The Insult That Awoke A Ferocious Writer’s Voice In ‘Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan — Deadline Disruptors

Taylor Sheridan
Taylor Sheridan MBS/MEGA

Long before he became a premier storyteller for Paramount+, Taylor Sheridan was a journeyman actor who struggled to support his family. The older he got, the more he found himself descending on the call sheet. What should have been a welcome burst of momentum — playing Deputy Chief David Hale on Sons of Anarchy — turned out to be the final dose of humiliation that led him to change horses. An ask for a decent raise was the thing that compelled Sheridan to begin writing scripts. Sheridan was several seasons into playing what he believed to be a pivotal role in the SAMCRO universe, but the studio suits didn’t seem to share his assessment.

“When my attorney said, ‘Look, there are kids on the Cartoon Network making more than you’re offering this guy,’ this jerk business affairs attorney goes, ‘He probably deserves to make more, but we’re not going to pay him more, because guess what? He’s not worth more. There are 50 of him. He is 11 on the call sheet. That’s what that guy is and that’s all he’s ever going to be,’” Sheridan recalls. “That’s really when I quit [because] that’s how the business saw me: ‘Let’s replace him with someone cheaper.’ And I decided that I didn’t want to be 11 on the call sheet for the rest of my life.”

Deadline Disruptors At Cannes: Read Them All Here

It took some time, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Sheridan, when he quit acting cold turkey and began typing. Sheridan has been writing, directing, producing and showrunning ever since, from the critically acclaimed thrillers Sicario, Hell or High Water and Wind River, to the Yellowstone universe, all through MTV Entertainment and 101 Studios. He is carrying the fortunes of Paramount+ on his broad shoulders.

Unlike uber-creators like Dick Wolf, Sheridan did not hand off responsibility of a Yellowstone prequel to someone else. He wrote every word of 1883 himself, while continuing to contribute to Yellowstone and his latest Paramount+ drama Mayor of Kingstown with Jeremy Renner. And the Oscar nominee has plenty more to say: he has six new shows in the works, including a Sylvester Stallone starrer about an Italian mobster in Oklahoma called Tulsa King that he’s entrusted to Sopranos vet Terence Winter, a Yellowstone spinoff set on the 6666 ranch, and Sheridan series creations that will star David Oyelowo and Billy Bob Thornton.

Asked what compelled him to take his first regular series role as Montana ranch patriarch John Dutton in Yellowstone, Kevin Costner told Deadline that he might not have seen the long run and the high ratings the show would receive as basic cable’s highest rated series, but he sensed there was some gold dust in the Yellowstone pilot script, something he felt in the past when he read the scripts for Field of Dreams. It was the same sentiment expressed by Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and their 1883 co-stars, and likely what Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren felt when they recently signed on to continue the Dutton family saga in the series 1932.

Sheridan is a cowboy at heart — he rises early, gets on his horse and moves cattle and does other ranch stuff, and this is where he works out many of his ideas and solves storytelling problems — and while he’ll be the first to admit he’s overworked, he has waited his whole life for this, and will ride his storytelling horse as far as it will take him. He refuses to take for granted his recent prolific run, and when he shows up in his series as an actor, it is usually because he’s the only one around with the horsemanship to believably convey what the scenes call for.


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