’s a conclusion that will probably forever be debated and discussed. Are you personally happy with how your character arc concluded on that show?
HOLLOWAY: Yes, I am. He survived. There came a point where Sawyer just didn’t understand any of the shit that was going on and didn’t care. He was like, “I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna survive. I’m gonna survive this shit, and I don’t even know why.” But he did, and he made it. I have closure there, with that. Of course, we all didn’t know how they were gonna end that show and whether they needed to run for the hills, if they did it wrong. The problem with a great hit show, with an amazing, intricate, layered story is that there’s no way out of it. Look at The Sopranos, it just ended. Shit, how do you do it? That’s why I’m not a writer. I can always point my finger and say, “They did it. I just did what they wrote.”
When you get to do a job like this, where you’re doing scenes delivering dialogue while fly fishing and you’re just out in nature like that, is it hard to find the next thing to follow that up with that doesn’t take you back inside of a studio soundstage?
HOLLOWAY: This changed me, a little bit. When you fly into Salt Lake City and drive up to Park City, you’re in the beauty of it. I was like, “How can I shoot in this studio, right here in Utah?” I don’t know. I’ll go wherever my career takes me, but would I love to do an outdoor Western, or anything outside? Yes, I would. I enjoy the hell out of it. I thrive in the outdoors more than the indoors. Have you got any ideas?
At this point, with the fact that nobody seems to know quite how to get back to production, I’m just recommending animation projects.
HOLLOWAY: Yes! As a matter of fact, I just finished writing an animated thing because we were like, “Well, damn, what are we gonna do? Let’s do an animated feature.” So, I’m about to start pitching that. I’ve got that covered, but I’m not in that one, so far.
What kind of animated feature is that?
HOLLOWAY: I wrote a thing with a buddy, that’s called Califurnia Dreaming because it’s all animals. It’s basically about this little kid, like Natalie Portman in The Professional. It’s this little L.A. grommet, and her story of trying to get her life and family back together. And it’s about all of these friends from all over the world, so you’ve got a chef from Paris and a boxer from Cuba, and they’ve all come to Hollywood to try to make it, in their own way, but what they end up doing is forming an amazing friendship, and they facilitate the dream of this little girl. It’s awesome. It’s about that journey, when you come to Hollywood to try to make it. It’s a fun romp. It’s fun to write an animated thing because the rules change a little bit. You can make characters do things that humans can’t do, so it’s fun. And I’ve realized, with my friend, who’s an animator, we already did the journey. If it gets sold, that’s fine and that’ll be another journey. But to write it and to see it done and to be proud of it, we already got that moment. We did it, and it’s awesome.
Yellowstone airs on Sunday nights on the Paramount Network.