Beth and John Dutton in season 5 of 'Yellowstone'

'Yellowstone' Season 5 Drama and Kevin Costner Departure, Explained

The world of television is no stranger to off-screen drama, and the beloved Western series Yellowstone is no exception. With an eager fan base awaiting the second half of season 5, Paramount Network is dealing with a potential crisis involving the show's star, Kevin Costner. Despite his recent Golden Globe win for his role as John Dutton, there is speculation that Costner appears to be looking for a way out of the series, though it was confirmed that Season 5 will be hist last.

Yellowstone has gained a huge following over its five-season run, largely due to Costner's portrayal of ranch owner John Dutton. Under the direction of Taylor Sheridan, the series has grown from an initial audience of around 3 million viewers to a staggering 7-8 million average — the most popular series on television. The Season 5 premiere alone brought in over 16 million viewers. This success has led to further collaborations between Sheridan and Paramount, spawning gritty spinoffs like 1883 and 1923.

But as it stands, the future of Yellowstone as a whole is up in the air. It's unclear at this point when the series will resume filming to finish its latest season or if Costner will even return. While we're contemplating when or if Season 5 Part 2 is on its way at this point, get up to date on all the drama with this helpful timeline.

Costner's Alleged Departure

Kevin Costner speaks onstage during the Paramount+ UK launch at Outernet London on June 20, 2022 in London, England.

Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Paramount+

Yellowstone fans were first left shocked and confused after Deadline reported in February that showrunner Sheridan, Paramount Network and Paramount Global were in talks to end "their signature show in its current form." Their reasoning? Costner had apparent scheduling conflicts that were never really fleshed out with his new western saga Horizon. Deadline also reported that Costner would be exiting the series, with actor Matthew McConaughey rumored to star in a new spinoff with many unnamed Yellowstone stars going with him.

Paramount Network denied the report, stating that they hoped Costner would remain part of the Yellowstone family "for a long time to come." They also expressed interest in working with McConaughey, noting, "Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we'd love to partner." However, they pooh-poohed initial reports that Costner would be leaving the show.

Costner's Reported Absences and Demands

Kevin Costner at the 2022 SAG Awards red carpet

Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Rumblings of trouble continued when reports emerged that Costner had demanded $1.2 million per episode for the 16-episode fifth season. He is reportedly threatening a $1.5 million cost per episode for a potential sixth season.

Adding fuel to the fire, Costner allegedly left the set multiple times before completing his scenes for blocks of the second batch of Season 5 episodes. The show has reportedly struggled to reschedule with Costner, who has supposedly only offered about a week of dates in the summer of 2023. That included a few days reserved for pick-ups in the fall. These delays have pushed the second half of Season 5 to November, which was originally supposed to air in the summer.

In response to these allegations, Costner's lawyer Marty Singer stated, "The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of Season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie. 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."

The Cast Responds

Wes Bentley, Luke Grimes, Kelsey Asbille, Gil Birmingham, Cole Hauser and Kai Caster attend Paramount's "Yellowstone" Season 5 New York Premiere at Walter Reade Theater on November 03, 2022 in New York City

Roy Rochlin/WireImage

Many of the main cast members weighed in on the rumors of Costner's departure with their own thoughts on what was in store for the series.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Wes Bentley offered his thoughts on the entire situation.

"The news that's come out recently about the show is, you know, it's above my pay grade. Different people making decisions," Bentley said. "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."

At the CMT Music Awards, Lainey Wilson told Fox News Digital that she's totally out of the loop on what's happening with the show.

"I've realized the movie business is even crazier than the music business. So I'm not lying to you when I tell you I have no clue what is going on with 'Yellowstone.' I'm out of the loop too, so, somebody let me know when y'all find out," she said.

Ian Bohen, a presenter at the CMTs with co-star Jennifer Landon, asked fans for patience, saying that the rest of season 5 should be coming "later this year."

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Piper Perabo weighed in.

"I mean there's always a lot of drama when it comes to Yellowstone, don't believe everything you hear!"

She didn't have anything concrete to add on Yellowstone's future but did add, "Taylor Sheridan knows to play it really close to the vest, and I know better than to speak outside the ranch, but I'm excited to see what happens next."

Even Josh Lucas, who plays a young John Dutton on the series, posted a cryptic video of scenes of him and Costner playing John Dutton, his caption a glowing review of his experience on the show. This resulted in fans jumping to the comments, expressing interest in Lucas taking over the John Dutton role if it means the series gets to continue.

What's Next for Yellowstone?

John Dutton rides in the back seat of a car in a scene from 'Yellowstone'


Moving forward without Costner is an option, but part of Sheridan's appeal lies in the big names he attracts for his projects: Sylvester Stallone for Tulsa King, Jeremy Renner for Mayor of Kingstown, Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren for 1923, etc. Without Costner, Yellowstone's appeal might take a significant hit. Lukewarm reviews Yellowstone received for the first half of Season 5 grow louder, the show's actual plots seem to take a backseat to the unfolding drama.

But despite the reported mutual frustration between Costner and the cast, crew, and executives, including Sheridan himself, it's clear that losing Costner would be a massive blow for Paramount. Reports have suggested that Sheridan, buried in projects for Paramount+, has had difficulties delivering Yellowstone scripts on time in their entirety while shooting Season 5 as it is.

Considering that most of the excitement surrounding Sheridan's collaboration with Paramount stems from Yellowstone's enormous success, allowing the show to falter could be a costly mistake for the network. The "Taylor Sheridan Universe" wouldn't be the same without Costner's star power on Yellowstone.

Matthew McConaughey's Spinoff Confirmed

Matthew McConaughey attends the premiere of HBO's "True Detective" Season 3 at Directors Guild Of America on January 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California

Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Rumors have been swirling from the very beginning of this mess that Matthew McConaughey might star in a spinoff series. While initially unconfirmed, Paramount Media Network head Chris McCarthy has now verified that this project is indeed in the works.

McConaughey's spinoff is just one of over 10 projects that Taylor Sheridan, Yellowstone's creator, is currently juggling. With a busy year for Sheridan, which includes wrapping up the first season of Tulsa King and the second season of Mayor of Kingstown, as well as announcing the casts of 1883 spinoff Bass Reeves and new spy thriller Lioness, the specifics of McConaughey's spinoff remain a mystery.

Fans can only speculate that it may be set in the actor's home state of Texas.

Costner and Sheridan No Show PaleyFest

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

Presley Ann/Getty Images

On Saturday, April 1, Costner, Sheridan, executive producer David Glasser, and main cast members Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Jacki Weaver, Kelsey Asbille and Gil Birmingham were set to appear on a panel to discuss the future of the series. Fans were shocked when there was a last-minute change, and Josh Lucas, Mo Brings Plenty, Dawn Olivieri and Wendy Moniz showed up instead. Keith Cox, president of development and production at Paramount Network, also joined the panel and addressed the crowd that he was confident the show would continue as would Costner.

"What I can say is our star, the face of our show and the executive producer, [we] are very confident he's going to continue with our show," Cox told the crowd at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Many of the audience members were so frustrated that Sheridan and the main cast did not show up, they not only left the panel but demanded their money back. Many continued to filter out throughout the conversation The Hollywood Reporter reports that PaleyFest was notified of the changes very late. The cast members explained that they had not received any firm dates to resume filming the remaining season 5 episodes.

What Does Taylor Sheridan Say?

Kevin Costner as John Dutton in "Yellowstone"


As speculation continues, Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan has remained tight-lipped about his plans for the series. However, he has previously stated that he knows how he wants the series to end and has been writing towards that finale from the start.

Sheridan told The New York Times in December 2021, "There's only so much hovering one can do before the story starts to lose its locomotion; you can't put it in neutral just because it's successful. It will go as many years as it takes for me to tell the story, but you're not going to see nine seasons of it. No way."

Costner's Departure Confirmed

Kevin Costner as John Dutton on 'Yellowstone'

Photo via Paramount Network

After months of speculation, it was finally confirmed that Season 5 will be the end of John Dutton. Since we're still waiting on the second half of episodes, we don't actually know what this means for the character. He could come back for the rest of the season, for part of it, or we could open up at his funeral. It's anyone's guess. All we know is that sources close to the production have revealed that if there's a Season 6, Costner won't be part of it. Hopefully, this new development won't change Sheridan's overall plans for ending the Dutton saga as he always intended.

READ MORE: The Phenomenon of 'Yellowstone' Is Inspiring Every Major Streamer to Round Up Their Own Western