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Taylor Sheridan's small-screen dominance is stunning, a decade after he began screenwriting as a working actor

  • "For both Taylor Sheridan and the Yellowstone universe, 1883 is just the beginning," Alison Herman says of Sheridan. " A second spinoff, 6666, will center on a real-life ranch in Texas, while Mayor of Kingstown, another Sheridan cocreation, debuted earlier this fall on Paramount+. (An ensemble show about a Michigan town bound up in mass incarceration, Kingstown has no narrative overlap with Yellowstone.) Sheridan has also teamed with Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter for Kansas City, a starring vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, and is producing Land Man, an adaptation of a narrative podcast about the West Texas oil industry. Like Kingstown and 1883, both series will air on Paramount+, part of Sheridan’s lucrative overall deal with ViacomCBS. He’s even dipped his toe into unscripted programming, producing a docuseries called The Last Cowboy that’s set to move from the depleted Paramount Network to CMT. It’s an impressive portfolio for any showrunner, let alone someone who didn’t start writing screenplays until they were 40 years old. Sheridan is one of those Hollywood types whose life story feels like movie material in its own right. After growing up on a ranch and flunking out of Texas State University, a Hollywood talent scout spotted Sheridan in Austin, leading to two decades of work as a journeyman actor in LA. (His Fairfax-area fourplex was once also home to Michael Mann.) While renegotiating his contract for Sons of Anarchy, Sheridan had an epiphany: He didn’t want to raise his newborn son in a cramped apartment on an unsteady income. So he quit acting, maxed out his wife’s credit card on a copy of Final Draft, and got to work on Sicario, his first-ever script. For a while, features were Sheridan’s bread and butter. His sophomore effort, Hell or High Water—the story of two brothers who rob banks in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, written in just three weeks—earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Sicario became the rare original concept successful enough to earn a sequel, which Sheridan also wrote. In 2017, he broke into Hollywood directing with Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who gets caught up in the search for a missing Native woman against the backdrop of a brutal Wyoming winter. But like for many auteurs before him, the siren song of TV proved too compelling to resist. The blockbuster success of Yellowstone would then form the foundation of a TV empire in the making—not at the same scale as, and radically different in content from, the Shonda Rhimeses and Ryan Murphys of the world, but certainly on the same spectrum...Across both film and TV, the typical Sheridan property has a remarkably consistent outline: firm genre roots, operatic violence, and a pointed focus on America’s interior. (There are also consistent players: Renner, Jon Bernthal, and Aiden Gillen have all appeared in multiple Sheridan projects.) The latter also forms the basis of Sheridan’s own persona as advanced in profiles and interviews."


    • 1883's first two episodes are up there with Taylor Sheridan's best work: "It’s like (Frank) Darabont’s The Walking Dead without zombies — and it’s interesting to consider how similar post-apocalyptic America is to the Old West," says Dustin Rowles. "Sheridan traffics in all those Western themes for which he is so well known but keeps the stories squarely centered on the characters. Tim McGraw and his real-life wife Faith Hill are surprisingly excellent in their roles; Sam Elliot is Sam F***ing Elliot, LaMonica Garrett has a strong but quiet presence, and even Billy Bob Thornton — who appears as a nasty gunslinging lawman — steals what little screentime he’s had so far. It’s Isabel May, however, who commands the screen, even if the voiceover she provides is unnecessary. She is the feisty, bad-a** precursor to Kelly Reilly’s character in Yellowstone. The series is also cinematic as hell, thanks to the cinematography of Christina Voros and Ben Richardson, the latter of whom worked on Sheridan’s Yellowstone and Wind River, as well as Mare of Easttown and Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s worth noting, too, that knowledge of Yellowstone itself is completely unnecessary — the shows are separated by two generations, at least — although watching 1883 may increase one’s interest in the parent series. Two episodes in, and I genuinely can’t stop thinking about it."
    • Costume Designer Janie Bryant says working on 1883 is "epic, epic, epic": Bryant, who won an Emmy for costuming Deadwood and was nominated multiple times for Mad Men, says "epic" is the best way to describe working on the Yellowstone prequel series. “On my first episode, I probably had a thousand extras," she says. "And of course, designing the principal cast.” Bryant also credits the players for the authenticity on-screen. “The actresses are all in corsets … riding horses or driving wagons, and the men are all in wool with the heat and the elements, and you can really feel how taxing it was,” she says. “Think about a hundred-degree weather and wearing a camisole, corset, bloomers, bustle pad, petticoat and then putting a costume on top of that. I applaud them for being for going with it.” She adds: “My costume team had gotten some ice packs and other things to try to ease the pain. Sam Elliott was like, ‘I don’t need it. I want to be hot.’ They really embraced what it would be like to live in 1883.”

    TOPICS: Taylor Sheridan, Paramount+, Paramount Network, 1883, The Last Cowboy, Mayor of Kingstown, Tulsa King, Yellowstone, Janie Bryant, Costume Design