Yellowstone is hardly lacking in dramatic characters—the uncompromising patriarch John, the savagely strategic Beth, the ever beleaguered Jamie—but when it comes to the show's legions of fans, no resident of Dutton ranch has earned as overwhelming and devoted a following as Rip Wheeler. Over the course of the series' first four seasons, the unwaveringly loyal ranch hand proved himself to be as comfortable leading a cattle drive as he is taking enemies of the ranch on permanent trips to the infamous "train station," and, in the process, he's became a bonafide sex symbol.
It's a turn that Cole Hauser didn't see coming. When asked if he was surprised that fans have fallen in love with Rip, the actor, who recently returned to the character again for the show's fifth season, laughs, "Yes."
"I think it surprised Taylor too," he admits to T&C, "It's definitely not something that was ever on the table, that we ever discussed. In fact, I think it was quite the opposite. [Taylor] was like, 'Oh man, people are gonna think you're fucking nuts. I wrote this scene, the way you kill this guy or burn this guy,' you know what I mean? And for whatever reason it's kind of worked the opposite."
Of course, Rip's particular brand of violence-tinged devotion has always had the eye of at least one woman, Beth (played by Kelly Reilly). The couple's spiraling romance, which stretches back totheir childhood days, has always had the flavor of something epic. And is season four, they finally (if unconventionally) tied the knot. But that doesn't mean that everyone's favorite ranch hand is approaching life differently this latest season—or that he considers himself a member of Montana's first family.
"Taylor didn't write it that way, which I love. I actually like the fact that it's business as usual," Hauser says. "No, I don't think that ever crosses his mind being a Dutton. It's more of the loyalty, the honor that he has for John, the friendship that he has with Kayce. But no, never a Dutton."
Lately, Hauser's been living the cowboy life—on screen and off.
"We wrestle steers, we're pushing cows. I mean, there's some amazing cowboy stuff this year that I don't think anybody's ever seen on television or film. Taylor really took off the shackles and let the actors do their thing," he says. "Even when we're working, if we have an hour off, we're roping, we're cutting cows. I mean, at this point there are no wranglers. We are it."
And while there's still a long way to go before the end of Yellowstone's super-sized fifth season, when asked the burning question on every fan's mind—will there be a season six, or is this the end?—Hauser is characteristically circumspect. "Man, I don't know about the end shit," he laughs. "We're doing alright right now. We shouldn't be talking about the end. We should be talking about season five."
If there's one thing for certain, it's that there will be plenty to talk about.
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