We love a good underdog story here at Mr Feelgood, and cowboy drama ‘Yellowstone’ is the ultimate TV dark horse, having defied the odds to become one of the biggest shows in the country.
When the first season launched in 2018, many urbanite critics panned the show and by the second season, they were doing something even worse – ignoring it all together. But away from the legacy media HQs in Los Angeles and New York, this sleeper hit was building a huge and devoted word-of-mouth following. Helped by ferocious family drama, a fantastic cast, and stunning cinematography transporting viewers to rural Montana, it has steadily grown to become the No1 drama on TV.
The finale of the most recent fourth season was watched by 10.3 million people when it was simultaneously aired on Paramount Network and Country Music Television, with no help from streaming. For some context, the latest finale of the more metropolitan ‘Succession’, considered by many to be the gold standard in recent TV drama, was watched by 1.7 million on HBO.
Shows of this magnitude create not just breakout stars, but new global superstars, and ‘Yellowstone’s’ golden boy is Luke Grimes, with his role as Navy SEAL veteran Kayce Dutton making him one of the most sought-after actors on the planet. Kevin Costner, who made his small screen debut as the show’s protective patriarch John Dutton, was the box office name that helped the show take off, but Luke is central to keeping it flying to new heights.
Luke represents America’s heartland, with his personal appeal echoing the success of the show which has turned him into a household name. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, into a devout Christan family and his father, Randy, was a pastor. Although Luke stepped away from the church as he followed his dreams in entertainment, he has kept his dad’s moral compass close by on his journey, clutching it a little tighter since Randy’s death in February, aged 70.
“Not having him here anymore made me really go back and hold on so dear to some of those memories,” Luke tells us. “He taught me that you can be strong without having an ego, and you can be a leader and still be humble and still be kind.”
It was his church upbringing that also started Luke on his path to the next beat in his career, as a music star. He’s been signed by Universal as a singer-songwriter and will record a country rock album later this year.
“Music is something I’ve always done,” he says. “I grew up playing the drums in church, then singing came later, when I moved to New York. It’s impossible to have a drum set in New York City, your neighbors would kill you, so I got a guitar.”
In many ways ‘Yellowstone’, created by the immensely talented Taylor Sheridan, was the ultimate lockdown hit. It allowed holed-up viewers to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Montana from their living rooms. And the fact it was filmed in these vast open spaces allowed the crew to continue feeding their growing fanbase with new storylines — about the Dutton family’s ranching lifestyle, relationship with their Native American neighbors, and their shared battle to protect the land from developers — while other productions were shut down.
“We were very lucky being able to shoot during the pandemic, pre-vaccine,” Luke says. “It was only because it was in the middle of nowhere, there weren’t a lot of cases where we were, and it was just us in the bubble.”
Luke enjoyed working in Montana so much that he moved there with his wife Bianca in 2020, having lived for the previous 16 years in Los Angeles while earning his stripes in TV shows including ‘True Blood’, and in ‘American Sniper’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ on the big screen.
“I would go up there for four or five months at a time to film” he says. “And over the years it started to be strange to leave Montana to come back here [LA] because that felt more like home. We just really got into the rhythm of it there, and decided we wanted to live there and raise a family there.”
Describing how he has embraced the one perk of the role, spending time in the company of horses, he adds, “I wouldn’t call myself a horseman. But for right now, I really love it. And who knows, once I don’t get to do it all the time for work, I might get a couple of my own.”
Luke is the latest subject of our ‘Who the F*** Are You?’ profile, answering the 20 questions that get to the heart of who we are. Check out the video of our interview below, and keep scrolling for the print version and photoshoot.
We are honored to share this humble and talented actor’s story at a pivotal moment in his personal and professional life, and also heartened by his kind words about our work at Mr Feelgood.
“I really do appreciate what you guys are doing with your magazine,” he says. “Focusing on the soul, the person, their spirit, what they’re really after in life, and the gratitude of people being able to do what they love and getting success in things that they care about. So I really appreciate you having me.”
Who the f*** are you?
I’m just Luke. A guy from Ohio. I loved movies growing up, and was dumb enough to think that I could be in them. I went after it and moved to New York, and then LA, and here I am. So I was able to make it a career, so far.
How are you feeling right now?
Hungry, but that’s normal. I’m always a little bit hungry. But I feel good. I’ve had a great day shooting with your awesome team, and the people here, in your beautiful home. It’s a great place to be.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. I grew up very, very Christian. My dad was a pastor. So I went to Christian school, I went to Christian camp, I was very, very religious growing up. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. I grew up around some really awesome, kind people, and in a really nice, comfortable place. And there wasn’t much to do in Ohio except for sit around and try to get good at stuff, which I appreciate now.
What excites you?
Travel is the main thing. The freedom of being able to go to new places, and have new experiences, and have things to look forward to that are unknown.
What scares you?
The opposite of that. Being stuck or not feeling free, being tied down to things, that really scares me.
What is your proudest achievement?
Convincing my wife to marry me, I think. That’s been the best choice I’ve ever made, and I just feel so lucky to have such a great partner in this life.
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Without getting too much into it, I had to say goodbye to my dad this year, and that was really tough. It has not been that long, he died in February, so it’s still kind of… It’s a new thing to navigate, losing a parent, and also a new chapter in your life. There’s something about parents that tether you to this earth and to this experience. Losing that makes you question your own mortality in a way, so that’s interesting.
Who is your greatest mentor and what did they teach you?
I guess we’ll go back to my dad on that one. I think when you have him around, you kind of take him for granted a little bit. And not having him here anymore made me really go back and hold on so dear to some of those memories, and just remembering who he was. He taught me that you can be strong without having an ego, and you can be a leader and still be humble, and still be kind. And those are the things that I didn’t notice as much as I do now.
Who are your fictional and real-life heroes?
It’s funny, there’s these characters in films and in books that you find at different points in your life. For a long time when I was a little younger, I really loved The Fountainhead, Howard Roark. Different maturity levels mean different people, but I’m always finding a hero in some film or book.
In real life, I’d say Paul Newman, as someone who did what I do, but who did it as well as you possibly could in every way. Not just as an artist. I mean, he was incredible actor, he got so good at his craft. One of the greats. But also as just a man, a family man, a humanitarian, and how much he and his wife gave back, that’s the high water mark for me.
What is your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?
I’m a blue jeans guy. I like a good pair of blue jeans. I wear a pair of Wranglers pretty much every day and I don’t know what I’d wear if there weren’t blue jeans. Can’t beat it.
What music did you love age, 13 and do you still love it now?
Interestingly enough, I wasn’t allowed to listen to what they called secular music when I was younger. Just Christian music. And I remember, I think it was right around 13, and I snuck Nirvana Unplugged into the house. And so that was my first foray into worldly music. And I must have listened to that thing until it wore out. I still listen to them. Kurt Cobain is one of the heroes of rock and roll, and any genre, really.
What is the most inspiring book you’ve ever read?
Like I said, there’s different ones that have been important in different parts of my life. If I were to go back to the one that really changed things for me the most, I read ‘The Alchemist’ when I was like 17, which is a really good time to find that story and the idea of appreciating the journey more than the destination. And I think at that time I needed that, especially for what I was about to set out on.
What is a movie that left a lasting impression on you?
One of my favorites of all time, and this is something I have watched at different times and I’ve probably seen it 50 times, is Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I think it’s one of the best movies ever made. Not only is it Shakespeare, who was one of the greatest writers of all time, I just think it was such an interesting take on something that was so classic, and it just really holds up and it created a world. I remember the first time I saw it, I couldn’t understand Shakespeare, the language is so difficult, but the story was so good and the performances were so good that I understood what was going on without understanding the language. I think that taught me a lot about what a movie can be, and what a really good director can do. And still, every time I see that movie, it really moves me and affects me for days after.
What is your favorite word or saying?
Oh man. Probably, shit. I mean, it just works everywhere, you know? And I probably use it a lot more than I realize, but it can just mean everything. Sorry mom! I love that word.
What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
That I took a big swing, that I gave it a great effort. Whether or not I get where I was trying to go, because I can’t control that, but I can control the effort that I put in. And maybe that I left things a little better than I found them. That I tried to be a positive influence on my experience and not just take from it.
And finally, a quickfire five favorites.
Probably a Classic Ford F-150.
The ’90s Bulls. Michael Jordan was a big hero of mine growing up and I was obsessed. I saw every game. But I kept getting cut from the team in High School because I was so short, so I didn’t play, and I became an artist instead. I had a growth spurt in 11th grade, but I was 5ft 4in in 9th grade.
A steak, a baked potato, and a salad with ranch dressing. Very Ohio, but I could eat it every day until the day I die.
Salt spray. That day at the beach hair. You can’t beat it.
Wrangler, I guess. Been wearing their jeans for a long time.
Digital technician, Kevin Leupold
Grooming by Sussy Campos
Fashion assistance by Cameron Greene
Many thanks to Dr Philip Shore for lending us his 1954 Harley Davidson Panhead Bobber