Yellowstone

BIG CHANGES Are Coming To Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone Universe In “Summer 2024”

Taylor Sheridan is fond of lore. That’s evident in his suite of “Yellowstone” series, which exude a gritty toughness and a reverence for the way history doubles back on itself. The creation of the “Yellowstone” empire has some lore of its own, one that reads like a Sheridan-scripted revenge narrative.

When the prolific showrunner was first pitching “Yellowstone,” a nascent series he described as a neo-Western take on “The Godfather,” it ended up in development at HBO. But the executives were dubious of Sheridan’s vision. As Sheridan recalled (via The Hollywood Reporter), an executive admitted, “Look, it just feels so Middle America. We’re HBO, we’re avant-garde, we’re trendsetters. This feels like a step backward. And frankly, I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone should be living out there [in rural Montana]. It should be a park or something.”

The diss lit a fire in Sheridan’s belly. The resulting series and its suite of spin-offs feel like a direct repudiation of the executive’s criticism. The shows are earthy and show a marked disdain for coastal elitism. Moreover, they’re wildly successful.

But even Sheridan couldn’t escape the rocky vicissitudes of the television landscape, and strikes and internal disputes have roiled the calm waters of the “Yellowstone” universe. Now, his TV empire is facing perhaps its biggest changes yet.

Yellowstone is coming to an end

Perhaps most pressingly to “Yellowstone” fans, 2024 will mark the end of the flagship series, assuming the schedule goes to plan. The 5th and final season has been a stretched-out affair, to say the least. Part 1 premiered in November 2022 and saw the Dutton family plagued by typical internal strife and political turmoil. Part 2 was slated to premiere in summer 2023, then it was pushed up to November. The dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes caused additional production delays.

Sheridan’s relationship with the writers’ strike was contentious, even though he followed its terms. “The freedom of the artist to create must be unfettered,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, espousing a sort of rugged individualism that rubbed up against the strike’s pro-worker stance. “If I have to check in creatively with others for a story I’ve wholly built in my brain, that would probably be the end of me telling TV stories.”

In November, it was reported that “Yellowstone” will resume production in late spring 2024, with the final episodes scheduled to premiere in November. Even with new episodes on the horizon, cast members are largely in the dark. “I can’t wait to get back to the back half just because I want to know what happens,” Piper Perabo, who plays Summer Higgins, told TV Insider. “I don’t know what happens when we come back … I think you can tell that things are going really south.”

…but Kevin Costner might not be a part of it

While Taylor Sheridan is keeping the “Yellowstone” conclusion close to the chest, there have been reports that Kevin Costner won’t appear in Part 2. In an episode of his podcast “The Town,” Matthew Belloni, former editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, revealed that the end of Season 5 might see the Dutton ranch without its fearless leader. “The question is whether Costner is in those final episodes of this season of ‘Yellowstone’ and my understanding is that, as of now, he is not gonna be in those episodes,” Belloni said. As a result, it’s possible that Dutton could die off-screen à la Logan Roy in “Succession.”

Costner’s absence wouldn’t be entirely surprising, given rumored behind-the-scenes tensions and scheduling conflicts between him and Sheridan. In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sheridan coolly addressed the pair’s falling out. “I’ve never had an issue with Kevin that he and I couldn’t work out on the phone,” he said. “But once lawyers get involved, then people don’t get to talk to each other and start saying things that aren’t true and attempt to shift blame based on how the press or public seem to be reacting.”

Much of the drama stems from Costner’s increased focus on his passion project, a multi-part film called “Horizon: An American Saga.” The sweeping epic will take place in the 15 years before and after the Civil War, with the first part scheduled to hit theaters in June 2024.

Matthew McConaughey is rumored to star in a Yellowstone spin-off

Even with plenty of “Yellowstone” drama to contend with, Taylor Sheridan is always looking forward — or in some instances, backward. Indeed, the showrunner has found success with two different “Yellowstone” spin-off series: “1883” and the ongoing “1923.” The next spin-off will keep things in the present and is tentatively titled “2024” if the production schedule goes to plan.

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In his June 2023 tell-all with The Hollywood Reporter, Sheridan revealed that Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey was in negotiations to lead the new spin-off. “He seems like a natural fit,” Sheridan said. “We had a few conversations over the years, and spitballed a few ideas. Then he started watching ‘Yellowstone’ and responded to it. He was like, ‘I want to do that.’ And by ‘that’ he meant diving into a raw world clashing up against the modern world. And then I said, ‘Buddy, that we can do.’”

That being said, McConaughey’s involvement is still churning in the rumor mill. In January 2024, an anonymous source told Life & Style that McConaughey and Sheridan hadn’t yet brokered a deal and that the actor was apparently asking for $2.5 million per episode. For comparison, Kevin Costner made roughly half of that for Season 5 of “Yellowstone.” “[McConaughey] still doesn’t have clarity on when exactly this job would even start,” they said. “He wants to make the deal — it’s become this incredibly drawn-out process.”

Whether or not McConaughey ends up starring in “2024,” the series is set to include actors from the original series.

1923 Season 2 is resuming production following the strikes

Like a number of other Hollywood productions, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes put a snag in Season 2 of “1923,” the second “Yellowstone” prequel that premiered on December 18, 2022. In January, fans finally got some good news about the series when star Brandon Sklenar teased the show’s long-awaited return.

In a red carpet interview with Fox News, Sklenar voiced his excitement of getting to finally shoot some scenes with co-stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. “I haven’t gotten to act with them yet. I will in the last eight episodes that we’re about to start. But I’m excited.” The news indicated to Sklenar that in addition to getting to work with such impressive talent, his character, Spencer Dutton, would be making his way back to Montana after getting separated from Alex (Julia Schlaepfer) at sea.

“When I found out they were in it with me, I was … reading all the episodes, and I’m like, ‘When the hell am I getting home?’” he continued. “But it’s happening, and I’m stoked.”

In addition to Spencer and Alex’s dramatic separation, Season 1 of “1923” ended on a few notable cliffhangers. Back in Montana, the Duttons are in danger of losing their ranch to land baron Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton), and Jack’s (Darren Mann) fiancée Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) suffers a devastating miscarriage.

Still, the cast doesn’t quite know what is in store for their characters. “I’m still waiting for a few scripts for next season, and we leave in a couple months,” Sklenar added. “You don’t really know until you know.”

Sheridan has more spin-offs on his docket

Following the success of “1883” and “1923,” “1944” is the next prequel series to follow the Dutton family. Little is known about the series as of yet, but seeing as it takes place only 21 years after “1923,” it is possible that some characters from that series will make an appearance, even if they are played by different actors. Sheridan has no problem taking his characters abroad, as seen on “1923,” so fans could see some Duttons heading overseas for World War II.

Sheridan has more contemporary stories cooking as well. In addition to the aforementioned “2024,” which is expected to debut once “Yellowstone” has reached its conclusion, Sheridan is planning a spin-off series called “6666” set at the Texas ranch of the same name. The ranch should be familiar to “Yellowstone” fans, as Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) decamps to the Four Sixes in Season 4.

It’s possible that White will star in “6666,” but Sheridan has stayed largely mum on the topic. “I think you won’t be surprised to hear that they don’t tell me anything,” White told Looper in an exclusive interview. It’s mostly my job just to try to hold on to the bucking bronco at any given moment. Any time I try to guess what Taylor’s going to do, what he actually does is much better, and more surprising, and cooler, and more interesting than what I would’ve guessed. So, at this point, I’ve learned to just kind of try to hold on.”

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