There was a time when fans of Coyote Ugly wondered what happened to Piper Perabo. But ever since she landed in Taylor Sheridan’s hit Paramount series Yellowstone, they’ve stopped wondering. Without a doubt, Perabo’s Summer Higgins is one of the most fascinating supporting characters on the show. Though, to be fair, the series doesn’t have many dull characters. Thanks to Sheridan’s thoughtful, thrilling, and risk-taking writing, many of the cast members have become best-known for their roles in Yellowstone. Not to mention the fact they’ve made a boatload of money from it.
So, it makes sense why Piper Perabo was so thrilled to be asked to be part of it. Playing Summer Higgins has no doubt been one of the biggest thrills in her career so far. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Rocky and Bullwinkle star explained how her history being on the wrong side of the law actually inspired one of Summer’s best plotlines.
Is Summer Higgins Based On Piper Perabo’s Arrest Experience?
One of the biggest revelations from Piper Perabo’s interview with The Hollywood Reporter is the fact that just like Summer Higgins, she too was arrested. In the series, Summer is arrested and sent to prison for civil disobedience as well as assault. While Perabo didn’t serve any time, she was arrested in 2018 at the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Perabo was among 200 protestors who ended up in handcuffs for disrupting the contentious hearings.
This event absolutely inspired Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan to write Summer Higgins’ arrest plotline. However, it’s clear that Piper Perabo was already hired for the role prior to hearing about this story at a dinner.
“[Taylor Sheridan] and I knew each other socially because my husband [Stephen Kay] works on Yellowstone [as a director-executive producer],” Piper Perabo told The Hollywood Reporter of how she found herself on Yellowstone and unintentionally inspired the creator to create this specific plotline.
“I had told Taylor over dinner this story of how I got arrested when I protested the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And he was really interested. Taylor’s one of those cowboy-poet styles, an old spirit who loves a good yarn. When he hears a good story that he hasn’t heard before, he wants all the details. So I told him the story, and I didn’t really know what he was going to do with it or where it was going to go.”
The fact that Taylor Sheridan doesn’t write stories that feel predictable was extremely exciting for Perabo as she had no clue that her character who end up being an ally to the Dutton family.
“I could guess that environmental activists are not really on the Dutton side. But once you zoom out with Summer, she is, in a way, on the Dutton side. So it’s been really a wild ride, because I never know where it’s going,” she said to The Hollywood Reporter.
Did Taylor Sheridan Consult Piper Perabo About Summer Higgins’ Arrest Storyline?
It’s true that Piper Perabo inspired the initial idea for Summer’s arrest in Yellowstone. And it’s easy to assume that Perabo’s general arrest experience (she was arrested again during Jane Fonda’s climate change protests) was something creator Taylor Sheridan considered when writing. But Perabo told The Hollywood Reporter that Sheridan never went back to her for further details.
“I told Taylor all of my stories and also stories I knew of other women activists who were arrested for civil disobedience. And then he kind of goes off and rides horses and is out mending fences, or wherever he goes when he’s thinking about it. And then it all comes back at you,” Piper Perabo explained to The Hollywood Reporter.
“There isn’t really a back-and-forth, which I think is sort of exciting because it goes through his imagination and you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she continued in her interview.
How Piper Perabo Prepared For Summer Being Released From Jail
Despite the audience not seeing Piper Perabo’s character in jail, there’s no doubt that her experience being locked up changes her forever. Fortunately, this is not something Perabo herself had to deal with after her own brushes with the law. But in order to get in the headspace for the plotline, she needed to do her research.
“I read a lot about women’s prisons in Montana, and 11 months is quite a long time,” Piper Perabo explained during her interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “When Summer gets out, I don’t think she knows exactly why she’s being released. And I think it’s interesting that she doesn’t call anyone. You don’t see Summer call her folks to say, ‘I’m out.’ She didn’t call any friends. The only person waiting for her is [Kevin Costner’s] John [Dutton].”
Perabo continued by saying, “That idea from the beginning of the season really meant a lot to me [in playing her], because I realized how alone Summer is and how important the Dutton family would be to her. Especially when you spend time incarcerated, you kind of realize who is there for you no matter what, and who’s not. I think Summer is pretty alone in this world.”