Why Yellowstone's Kelly Reilly Is 'So Proud' To Be On The Hit Drama

kelly reilly yellowstone season 3
(Image credit: paramount press)

For three seasons now, Kelly Reilly has portrayed one of television's most hardcore female characters of any genre, and fans are hoping that Yellowstone's Beth Dutton will be around for many yaers to come, even though the character's fate was thrown into question in the cliffhanger-filled Season 3 finale. Reilly understandably isn't offering up any big clues regarding Beth's future, but she did recently talk about working on the past three seasons, and shared one of the reasons why she's most proud of being part of Yellowstone's ensemble.

To be sure, there are plenty of elements that Kelly Reilly loves about Yellowstone, from co-creator Taylor Sheridan's neo-western storytelling to Beth's relationship with Cole Hauser's Rip. But during an interview with Esquire, the actress was asked about the drama's balanced focus on Indigenous women going missing (which ABC's Big Sky has taken some heat for), and Reilly talked about how proud she was of Yellowstone's inclusive treatment of natives and tribe culture. In her words:

Thank you for bringing that up. It's something that when I do interviews for the show, people don't really touch on. Especially not with me, but it's something that is one of my, the things that I'm so proud of to be part of this show. I think for a long time they just assumed this was a show about cowboys and rednecks and, 'This is our land.' Actually, if you kind of pay attention the people that [Taylor Sheridan] shows so much respect and love for in the show is for the Native Americans. He has a deep history with that personally in his life. Obviously if you've seen his other films like Wind River, this is a theme in his work that he's so passionate about. For him to draw attention to that, and to put that into the living room of so many Americans who don't necessarily want to look at that part of our history, it's uncomfortable. But I'm so glad that he is. I feel like it's without being preachy, I think it's really, a really important thing to know about.

It's easy to understand why not a lot of journalists are hitting up Kelly Reilly to talk about Yellowstone's approach to featuring Indigenous characters and reflecting their everyday lives and struggles authentically, but Reilly is certainly willing to talk about it. She talks about how early perceptions for Yellowstone were that it was a Dallas-esque drama about a dysfunctional backwoods family, and while that isn't exactly an incorrect assessment, the Paramount drama is attempting to tell an epic tale, and that includes quite a few Native American characters as portrayed by Native actors.

yellowstone john mo and thomas rainwater

For instance, we have Comanche-born Gil Birmingham as Chief Thomas Rainwater, a constant rival to Kevin Costner's John Dutton. Then there's Rainwater's bodyguard Mo, as played by Moses Brings Plenty, while Rudy Ramos plays Monica's grandfather Felix Long. Then there's Jeremiah Bitsui s Monica's brother Robert, with Morningstar Angeline playing his wife Samantha, while Q'orianka Kilcher stars as Angela Blue Thunder. And that's definitely not an exhaustive list!

Beyond just being proud of the number of native actors that are employed on the show, Kelly Reilly is also happy that Yellowstone isn't being sanctimonious when it delves into story arcs involving those characters. In her words:

But I do like the fact that there is not that self-righteousness in our show. We're playing characters and we're not trying to be too sort of, dare I say it, 'woke' about things. If we get into that area, I'm not really interested. I'm interested in complicated and messy and human, and the sort of things that we all can, 'How can we find these characters so sort of enthralling and intriguing when they're kind of so bad?' It's a fantasy. These characters are sort of fantasy. I love that.

While it would be easy for Taylor Sheridan & Co. to attempt to tell versions of headline-ripped stories involving its Indigenous characters for the sake of being topical and "woke," as Reilly put it, Yellowstone has no problem putting those characters just as much into the thick of the Dutton-centric mayhem as anyone else. And we can only hope that more unpredictable twists are coming with Season 4, especially if the show confirms Beth Dutton's survival sooner rather than later.

Yellowstone is still in the midst of its between-seasons hiatus, which will likely continue until Summer 2021, although Season 4 has finished up its COVID-safe production, and will likely make its next debut on Paramount Network next summer. In the meantime, our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring 2021 TV rundown will show you all the big shows popping up on the small screen in the near future.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.