Wait, Yellowstone's Cole Hauser Could Have Played A Totally Different Role?

cole hauser's Rip wearing sunglasses and chewing a toothpick in yellowstone season 3 premiere
(Image credit: paramount press)

After three seasons of Yellowstone's blood-boiling drama surrounding the Dutton family ranch, it's next to impossible to imagine these characters being played by anyone other than the actors who originated the roles. But noted sexy-man Cole Hauser gave fans of the Paramount Network drama some food for thought by sharing the notion that he wasn't specifically tied to the role of Rip Wheeler, and could have possibly ended up as a member of the Dutton family had things worked out differently. Can you IMAGINE?

It might sound like I'm being sarcastically hyperbolic, but I assure you of my 100% sincerity. The only other actor that could feasibly play Rip Wheeler beyond Cole Hauser is whatever comes out of the Brundle-Fly machine after Timothy Olyphant and Jeffrey Dean Morgan go into it. In any case, Hauser appeared on The Ryen Russillo Podcast and shared the story of how Yellowstone landed on his lap, and how his representation was initially incredulous about the actor's desire to play Rip.

John Linson, who's the co-creator of the show, is one of my dear friends. I've known him – my mom and his mother have known each other since the '60s. So, you know, he came to me and said, 'Look, there's this show, and we just got Kevin Costner. Take a look at it and see what you think. I think you'd be great in this.' He didn't say any role or anything. So I looked at the script, and I think initially my team wanted me to position myself to play one of the sons, and I just didn't see it. I didn't think that there was a role that was right for me when it came to Jamie or Lee or Kayce. The one that jumped off the page was Rip, and they were like, 'What are you doing? It's two scenes in a pilot.' I said, 'Nah, this character is going to have something really good, I can just feel it.' I know that Taylor loves the real cowboy way. I know that he believes that those kinda guys should be talked about. And then I think the chemistry with Kelly in the very first episode was there, and he saw that. So that's kind of where it blossomed.

Not to repeat myself, but can you IMAGINE if Cole Hauser had been limited to playing Lee Dutton, gracing our screens for all of 15 minutes? I also can't picture him as Jamie, since Wes Bentley's eyes are basically synonymous with the character's browbeaten disposition. It's slightly easier to conceive Hauser in place of Luke Grimes as Kayce Dutton, if only because Kayce is intrinsically the more complicated brother, and Hauser is really good at playing quiet strength. Still, though, Kayce sometimes lacks such strength, and Rip Wheeler never does. Ipso facto, Cole Hauser is perfect for it.

As well, the actor voices the key perception that Rip's success as a character can't be viewed in full unless he's looked at in respects to his complicated relationship with Kelly Reilly's Beth Dutton. Their explosive and imbalanced romance is at once singular to the strong-willed characters and then also universal to all courtships outside the confines of fairy tales.

However you look at it, the genius of Rip Wheeler boils down to co-creator Taylor Sheridan's smart writing and dialogue skills, which Cole Hauser then brings to life in all the best ways, even when it doesn't necessarily look like he's doing much at all. Speaking to Rip's layered nature (and also talking more about his connection with Beth), Hauser continued:

Yeah, I mean, that's always been my thing. I never play anybody one note, that's just not the way I am. And so for me, I think a lot of actors – I shouldn't say a lot actors – I think some people would look at Rip and go, 'He's a one trick pony.' You know what I mean? That's who he is. He's the heavy, he's the tough guy. There's a problem, John calls on him. But Taylor did this wonderful thing, which I saw very early on, in that he created a relationship with Beth, which helps open his soul up and his heart, and who he is as a person. Then he did wonderful things with the backstory and allowed the audience to understand the hardship this kid came from. The uneducatedness that he that he has, but also the life smarts that he has, and also in nature and being able to run a ranch. I mean, he might not be able to read a book as well as most, but you come on a ranch and he'll school you, you know what I mean? So it's like, it's just a different world for different people, and he's one of those guys that you want to be stuck in nature with him.

Cole Hauser almost definitely has a point in his assessment that Rip Wheeler might have been looked at as a lesser character to others, simply because he wasn't part of the Dutton family, or because he doesn't showcase a fly-off-the-handle impulsiveness like Beth or Jimmy. Thankfully for Yellowstone fans, Rip doesn't need to do any of that to clue audiences into why the character is worthy of our time, or why you shouldn't piss him off by staying up all night drinking when you know the damned rodeo is the next day.

Join me in silently wishing for some big news to break for Yellowstone Season 4 while we stream earlier episodes for the umpteenth time, or for there to at least be some casting news for one of the upcoming spinoffs. Or for Beth to get her own spinoff, because if you're gonna dream, dream Beth-big.

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.