Yellowstone is known for its over-the-top plot lines and complicated family drama, but the show’s cast and crew has also been involved in plenty of offscreen controversy over the years.
Since the Paramount Network series premiered in June 2018, actors along with cocreator Taylor Sheridan have fended off criticism that the show is written with a conservative audience in mind. “They refer to it as ‘the conservative show’ or ‘the Republican show’ or ‘the red-state Game of Thrones,’” the Oscar nominee told The Atlantic in November 2022. “And I just sit back laughing. I’m like, ‘Really?’”
The Sons of Anarchy alum went on to claim that the family drama has tackled plenty of controversial topics over the years without resorting to cliches. “The show’s talking about the displacement of Native Americans and the way Native American women were treated and about corporate greed and the gentrification of the West, and land-grabbing,” Sheridan said. “That’s a red-state show?”
Yellowstone lead actor Kevin Costner, meanwhile, has faced criticism from conservative viewers for his personal political opinions. After he wore a shirt supporting former Congresswoman Liz Cheney‘s 2022 re-election bid, he clapped back at fans who claimed they would stop watching the show because he took a stance on the campaign. Cheney, who lost her primary election to Harriet Hageman, has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump.
“I was clear that she probably wasn’t going to win her election. But I wanted to let her know, as a citizen, how much I appreciated her brave, clear-headed stance,” the Oscar winner told USA Today in November 2022. “I didn’t really care how the cookie crumbles, that people that liked me now don’t like me. That’s OK.”
Cheney is a Republican, but Costner has also shown his support for Democratic candidates. In December 2019, the Dances With Wolves director endorsed Pete Buttigieg for the 2020 presidential nomination. “When Pete speaks of unity, it’s the kind of unity I’ve been waiting and hoping to hear about,” Costner said of the Secretary of Transportation at the time. “The strength he describes isn’t the kind that limits compassion in the name of America.”
Though some viewers have threatened to stop watching Yellowstone for one reason or another, the series remains one of the most popular shows currently on the air. The season 5 premiere in November 2022 drew 12.1 million viewers, making it the most popular scripted series of the 2022-23 TV season. “We’ve been able to create a show that didn’t start out being popular, but did it on its own terms,” Costner said of the show’s massive success at the time in an interview with the Associated Press.
Kevin Costner’s Divorce
In May 2023, Costner’s wife, Christine Baumgartner, filed for divorce in Santa Barbara, California, after 18 years of marriage. The fashion designer cited “irreconcilable differences” as the cause of the split. “It is with great sadness that circumstances beyond his control have transpired which have resulted in Mr. Costner having to participate in a dissolution of marriage action,” Costner’s rep said in a statement to TMZ at the time. “We ask that his, Christine’s, and their children’s privacy be respected as they navigate this difficult time.”
The pair, who wed in 2004, share three children: sons Cayden and Logan and daughter Grace. The Bodyguard star, for his part, also shares Annie, Lily and Joe with his first wife, Cindy Silva, and son Liam with ex-girlfriend Bridget Rooney. According to TMZ, Baumgartner asked for joint custody of their kids.
Costner, Sheridan and fellow Yellowstone stars Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, Kelsey Asbille, Gil Birmingham and Jacki Weaver were all slated to attend a Paley Center panel and screening in April 2023. However, “scheduling conflicts” forced them to drop out last minute. Four of their costars — Josh Lucas, Wendy Moniz, Mo Brings Plenty and Dawn Olivieri — attended the event in their places.
PaleyFest came on the heels of season 5’s filming delay and rumors surrounding Costner’s potential exit, though the network’s development president, Keith Cox, confirmed during the panel that he was “very confident” in the Dances With Wolves star’s commitment to Yellowstone and is hopeful that production would begin soon.
Kevin Costner’s Possible Exit
The Bull Durham star, who plays ranch patriarch John Dutton, made headlines in February 2023 when Deadline reported that Paramount Network is exploring the idea of ending Yellowstone in its current form because of scheduling disagreements with Costner. The outlet added that the franchise would reportedly move forward with a spinoff series starring Matthew McConaughey in the lead role.
The network, however, denied reports that Costner was planning to leave and didn’t confirm any projects in the works with the Dallas Buyers Club actor. “We have no news to report. Kevin Costner is a big part of Yellowstone and we hope that’s the case for a long time to come,” a Paramount spokesperson told Deadline at the time. “Thanks to the brilliant mind of Taylor Sheridan, we are always working on franchise expansions of this incredible world he has built. Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner.”
After an additional report surfaced that same month, Costner’s lawyer referred to the claim his client only wanted to work “one week on the second half of season 5 of Yellowstone” as “an absolute lie.”
Marty Singer added: “It’s ridiculous — and anyone suggesting it shouldn’t be believed for one second. As everyone who knows anything about Kevin is well aware, he is incredibly passionate about the show and has always gone way above and beyond to ensure its success.”
Days later, Wes Bentley assured fans there was nothing to worry about regarding the future of Yellowstone. “The news that’s come out recently about the show is, you know, it’s above my pay grade. Different people making decisions,” the American Horror Story alum told Entertainment Weekly in February 2023. “I know that they’re still working on … working things out with everyone, to make sure we shoot. And I’m confident we will. We always have before. I think it’s probably a bit of drama over nothing.”
Taylor Sheridan and Donald Trump
The year before Yellowstone premiered, Sheridan slammed Trump in an interview, saying: “Can we just impeach that motherf–ker right now? Like what are we — I don’t understand … It’s just, it’s so embarrassing.”
When asked about the comment for a November 2022 article in The Atlantic, however, Sheridan claimed he didn’t “recall” saying that. “I had just wrapped a movie and I was in Cannes,” he added, though the 2017 interview was actually filmed in Los Angeles. “I was mad about everything. Twelve-hour press junkets with no food or water will do that to you.”
After asking about the comments, Atlantic journalist Sridhar Pappu claimed that Paramount Network publicists threatened to cancel his planned trip to the Yellowstone set if the Trump discussion wasn’t removed from the story. The final version of the article included the exchange, and Pappu disclosed that he was ultimately allowed to visit the set.
Q’orianka Kilcher’s Disability Fraud Charges
The New World actress, who appears as Angela Blue Thunder in Yellowstone, was charged with workers’ compensation fraud in July 2022 and accused of collecting more than $90,000 in disability benefits. In February 2023, however, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office dismissed all charges against Kilcher.
“Today, I am beyond grateful that my case has been dismissed — tomorrow my journey begins to help raise awareness and demand more transparency for worker’s rights within the workers comp system,” she said in a statement after the case was dismissed. “I want to thank my family, friends, fans and fellow industry peers whose support has kept me going. I look forward to shedding more light on this experience and continuing to do the work I love.”
Sam Elliott Slams ‘The Power of the Dog’
The Gettysburg actor, who plays Shea Brennan on Yellowstone spinoff 1883, came under fire in early 2022 when he insulted director Jane Campion’s western The Power of the Dog. “What … does this woman from down there … New Zealand, know about the American West?” Elliott asked during an interview with Marc Maron. “And why … did she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say, ‘This is the way it was?’ That rubbed me the wrong way, pal. … They’re all running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the f–king movie.”
After Campion said Elliott’s comments “hit the trifecta of misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia,” the Justified alum apologized for his remarks. “I wasn’t very articulate about it. I didn’t articulate it very well,” he said during a Deadline event in April 2022. “And I said some things that hurt people and I feel terrible about that. The gay community has been incredible to me my entire career. And I mean my entire career, from before I got started in this town. Friends on every level and every job description up until today. I’m sorry I hurt any of those friends and someone that I loved. And anyone else by the words that I used.”