Yellowstone, the Paramount Network Western series centered around the Dutton family and their ranch in Montana, is very serious in tone and features gunfights, explosions and dramatic moments. However, this changes once the cameras head to the bunkhouse where the ranch hands spend their free time. This is when the beer flows and the jokes commence, providing actor Denim Richards with opportunities to lasso his fellow actors.
Speaking with PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview, the actor behind Colby spoke about the shift in tone and the amount of freedom the actors have on set. He explained that the show's creator, Taylor Sheridan, writes dialogue that fits with the environment, but he doesn't require Richards, Ian Bohen, Jefferson White and the other actors to strictly follow it. They will film takes that follow the script word-for-word, but Sheridan will occasionally tell them to go "off the cuff." This leads to jokes that occasionally end up in the aired episode.
"[Sheridan] really gave us the freedom to do that. And it's awesome to have it be received and like you're saying, there's so many things that — especially for Jeff and myself — that we would just kind of be improv-ing and we'd be like, 'There's no way this ever makes it into the cut,'" Richards said. "They just let the cameras roll and so we just say things. And then of course like with everything, like the longer you're onset, the more delusional you get, the weirder the improv. You're just like, 'It doesn't matter. It'll never make it.'
"And then all of a sudden you're watching and you're like, 'It made it. Okay.' It's really kind of awesome because it's like he trusts us with that and so it's really beautiful because now we really get excited. It's our favorite part of the day when we get to be in these bunkhouse scenes."
One example of said improv is a scene early in Yellowstone where one character, Jimmy, talked about Colby's mother being a cougar and a wildcat. Richards and White later revealed that this was an ad-libbed line. This moment drew praise from fans and actually prompted other mother-related jokes between the two ranch hands in future episodes.
Yellowstone is an inherently serious show, but Richards explained that the Bunkhouse Boys have become the "commercial break" between the "gunfire and death." The scenes set in the bunkhouse gave them the opportunity to kick back, play some poker or literally try to lasso each other in the bunkhouse. Richards doesn't know if Sheridan originally intended for the ranch hands to be the comic relief of sorts, but the show's creator has rolled with it and continued to give the actors freedom to lighten the mood.
"I really don't know if he necessarily knew that that was what it was going to be," Richards said. "But I think one of the great things was it was about like... He is such a phenomenal people person and he knew the people that he wanted. I'm not sure if he knew it was going to take off in this direction, but I think that it was like, we are the men in the bunkhouse, especially with like Ian and Jeff specifically. We spent so much time together because our schedules are usually very similar. It also gave us a really great opportunity to kind of bond with each other."
Richards expects the Bunkhouse Boys to continue providing entertainment during the remainder of Yellowstone's third season and into the fourth. The actors have not returned to Montana to start production just yet, but he said this will be happening "very, very soon." The biggest priority is ironing out the details amid COVID-19, but Richards is excited to get back to the small Montana town and its "more relaxed state of life."
Yellowstone airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on the Paramount Network. A replay takes place immediately after at 10 p.m. ET. The first two seasons are available on NBC's Peacock streaming service, which officially launches on July 15 — although Comcast and Xfinity customers have early access.