Taylor Sheridan, the creative force behind the hit TV series “Yellowstone,” said he pitched the show to cable giant HBO, but a network vice president told him it was “so middle America.”
“Yellowstone,” a modern Western family drama starring Kevin Costner as patriarch John Dutton, who controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the U.S., is amid its fifth and final season on the Paramount Network.
Sheridan told The Hollywood Reporter in a story published Wednesday that “Yellowstone” ended up in series development at HBO. He said the programming director at the time, Michael Lombardo, liked the idea but the rest of his team wasn’t onboard.
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During a meeting with a senior vice president at HBO, whom Sheridan would not name, regarding the network’s reluctance in greenlighting his show, Sheridan said the person told him the show was a step backward for the network.
“We go to lunch in some snazzy place in west L..” Sheridan said. “And [“Yellowstone” co-creator] John Linson finally asks: ‘Why don’t you want to make it?’ And the VP goes: ‘Look, it just feels so middle America.
“We’re HBO, we’re avant-garde, we’re trendsetters. This feels like a step backward. And frankly, I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone should be living out there [in rural Montana]. It should be a park or something.’ “
The rejection convinced Sheridan that HBO didn’t appreciate his story. During a notes call, Sheridan said executives took issue with Dutton’s ferocious daughter, Beth, played by Kelly Reilly, who is a fan favorite.
Sheridan said he was told she was too abrasive, and they wanted him to tone her down because women will not like her.
“They were wrong because Beth says the quiet part out loud every time,” Sheridan said. “When someone’s rude to you in a restaurant, or cuts you off in the parking lot, Beth says the thing you wish you’d said.”
Sheridan was in a tight spot because HBO typically retains the rights to scripts it develops and rejects, partly to prevent what ended up happening — a project it spent time and money developing becoming a global smash for a competitor.
“When the regime changed, Lombardo called me,” Sheridan said about the longtime HBO executive’s exit in 2016. “To his credit, he said, ‘I always believed in the show, but I could not get any support.’ His last act before they fired him was to give me the script back.”
Newsmax reached out to HBO for comment.