Taylor Sheridan arrives at the world premiere of "1883" at Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Who Wrote 'Yellowstone'? Meet Series Creator Taylor Sheridan

It seems like screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has been the talk of the town lately because people can't seem to get enough of his hit Paramount Network TV show Yellowstone. It's the most popular series on cable, now in its fifth season. Following the story of the Dutton family working to defend their family's Montana legacy, the modern western has been credited with reigniting excitement around the entire western genre. Nearly every other network has tried to replicate its success with its own take on a modern or classic western, but there's only one Yellowstone. Though Sheridan has defended his beloved drama against those who dismiss it as a "red state show," fans continue to rally behind him and all of his various additional projects as he continues to expand the Yellowstone universe with multiple spinoffs and prequels as well as additional new shows like Sylvester Stallone's new hit Tulsa King.

Though he's certainly made a name for himself as a filmmaker,  Sheridan actually got his start in front of the camera instead of his current preferred place: behind the scenes. He didn't actually transition to writing until he was in his 40s, proof that it's never too late to follow your dreams. 

Who is Taylor Sheridan?

Taylor Sheridan attends the "1923" Las Vegas premiere screening the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on December 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada

David Becker/Getty Images for Paramount+

Sheridan grew up in Cranfills Gap, Texas, on his family ranch. As a student at Texas State University in San Marcos, he started acting, which was where a talent scout discovered him and suggested he move out to Los Angeles. According to his IMDB, Sheridan booked roles on NCIS: Los Angeles, Walker, Texas Ranger, Veronica Mars and more before he landed the main role of David Hale on Sons of Anarchy, but he was making significantly less than other actors on the show. He explained to Deadline that was really what prompted him to quit acting entirely. 

"We were renegotiating on Sons after the second season and I had one idea, and the studio had a different idea. Everyone on the show was making twice what I'm making, the other series regulars. We're not talking about the stars. And I'm on the DVD [cover] bro; only two people on it. I say, "Why is this all you're offering me? It seems unfair." I'm told, "That's all you're worth and all you'll ever be worth." I took that in. And I said, "OK. I guess I'll tell my own stories."

Well, there ya go. Not only did Sheridan go and tell his own stories, but he was clearly meant to do so. The first time he wrote a feature film script, it was a major Hollywood hit. Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, was a renowned thriller when it was released, earning Sheridan a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It even got its own sequel in 2018, Sicario: Day of the Soldado.

His second script, Hell or High Water, starring Ben Foster, Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and proved that he had some serious skills for writing westerns. 

As Sheridan told Deadline, he was in it for the long haul. 

"I wasn't among those precious few actors in the position to choose things, so I spent the first 20 years of my career compromising," Sheridan said. "I decided I would spend the next 20 never compromising."

Sheridan's directorial debut Wind River, which he also wrote, was released in 2017. The film, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, centers on a wildlife officer and FBI agent working to solve a murder on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. It also featured future Yellowstone cast members Kelsey Asbille and Gil Birmingham


Taylor Sheridan, Kelly Reilly and Kevin Costner attend the premiere of Paramount Pictures' "Yellowstone" at Paramount Studios on June 11, 2018 in Hollywood, California.

Photo by Michael Tullberg/WireImage

 After that, Sheridan decided to create his own television series: Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner as Montana rancher John Dutton. Sheridan has even appeared in front of the camera multiple times and had an expanded role in season four as Travis, a horsetrader. 

Sheridan explained to Deadline that it was important to ensure that the series' writing and ranch setting was authentic. He's a real-life cowboy dedicated to depicting his lifestyle accurately.

"The challenge to this world is...it's not a terribly difficult plot. But if you didn't grow up with cowboys and in this world, and you don't know this world, it's a really hard world to write because you're going to fall back on the clichés of that world," Sheridan said. "People tune in to the show for varying reasons, but the authenticity of the show is its bedrock. From the saddles that are used, from the kind of horses that we use, to the situations that I place them in that if you don't spend your afternoons moving cattle, you don't know those situations exist."

Additional Taylor Sheridan Projects

Sheridan expanded the Yellowstone universe with the prequel 1883, starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and 1923, starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. 1883 is getting its own spinoff based on Wild West legend Bass Reeves, starring David Oyelowo, and Yellowstone is getting a modern spinoff set in Texas.

Tulsa King, starring Sylvester Stallone, is currently airing on Paramount+ and had such a successful debut it's already been renewed for a second season. Lioness, starring Zoe Saldana, is in the works as well as Land Man, starring Billy Bob Thornton, which is based on the 11-part podcast Boomtown.

He directed the 2021 film Those Who Wish Me Dead, starring Angelina Jolie and Finn Little, who is currently playing the role of Carter on Yellowstone.

Mayor of Kingstown, starring Jeremy Renner, has a second season premiering in Jan. 2023.

Sheridan also launched the reality series The Last Cowboy, which gives an inside look at the real life of cowboys and cowgirls.

This article was originally published in 2020.

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READ MORE: 'Yellowstone' Prequel '1883' Is Getting a Spinoff About Legendary Black Cowboy Bass Reeves