After traveling around the West looking for a place to land, Yellowstone actor Luke Grimes and his wife now call Montana home. Among other things, he's loving the short commute to set.
While other members of his Montana ranch family deal with their own existential threats and scheme over solutions to internal power struggles, Kayce Dutton sweats out a life-altering four-day solo vision quest on the Broken Rock Indian Reservation. That's how Season 4 of the No. 1 TV drama Yellowstone comes to a close, and it's a fitting microcosm of the Dutton family's story since it began with the show's 2017 premiere.
Yellowstone is a show rooted in conflict on every level of the human experience. Between the ranch dynasty of patriarch John Dutton (played by Kevin Costner), the Native American tribe led by Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), and the corporations and financial entities trying to make development in-roads, there's rarely a peaceful moment in creator Taylor Sheridan's fictional West. But again, Kayce Dutton is at least trying to find some inner peace. That's one thing to which Luke Grimes — the 38-year-old actor playing Kayce — can relate.
The Ohio native has starred since the beginning as the Dutton son who feels torn between preserving his dad's legacy and protecting the happiness of his own wife and son (played by Kelsey Asbille and Brecken Merrill). The character may be unsure about his way forward, but Grimes now finds himself more settled and at peace than ever. He and his wife of nearly five years, Brazilian model Bianca Rodrigues Grimes, are now Montana residents, having put down stakes in a rural area very near to where much of the show is filmed.
"Well, my metropolis is Missoula," Grimes tells us when we ask where in Montana he's living. "I don't think I'm allowed to tell you where I live, or the locals will kill me because they don't want anybody to know about it."
"I tried to keep it under wraps where I was building my house out here. But when you live in a place this small, everyone knows. It was a fool's errand trying to keep that a secret."
We quickly realized that Grimes appreciates all things low-key, relaxed, and natural during a recent conversation. He was warm and candid regarding life changes, his evolution on the show, his favorite holiday traditions, and his burgeoning career as a singer-songwriter.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you guys get into when you're not filming up there, now that you're in Montana full time?
Luke Grimes: We're going to Whitefish today to see some friends. ...We have full blown seasons and so you're out where activities really change depending on the time of year. Right now the river's starting to get good. It's warm now, so we float the river a lot, do a lot of fishing. I'm just getting into fly fishing and not very good at it yet. ...[We do] a lot of lake and river activities, and just get outside a ton. It's a hiker's paradise up here.
C&I: And I bet your commute to the Yellowstone set is a lot easier than it used to be.
Grimes: It's kind of a cushy situation right now. I'm less than an hour from the ranch we shoot on and just as close to Missoula where some of our sound stages are. That kind of drive here is a pleasure. First season, I never would've thought I would've ended up living here, but man, I'm in heaven.
C&I: What do you think was the turning point for you in making the decision to move there? Was it getting married, or was it just working there so often and growing to love it?
Grimes: A little bit of both. Obviously when I got married, we started having a conversation about where we'd want to raise a family. My wife is from Brazil and neither one of us had any real roots in LA. I'd lived there for a long time and have friends there, but my friends are all sort of artists and are all over the place anyway. And we just started figuring where do we want to be for the foreseeable future, and we didn't know. I said, "Well, in the meantime, let's try Austin, Texas. I've always had a good time there. We can just start there and see if we like it." We were there for about three months when the pandemic hit, so now we were stuck in a loft downtown Austin where we didn't know anyone. And I was like, Well, this isn't it.
So we got an Airstream and started traveling around all the national parks. I told my wife I've always wanted to live in the mountains. I always saw myself there when I got older. And I told her to let me know if she saw a place she liked. As soon as we got to Montana for work, we were in the Airstream for a couple months, and she was like, "Can we live here?" And I was like, "That works for me. I work here."
First season, I never would've thought I would've ended up living here, but man, I'm in heaven.
C&I: What had life been like in that Airstream, for a couple of newlyweds looking for their next home?
Grimes: One mistake we made was getting a cat before we got an Airstream, so it was us two and a cat. Cats don't like tiny spaces. We had to get the cat a leash figure it out, like "walk" the cat. That part was pretty comical, but I mean, it was a dream. I'd always wanted to do a trip like that and had in the past rented Cruise America RV's and stuff, and done Western trips, but to have our little traveling home and to be with my wife and just to see a lot of new places together — or watch her see a place that I had already been — was really a dream. And especially during a time when everyone else was sort of stuck. And I don't mean that to sound gloat-y. I'm just saying I felt very, very lucky to be able to have a bit of freedom.
OVER THE RIDGE FROM THE DUTTON RANCH...
We wanted to find a special place where photographer Emerson Miller could capture the quiet, confident spirit of cover star Luke Grimes with nature in the background. We ended up receiving a little help from our friends at Bledsoe Conner Holdings, who allowed us to bring our cover shoot together at one of its beautiful properties. Their land offerings are located less than an hour from the Bitterroot Valley (location of the Dutton Ranch) and thriving Missoula, Montana. They're the kinds of places where you might imagine the fictional Duttons — or real-life American West enthusiasts such as Grimes himself — spending holidays and weekends hiking in the mountains, fishing in rivers, or simply kicking back and taking it all in. Find out more at facebook.com/bledsoeconnorholdings.com
C&I: Did the time in such close proximity help to cement the kind of life you want to have together?
Grimes: I think what we realized is we just really get along. I think in those small spaces and the amount of work it actually takes to go from park to park and set up camp and take down and then be in this small space, I just realized that man, we could literally spend every waking moment together.
C&I: Have the road-tripping and the move had any effect on the music you are writing and working on for an upcoming album? What was your musical journey like leading up to now?
Grimes: I've played music since I was pretty little. I started out playing drums in church and then when I moved to New York, I started playing guitar and writing songs. I was in country bands in LA writing songs and playing drums. And it's just always been something that I love to do, more of a hobby than something I had any ambition towards. I always saw movies and film and acting as something that could possibly be my job. I think music was something I liked to tinker around with over the last couple years.
I thank the show in a lot of ways for putting me on the map and in that country music arena a little bit. I've started making a few friends who knew people who heard some things I did, and one thing led to another. As soon as I'm done [filming] here, I'll go back to Nashville for the rest of the year and hopefully have some music out by the end of this year or early next year.
C&I: Can you tell us a little about what we can expect regarding your musical style and songwriting?
Grimes: It's all over the place. I'm not one of those people that collect music like baseball cards and only follow certain artists. I could like one song from an artist and listen to that song on repeat, and then not really connect with anything else they do. Or I'll connect with an artist and love everything they do. Genre-wise, even what I listen to is all over the place, but what I end up writing and what tends to come out of me the easiest is a folky, country singer-songwriter kind of feel. That's just the music that I tend to create.
C&I: Is it originating from guitar?
Grimes: I started as a drummer. I always say this, but you know when I moved to New York, I couldn't really have a drum set in New York City. It's impossible. I was going to acting school and I missed the music element in my life. So, I was like, Why don't I just learn the guitar? I can do that anywhere. And I got a guitar, started, and I think that really changed the kind of music that I liked as I was learning.
I thank the show in a lot of ways for putting me on the map and in that country music arena a little bit.
C&I: What do you writer about most? Love?
Grimes: Love. You got to start there, I think, because it is the glue of the human experience, and everyone can relate. And what else is higher? What else has the stakes high enough that you want to actually sing about it?
C&I: Any lyrics about your beautiful new surroundings in the West?
Grimes: If I have written any, they're all still just a metaphor for love.
C&I: With the holidays upon us soon, what can you tell us about how you and your wife will be celebrating the season this year?
Grimes: For many years, the holidays were sort of a time when I could travel. I could plan ahead to do a trip somewhere because I knew I wasn't going to get some phone call that I had to be somewhere else. For years and years, I would go to Ohio for Thanksgiving because deer hunting was the week after. And I would stay in Ohio for a couple weeks and really get that family time in. It feels like the holidays and all the boys go hunting. And then over Christmas and New Year's, I would always travel. Now that I'm married, we're going to start our own traditions. We're just sort of finding that.
Out first Christmas was in a tiny house I had in LA, so I had to get a pretty small Christmas tree, but I remember the feeling of just going and getting this little Christmas tree and us putting it up together and just kind of taking a moment to be like, Wow, I hope we get to do this for many years and with our children someday. It's going to be fun to see how that evolves for us.
C&I: Let's dive into Yellowstone. Now that you're here and you've been doing this for a long time, how does it feel now going back into work for a new season? You had cowboy camp at the beginning to bond everybody and give you the comfort level, but what do you do now to kick things off with the cast?
Grimes: We still do cowboy camp every year, and I think part of it is to get proficient on a horse as much as we can so we don't hurt ourselves. But I think another part of it is just getting everybody back in the groove, getting the actors and the wranglers and all these moving parts back together again to keep the machine well oiled. And like you said, we've been doing this since 2017 at this point. There are a lot of really close bonds now. I mean, these people feel like family. We've been up here since we shot season four — that's when we moved here. So, to finally have everyone come back now that this is home is a dream. On a Saturday, everybody will come over and we'll all go down to the river and everybody hangs out and it's a big, happy family. I feel every year when they leave now, I'm going to get the summer camp blues a little bit. Miss everybody. Especially when it's over over — that's going to be tough.
One way I approach things is to go pretty deep and try to basically get into the skin of the character as much as I can.
C&I: I feel like your character is probably the most morally centered in the family. But there's always inner turmoil — we see more potentially coming after Kayce's spiritual experience at the end of season four. Where do you feel Kayce is mentally going into the new season, and how do you prepare for it as an actor?
Grimes: You said something interesting there about Kayce being the most morally centered. And I think from the outside looking in that's what you see, but I think for Kayce, he doesn't feel that way at all. I think he thinks he's a terrible person. And when you look at him from the outside and you know that he's not, and you can see his big bleeding heart, you really do feel for the guy. That's a reason why I don't watch the show. I will one day, but I don't want to see what the audience sees because I think that would make it harder to play him. There's a big dichotomy between the way he feels about himself and the choices he makes. And I think that's what's most interesting about Kayce.
C&I: That's quite an organic way to play a character. If you haven't seen how it's edited and if you haven't seen how it's played in the episodes, it can't inform you as much going forward.
Grimes: I think if I just sit and watch with everyone else, I might be drawing conclusions about this guy or I might be getting in my head about things because we're all insecure human beings. Maybe that would affect my choices in some way. I'm actually very excited to watch the whole thing one day because I want to see what everybody else is doing. There are so many worlds within the show. And there's a lot of performances I haven't gotten to see yet. I've seen a few episodes. I saw the premiere, obviously. So I saw the very first one and then little things here and there, and I've watched maybe two episodes with my wife, because she made me. But for the most part, I just want to sort of keep the actual tone of the show a mystery. I just want to feel it from the inside out.
C&I: Do you imagine doing other types of acting projects in the near future — maybe playing a villain — or are you focused on Yellowstone for the time being?
Grimes: We took a really long break [over the last couple of years]. And I was feeling a little antsy artistically. I'd always wanted to try doing a romantic comedy, just because I thought it might be kind of fun not to be so intense for five seconds. So, I did a romantic comedy, and I'm not sure I was very good at it.
C&I: What was it about that you didn't feel was right?
Grimes: I just felt like a fish out of water and I think part of that is because I went from only doing films for a month or two at a time to playing Kayce Dutton in Yellowstone for five years. It really is hard to shake it.
One way I approach things is to go pretty deep and try to basically get into the skin of the character as much as I can. And to do that for so long has been one of the biggest pleasures of my life, because I love this about doing anything else, acting-wise, right now. I think that's part of the reason why the music thing is sort of going to be what I'm focused on for a little while.
C&I: It's interesting to hear that you can get to immersed in this role for many years. But I doubt the show's fans mind. They would probably like you to do it forever.
Grimes: I probably would do it forever. I know that's unrealistic, but I enjoy the world — not because it's easy or anything. It's an intense job like I said. You have a little internal battle when you play a character like this, but it's also like a drug at this point. I love playing Kayce Dutton.
C&I’s LUKE GRIMES COVER SHOOT…
The team at Bledsoe Connor Holdings welcomed the C&I crew and Emerson Miller (the talented on-set photographer for Yellowstone) to its land properties near the Montana border for a beautiful cover shoot. The resulting shots of star Luke Grimes are different in tone than the shots we took back in 2018, capturing the actor as he travels down new personal and creative roads.