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Luke Grimes is no stranger to the countryside. Growing up in Dayton Ohio, Grimes spent his childhood days immersed in the great outdoors hunting with his father. And whilst he’s played a cowboy once or twice in his career, (Outlaw Country and Magnificent Seven opposite Denzel Washington), he assures me his lead role in Paramount’s modern-day western, Yellowstone is his first proper rodeo.


Grimes studied acting at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts and after a year of auditions in L.A, got his first role as Jake in ‘All The Boys Love Mandy Lane’. He’s since been received warmly by the industry, appearing in Fifty Shades of Grey, American Sniper, Taken 2, True Blood, and most recently as Kayce Dutton in Taylor Sheridan’s brilliantly written ‘Yellowstone’.


Early on in his career, Grimes learned it’s okay to say no to a role that doesn’t fully align with who he is as an actor, even turning down the opportunity to audition for Christian Grey, the lead in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. “It just wasn’t for me, and I knew that,” he said at the time. “At this stage of the game—and you have a lot of stages as an actor—I think it’s important how you spend your time. I try to make sure that I’m growing.” When it came to playing Kayce Dutton however, he knew the role was meant for him the second he read the script. “I’ve never felt such a connection with something so immediately,” Grimes tells me over the phone. “I think for actors, or for me, it’s rare when you read something and think, oh I have to have this. Usually, I know the other actors in the running or that actors the director has in mind have just a good of a chance at getting the part as I do.


But with Kayce, I always knew this role was mine”. Preparing for the role, Grimes attended a “cowboy boot camp” for a month where he and other actors in the show were jumping creeks, sleeping in saddles, caring for the horses, and genuinely getting into the mindset of their characters. Grimes comes off self-assured, humble, charismatic and eternally grateful for what he calls, the most authentic experience he’s had as an actor to date.


Hi thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Should we just go ahead and dive on into it?

Yeah lets do it.


Where are you calling from?

I’m actually in my truck right now on the way to the bank.


Nice. Squeezing in an interview in between errands. I like your style!

[Laughing] Guess I blew my cover there, didn’t I?


Just a little. But I like your honesty. First of all, let me just say how incredibly impressive you are. I feel like you’ve been involved in practically every kind of project in your career in less than a decade since joining the scene. Talk to me about your journey so far and what lead to the role of Kayce Dutton.

What first attracted me to Yellowstone was the fact that Taylor Sheridan had written it. As I said, I knew this role was mine from the very beginning. It’s a rare feeling. And it’s not a cocky one. I just really understood the part and really wanted it.

Full look DSquared2

Wow. Do you feel the reason you gravitated towards Kayce so instantaneously is due to the fact that you’re a country boy and your training in horseback riding from your role in old country?

I did some riding in that film yeah but not nearly to the degree of riding I’m doing in Yellowstone. Taylor is really known for making things that feel authentic, and it was essential for him that I knew what I was doing so that it didn’t look like a stunt double on a horse. I was riding a ton

before I started filming. I think the things that I felt close to and something that I really understood about this storyline was the Romeo and Juliet aspect of it all between Kayce and his wife, Monica. I’ve always been a big fan of Shakespeare. Something about two people who are madly in love but really shouldn’t be or aren’t allowed to be together just really connects with me. Also, I had already done some work on trying to understand PTSD and what soldiers go through when they try to adjust to life after war. There’s a lot of things with Kayce that you don’t get to play at once. Usually, you don’t get to be the cowboy, the soldier, the father, the returning son, and the lead romantic character all at once.


I know what you mean. I finished watching season one of Yellowstone in preparation for our conversation, and it feels like a very layered show. Its love story, but it’s also a family drama, it’s also an internal battle within Kayce. It’s like you’re getting to play 6 different characters in just this one.

Yeah and that’s what was so intriguing about it. Week to week when I would read these scripts I had no idea of what I would be doing or where I would be. One episode I’m involved in a huge action sequence where I had to train to shoot and the next episode I’m in the hospital taking care of my wife. It was exciting playing this role. It just felt like life. Life is the most unpredictable thing. It really pushed me in a lot of directions I hadn’t been before, and I think that’s really a testament to the writing. He’s such a brilliant writer. You don’t even have to drum up the acting as much as usual. Just reading Taylor’s writing gets you there.


What a compliment. I read in one of your previous interviews that Yellowstone feels like one of the most authentic stories you’ve ever worked on. Primarily because of the writing but also because none of the breathtaking landscape we see on the show is animated or created through special effects. It’s all real, and you’re actually living in this world Sheridan has created.

Yea I think because Taylor started as a theatre actor in New York, he’s kind of the real deal. And because he understands what it means to take on the identity of an entirely new person, he let us go as deep as we needed to whilst creating the creative process around it. The creative process can sometimes be dampened of all the business aspects or the technical aspects of actually just getting something made. Taylor was really great at protecting the actors in the midst of all of that.


Can you elaborate on your personal creative process? I know you said that for season two you prepared by watching The Godfather because several people were making that comparison but how else did you prepare for this role?

For me, my process is different every time. It comes out organically and kind of tailors itself to the character. It’s almost like you want to start approaching it how you think the character might. I always just kinda let things flow at first. There’s a lot of room just to let my brain dance for a while and see what bubbles up. And as I get closer to playing the part, I try to reign all that in and find a real human in there. Obviously, for Kayce a lot of the stuff I was doing to prepare was really technical as far as weapon training, moving to the mountains for six months, etc. All that stuff really started to form the character without me having to do much work. I then begin to study his words, how he behaves, and then when I get on set with the other actors, it all just flowed into place. I don’t know. [giggles] It’s hard to explain. It just feels like you’re becoming a whole new person.


I think I understand you. I interviewed Neils Schneider a while back, and he told me “to act, you have to learn to forget,” and it made complete sense to me. I feel as an actor, you have to go into the role, knowing that this character essentially has lived an entire life without you. So sure, pull from your past experiences but also allow yourself to be fully present in the role you’re living in now.

Absolutely. One of the things they would always say in acting school was, “your head is the devil. Get out of your head. Quit judging it and be present in it.” It took years for me to understand that statement truly. When I know I’m doing it right is when I don’t remember much

between the director yelling action and cut. As long as I feel like I’m not too present in my own head or judging my own work, then I know I’m doing something right.


Tell me what Kayce’s character taught you as an actor or as a person, and what do you think Kayce’s character could learn from you, Luke Grimes?

Great question. Kayce taught me not to say too much. He’s no talk and all action. If you get what I mean. It’s not always the best action, sometimes his decisions are a bit misguided, but I like the fact that he doesn’t talk too much shit. I don’t put myself in danger as much as Kayce does. [giggles] I think what he could learn from me is to be a bit less reckless. You know, maybe not carry a gun in the car.


That’s pretty sound advice. I hope he reads this interview and gets the memo. Last question, for season two of Yellowstone, what relationship are you most excited to see played out on screen?

I think the relationship between Kayce and his dad will be a really welcomed changed from what viewers saw in the first season. I think people really wanted to see this father and his favorite son have a beautiful, peaceful relationship. I was excited about that change in the story and really enjoyed it.