Kelly Reilly wants peace for her ‘Yellowstone’ character, but not too soon
It’s hard not to be in awe of the view Kelly Reilly shows me during our video interview. Outside the windows is the deep-blue Montana skyline, an endless horizon of fat, scuddy clouds and rolling mountains. She’s in the midst of shooting the fifth season of Taylor Sheridan’s enthralling western epic “Yellowstone” and has just woken up after filming “until the wee hours.”
The English actor portrays Beth Dutton, a character who has become a series favorite among women (and men) because of her resilient nature that’s matched by a sharp tongue, which “doesn’t have an edit switch.” Reilly says the sprawling backdrop helps to understand what the Dutton family is fighting for. “If this [land] was going to be cemented over and turned into a city, it would be utterly heartbreaking. Plus, those mountains are brutal. Wherever you go, you’re in a place where you have to have your wits about you. That sort of fierceness, that edge is what Beth is made up from. I enjoy that she’s cut to that mountain rock.”
But beneath Beth’s rigid cowboy exterior is a wounded heart. The cause of such pain is revealed during a flashback sequence in Season 3 in which her mother is tragically crushed by a spooked horse and in her dying moments blames it on her 14-year-old daughter. Beth carries the weight of that guilt. But it’s also the shadow of her fearlessness. It’s what moves her to prey on the circling vultures trying to take her family’s land.
“For me, the central person in Beth’s life is her father [John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner]. I always take it back to her feeling of her need to make it up to him for what she believes she took from him … his wife, which is his happiness. That, I think, is at the root of why she’s doing what she’s doing for him.”
In Season 4 (and fair warning, there are plot spoilers ahead), Beth is tangled between trying to save the ranch from a hostile takeover and pushing her father to find those responsible for the attempted murder of their family, a story line that’s been carried over from the previous season’s explosive finale. Beth believes it’s her now-adopted brother Jamie (Wes Bentley) behind it all, but her father assures her otherwise. The twist in the story, which Beth cleverly tracks down, is that it’s Jamie’s biological father (Will Patton) who wants them dead.
“The pain Beth carries over Jamie has never been attended to. [In Season 3, we learned Jamie takes Beth to an abortion clinic and doesn’t say that the procedure will sterilize her.] So as far as anything about what’s gone on in the past with him and her, it’s now about his biological father trying to kill them and Jamie not doing anything about it,” Reilly says. “She has to have vengeance for the attack. There’s no way she can let that go. Instead of her doing it — here’s when you find the ferociousness of her mind — Beth is going to get Jamie to [kill his biological father], which will be one of the most hurtful things she can make him do. That means he’s responsible and Beth owns him.”
The married country music stars play a couple who head out into unsettled lands with their teen daughter where they face tough times in the ‘Yellowstone’ prequel.
It’s not all fight for Beth, though. She finds love after her mother’s passing in Rip (Cole Hauser), an orphan boy turned badass cowboy. It’s a welcome layer to a complex character for Reilly. “In a show that’s so violent and brutal, their love story, for me, is so tender. I get to explore the sides of Beth where those walls are down and she can experience happiness and peace.”
Their on-again-off-again relationship turns a new page when Beth asks for his hand in marriage. “Rip loves Beth’s wildness. She’s all instinct and primal. She’s that rushing river. And if she was with a man who was trying to hinder or control that, it wouldn’t work,” Reilly says. “Because they loved each other as kids, we’ve always tried to weave in this element of how youthful she feels with him.”
In the climactic Season 4 finale, that innocence is on full display when Beth and Rip spontaneously get married at the ranch. Rather than traditional white, she wears a gold chainmail mini-dress, fur coat and boots. “I had this idea where before Beth gets everyone outside she runs up and puts on her mother’s wedding dress, but if we changed her into this beautiful, simple gown, it wouldn’t be Beth,” Reilly says. “Beth doesn’t care what she’s getting married in. She just wants to be married.”
The ceremony is marked by her father, John, walking her down a makeshift aisle to Rip, where the pair exchange ad-libbed vows before sealing it with a kiss in front of a priest that Beth quite literally kidnapped. (Don’t worry: John offers him a ride back to his church.)
“There’s something unaware about herself that’s really fun to play,” Reilly notes. “I love that there’s room for a female character who’s so powerful and so flawed. And her heart is something I get to care about so much. I feel like [creator] Taylor and I have hit a nerve with something and now it’s about protecting it and keeping it authentic. Seeing how much bigger we can make it. How powerful she can be and what her soul’s journey is. For me, I want peace for Beth in the end. Hopefully, we will get there, but we are not anywhere close.”
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