Josh Brolin had a 10-gallon-size decision to make before embarking on the Amazon Western series “Outer Range”.
The “True Grit” star, who grew up on a ranch in Templeton, California, considered the perfect hat to portray his laconic ranch in Wyoming. “When you grow up on a ranch, you know how much the hat matters,” says Brolin, 54. “I went through a lot, like 20 to 25 hats, before I finally chose the right one.”
While Brolin finally settled down with a whiskey-colored, custom-made Cattleman’s hat for “Outer Range” (premieres Friday; two episodes a week), an entire cast of actors struggles with the same dilemma amid the resurgence of Western dramas on television.
This year has already demonstrated the strength of the current Western onslaught, with Kevin Costner leading the modern Montana Dutton family in “Yellowstone,” to a fourth season finale that drew 9.3 million viewers to the Paramount Network in January. Executive producer Taylor Sheridan’s “1883” spinoff, the story of the settlers ‘origins in Duttons’ Yellowstone Ranch, proved to be a runaway Paramount + success for the wagon train with its explosive February finale.
On the heels of the eight-week-long “Outer Range” run, Epix’s “Billy the Kid” begins an eight-episode tour on April 24, highlighting the famous cowboy outlaw.
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“I do not know what the spirit of the times is or why people think it all works,” says “1883” star (and country singer) Tim McGraw, 54, who endured months of Montana outdoor filming with his co-star and real-life star. life wife Faith Hill. “But I’ve always loved western movies and wondered why they did not make more. I know now. They’s expensive, unpredictable and hard to make. But when there’s a viewer connection, everyone’s like, ‘We have to screw this up and do more. ‘ As a fan, I’m so glad to see it. “
The current Western resurgence is real and formidable and also extends to recent films with Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall” and Oscar-winning “The Power of the Dog.” But the current landscape is not match for the cowboy-filled early days of television, says Joshua Garrett-Davis, associate curator of Western history, popular culture and firearms for the Autry Museum of the American West.
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James Arness’ US Marshal Matt Dillon carried his trademark Stetson through 635 episodes of “Gunsmoke”, starting in 1955, along with classic TV westerns like “Bonanza”, “Wagon Train” and “Rawhide”. In 1959, 26 primetime shows were western, says Garrett-Davis: “TV has never been back to the point where the medium saturated.”
While the genre’s popularity declined, it never disappeared with programs such as NBC’s “Little House on the Prairie”, CBS ‘”Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”, AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” and HBO’s “Deadwood” and “Westworld” bringing unique turns to respective decades.
The huge success of “Yellowstone” has spurred the current renewal, amplified by modern city life amid a limiting COVID-19 pandemic, says Garrett-Davis. “There’s that nostalgia for the life you work on earth,” he says. “These shows use the landscape as a character. It’s like a Sierra Club calendar on the wall. That’s the key.”
McGraw, a rodeo rider in high school, lived this authenticity up close as he implemented all of his skills and learned more in the five-month, sleep-deprived “1883” footage in the middle of the air. It made him appreciate the hardships of the real settlers depicted on screen.
“It sounds and looks funny, but then you start thinking, ‘Well, how many baths have we taken?’ Even when filming, there was not much showering going on, “McGraw says. “The West has a romanticized vibe. But when you start thinking about everyday life and details, it’s like that, maybe not.”
The rugged set was a stark contrast to the February Screen Actors Guild Awards, in which a showered and formally dressed McGraw and Hill shared a table with Costner. The pair presented an award, and the “Yellowstone” cast basked in a nomination of ensemble actors, a rarity for TV westerns and a testament to its cultural influence.
“I’m so glad it’s finally happening,” McGraw says. “I’ve been really surprised every year that it has not done so.”
With critical acclaim and ever-increasing fandom, the Sheridan Western Universe will continue to expand. “Yellowstone” is preparing for a fifth season to be aired later this year, and Paramount + announced a new series, “1932”, after a new generation.
In the new cowboy rush, there are many crosses of Western actors and coincidences: Brolin’s daughter, Eden, plays Mia, a rodeo barrel racer on “Yellowstone.” By shooting the breeze before an “Outer Range” scene with his Will Patton playing the resilient neighbor Wayne Tillerson, Brolin discovered that Patton also played season 4 villain Garrett Randall on “Yellowstone.”
“I did not know he was on ‘Yellowstone,’ and I have known Will for a long time,” Brolin says. “We talked about hats for about 15 minutes. I suppose he wanted a hat on ‘Yellowstone,’ and they wanted him to wear another.”
In “Outer Range,” Tillerson pits a modern-day Hatfield-McCoy feud against Brolin’s Abbott clan. But with a mysterious time travel portal popping up on Abbott’s rural pastures, “Outer Range” swings distinctly paranormal, with bizarre events reminiscent of ABC’s “Lost.”
Brolin describes creator Brian Watkins’ vision as “a Western drama attacked by a metaphysical maelstrom” as Royal struggles to keep his family together amid the swirling forces – including his wife Cecilia (Lili Taylor) and adult sons Perry and Tom (Tom). Pelphrey and Lewis Pullman).
“If this had been another ‘Yellowstone’ series, I do not think I would have done it. But this was a big enough turn, far more up in the air and dangerous,” says Brolin. “This turns the genre upside down.” Brolin admits he’s not sure how the western twist is going to go down with viewers. Like any good poker player, however, he is happy to double down.
“I like the kind of scared place I am where I’m not sure how it’s going to be perceived,” Brolin says. “But I like my odds.”