The Paramount Network's hit American western drama Yellowstone is full of complicated characters. Kevin Costner's John Dutton and the rest of the Dutton family — Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes), Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) and Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) — definitely have a lot to deal with while maintaining their family ranch. But the family is held together with the help of longtime friend and foreman Rip Wheeler, played by Cole Hauser.
What's interesting is Hauser almost didn't even play Rip Wheeler on the popular show. The actor explained to Express that when the show's co-creator John Linson first met with him, he gave him the script and told him he thought he would be a great fit. Apparently, he could have requested to play one of John Dutton's sons if he had wanted to.
"He didn't say any role or anything. I looked at the script, and initially my team wanted me to position myself to play one of his sons. And I just didn't see it. I didn't think that there was a role that was right for me when it came to Jamie, or Lee, or Kayce."
His agents were shocked that he felt an immediate connection to the ranch hand Rip, who was barely in the pilot episode of the show.
"The one that jumped off the page was Rip, and they were like 'what are you doing? It's two scenes in a pilot.' I said, 'no this character's gonna have something really good, I can just feel it.'"
While Rip is certainly Hauser's breakout role, it probably isn't the first time you've seen the actor onscreen. So who is Cole Hauser and just what is it about Rip Wheeler that has made audiences fall in love with the complex ranch hand?
Who Plays Rip on Yellowstone?
Raised in Santa Barbara, California, Cole Kenneth Hauser was no stranger to Hollywood. His mother, Cass Warner, founded her own production company and his father, Wings Hauser, was also an actor. And yes, that would be Warner of the Warner Bros. His great-grandfather Harry Warner was a founding partner of the massive production company. So when Hauser dropped out of high school to pursue an acting career, he must've been proud to enter the family business.
His film debut was in School Ties, alongside future stars Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, and Ben Affleck. Soon after, he appeared in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, Higher Learning, Tears of the Sun, and Good Will Hunting with his old friends Matt and Ben. Hauser went on to make his rounds in action films including Pitch Black, the Bruce Willis war film Hart's War, 2 Fast 2 Furious, A Good Day to Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen, The Cave, Paparazzi, Panama, Tigerland, Transcendence, A Matter of Justice, and Acts of Violence. He also found himself in a romcom with The Break-Up.
Before Yellowstone, Hauser also made his rounds on TV. In the '90s, he was a lead on the Steven Speilberg ABC TV series High Incident and later appeared on Rogue, Chase, K-Ville, and the Lifetime limited series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.
Is Cole Hauser Married?
Cole Hauser has been married to Cynthia Daniel, a professional photographer and former actress, since 2006. Daniel starred with her twin sister Brittany Daniel on the teen series Sweet Valley High as Elizabeth "Liz" Wakefield. The also famously played the Doublemint Twins in Doublemint Gum commercials in the '90s.
Hauser occasionally shares photos of his wife and their children, Ryland, Colt and Steely Rose on social media.
Most recently, the couple hit the red carpet for 2022 CMA Awards, where Hauser presented for Album of the Year.
Who is Rip Wheeler?
Rip Wheeler is the foreman of the Dutton Ranch, and John Dutton's right hand man. He's the man John Dutton calls on whenever he needs any situation handled — even if that means stepping outside of the law. (Ahem, the "train station.")
Rip's backstory is one of the most fascinating aspects of the western series. He grew up on a pig farm in Montana. His father was abusive and, in 1997, his father returned to the farm and murdered Rip's mother and brother and attempted to murder Rip. The young boy, played by Kyle Red Silverstein, killed his father and was found sleeping in the hay loft at Dutton Ranch. John Dutton allowed Rip to stay at the Dutton Ranch, putting him to work as one of many residents of the bunkhouse.
Rip relationship with John Dutton's daughter Beth has been a constant in the series since the first season. Though they were once an on again-off again couple, they were always soulmates.
"As far as Rip's concerned, that was his first and only love from when he was 15 years old," Hauser told Deadline. "Time stopped for him and he realized how really special she was and what she could give to his life. But he has lost her a lot over time. I love what Taylor did. He made it a slow burn for us and it has taken four years now to investigate each other as people, and how their hearts beat. And it has been a pleasure to do that with Kelly."
In season four, Beth and Rip finally got married where they love story first began — right there on the Yellowstone. It was unconventional, sure, with Beth in a gold, chain-mail mini-dress, but did we really expect anything less from this couple? It was the perfect ceremony for our favorite Dutton ranch enforcer and firebrand business woman.
Though Rip is now a full-fledged member of the family, his role as John's right hand man has sometimes caused tension between rip and the Dutton sons, Kayce and Jamie.
In an interview with ScreenRant, Hauser explains the tension that develops on the show between his character and Kayce Dutton after Kayce returns to the family ranch.
"I think what's interesting about our relationship is it is a big brother-little brother relationship, and there is some obvious residue from him leaving the ranch and kind of not helping his father when I think he should have. But in the end, I think Rip loves each and every one of his sons like he does John, and obviously he has a tremendous amount of love for Beth. So I don't think he's the kind of person that goes, 'I'm gonna put myself in the middle of this and stand on my own two feet.' It's been happening for thirty years."
So what can we expect from Rip in season five? Well, Yellowstone fans will be thrilled to know that we can expect more Beth and Rip. Hauser told Us Weekly that fans would see more of Rip's life as a married man, as well as more of Rip taking charge now that John is officially sworn in as governor of Montana.
"[Fans will see] more of Beth and I married, obviously," Hauser said. "Some pretty amazing stuff, cowboy wise. ... The actors and I got to do a lot of stuff that we've never been able to do before. I think we've earned the trust of [Sheridan] he's allowed us to go and really cowboy for the first time. So that's been really cool. And then I think Rip being kind of thrusted into being the foreman without John around is a new experience for the character as well."
Yellowstone season five airs on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. CT/ 8 p.m. ET on Paramount.
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This article was originally published in July, 2020. It was updated on Nov. 13, 2022.
READ MORE: Who Plays Beth Dutton on 'Yellowstone'? Kelly Reilly Brings the Series' Toughest Character to Life
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