Why Yellowstone's Kelly Reilly Isn't Afraid To Be Unlikable As Beth Dutton

Yellowstone Beth Dutton Kelly Reilly Paramount Network
(Image credit: Paramount Network)

Kelly Reilly has played John Dutton’s tough-as-nails daughter Beth for three seasons now. Beth and her family are already captivating viewers again as Yellowstone kicked things off with a mega-successful start to Season 3. As a character so jam-packed with complexities, Beth has done and said some unlikable stuff during the show’s run.

Well, Kelly Reilly is not afraid to play the less likable side of Beth Dutton. Beth is currently one of the most complex characters on TV, in my opinion. But has it been tricky at all to find the heart of Beth amid all those barbed-wired one-liners? I asked Yellowstone’s incredibly talented Kelly Reilly, and she told me:

Absolutely, that’s part of what drew me to her was ‘who is this woman?’ I love her mind. I love her intelligence. I love her fierceness. She’s a warrior. And then, of course, you want to slowly then start to unpack and see who this is underneath. And that for me, as an actor, that’s the stuff that I love and when you’ve got great writing, you get to really trust going there with some of the more difficult stuff. Like I trust, taking Beth so far into unlikability because I know I’m going to be held in [Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan]'s respect for her as a character. As he does with all of them. There’s a messiness and forwardness to each of them, and also just a deep underlying vulnerability to her that I don’t necessarily play too often.

Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan previously teased Beth and Jamie Dutton’s relationship would be even more deeply explored in Season 3. As of the premiere, the siblings were actually in copacetic shape with one another. At least, there was no bombastic argument that broke out as in the past.

Without viewers understanding why Beth hates her brother, some of Beth’s comments come across as quite sharp and inexplicably cruel. I have theories about what drove the siblings to the point they are now. For Kelly Reilly, playing Beth has meant exploring the sharp and softer angles to the Yellowstone leading lady. On the restraints she faces playing Beth, Reilly told me:

I’m really kept on a tight leash with Taylor [Sheridan] about that [vulnerability] to stay true to her, but I think as we’re getting into Season 3, he’s allowing us to see her be with herself. I mean after Season 2, after that big attack, what is left in the aftermath of that? Who is she with herself? There must be some reconciling to do, and there must be some stuff going on with her that he really allows us to see for the first time. And also, we didn’t see her let her be loved by somebody. You know? Which I don’t think is an easy thing for Beth to accept, not really. She’s very good at being so self-sufficient that to allow that vulnerability in somebody like her is kind of beautiful.

As Kelly Reilly mentions, the vicious attack unleashed on Beth per Malcolm Beck’s orders was a turning point for Beth on Yellowstone. In the Season 3 premiere, she sweetly donated money to a woman whose son was battling cancer. The woman was also a victim of domestic violence, and Beth gave her some advice on how to resolve that as only she could.

In terms of love, Beth’s relationship Rip continues to blossom in a development that carries over from Yellowstone’s previous season. Rip has loved Beth for a long time, and as Kelly Reilly points out, Beth had yet to really accept being loved by somebody. Season 3 indicates that part of her life is getting ready to change.

Watch Kelly Reilly continue to dazzle as Beth weaves in and out of likability throughout this summer as new episodes of Yellowstone air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Paramount Network. If you want to catch up on Beth’s past exploits, you can stream Yellowstone when it becomes available on NBCUniversal’s upcoming streamer, Peacock. The service launches nationally on July 15.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.