Pasadena, Calif. • Kevin Costner is starring in his first weekly television series, and he’s giving part of the credit for his performance in “Yellowstone” to the state of Utah.
Much of the 10-part series — one of the most expensive in TV history — was filmed in the Beehive State. Utah stars as Montana, and Costner said his starring role was made easier by working on location in the Beehive State.
“Actors are able to kind of make it real, even on a stage, sometimes without all the trappings,“ he said, but it helps when they’re able to work on practical sites and look over “at horses that are running free.”
“There is a thing called environment, and we’re able to exist in one of the most beautiful places in the country,” Costner said.
“It was exquisite,” said Kelly Reilly, who co-stars as the daughter of Costner’s character.
The Paramount Network has announced a premiere date for “Yellowstone” — it’s scheduled to debut June 20 at 7 p.m. MST. (Paramount Network is the rebranded Spike channel. The changeover takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. MST.)
Costner, who’s also an executive producer of the series, said the multitude of locations — more than 20 in Utah — “was hard-fought-for.”
“These places don’t just magically appear, even though they’re there,” he said. “There’s people that were out there for a couple-three months, panicking, trying to find a place in that state that would match up with the script that Taylor had.”
Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”) wrote and directed all 10 hours of “Yellowstone” — a massive and perhaps unprecedented undertaking for one person.
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said with a smile.
“Yellowstone” is a sweeping drama that’s being described as a cross between “Dallas” and “The Sopranos.” The story is set on the largest contiguous ranch in America, and it focuses on its owner, John Dutton (Costner). There will be fights with land developers and politicians, and interactions with an American Indian reservation and the national park next door.
“What we talked about we wanted to do was essentially make a 10-hour movie that happened to air on television,” Sheridan said. “And Paramount gave us the freedom to treat it that way, which is unique.”
It’s a colossal, spare-no-expense production that’s pumping perhaps as much as $30 million into Utah’s economy for Season 1. And it’s all there on the screen, according to Keith Cox, president of development and production for the Paramount Network.
“That could be on HBO. That could be anywhere. It’s so epic,” Cox said. “It will feel like a big-budget theatrical every week. In fact, it looks like a movie. Trust me.”
The show hasn’t been renewed for a second season — a pilot has yet to be screened for either the critics or cast members — but this is planned as a multiyear project. Costner has done TV before, including the limited series “Hatfields & McCoys,” but this is his first TV series that’s planned to run multiple seasons. And he said he’s signed a three-year contract.
The narrative is set in Montana, and the show is filmed partially in that state. More than 20 Utah locations are employed, and the majority of the interiors were shot at the state-of-the-art Utah Film Studios in Park City.
“Utah has excellent facilities and a great crew base to pull from,” said Sheridan, whose 2017 film “Wind River” was produced in Utah. “It’s easy to get to. And they give a rebate, which is extremely helpful when you have something this ambitious.”
(The rebate from the Utah Film Commission can be up to 25 percent of the production costs.)
And Costner made it clear that he believes that working on location in Utah made everything about “Yellowstone” better.
“We have a very good job when you wake up in a place as beautiful as that and get the chance to go do that,” he said. “When you feel like you’re armed with the words [in Sheridan’s script], it feels like the thing is almost 90 percent done.”
As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune more than three months ago, the fact that TWC — aka The Weinstein Company — is one of the production partners on “Yellowstone” has not affected the production.
Without being asked, the president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT, Kevin Kay, stated “definitively that Harvey Weinstein has never been a part of the creative process” on “Yellowstone,” and that “he does not have a credit” on the show. “And until there’s a new name of the company, and a clear new path forward for the company, TWC will not be listed in the credits.”