In Yellowstone, the wildly successful Paramount Network cowboy show that he co-created, Taylor Sheridan portrays a pickup truck-driving cowboy named Travis who wears T-shirts with slogans like “Been Doing Cowboy Shit All Day.” In real life, Sheridan is a prolific TV hitmaker who’s so fiercely possessive of his shows that — against the backdrop of the ongoing WGA Writers Strike, which among other things is calling for a guaranteed number of writers on TV projects — Sheridan has said he might quit TV altogether if he’s forced to work with other writers.
“The freedom of the artist to create must be unfettered,” Sheridan, who pens every word of each of his show’s scripts, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “If they tell me, ‘You’re going to have to write a check for $540,000 to four people to sit in a room that you never have to meet,’ then that’s between the studio and the guild. But if I have to check in creatively with others for a story I’ve wholly built in my brain, that would probably be the end of me telling TV stories.”
The headline of that THR story, just so there’s no misunderstanding: “Taylor Sheridan does whatever he wants: ‘I will tell my stories my way.'”
Now, to a certain extent, Paramount’s no-nonsense lone wolf has earned the right to demand a wide creative berth. The Yellowstone co-creator who, at least appearance-wise, Elizabeth Olsen has described as a cowboy-like combination of “your dad the Marlboro Man,” is more or less carrying the Paramount+ streamer on his shoulders right now thanks to a growing number of Yellowstone shows (including prequels 1883 and 1923), as well as the Sylvester Stallone mob drama Tulsa King and the upcoming spy series Special Ops: Lioness.
Meanwhile, stepping back from those shows a bit actually helps appreciate the full scope of what Sheridan has achieved. Once a wannabe actor whose rugged good looks kept landing him unexciting bit parts, he switched tactics when he decided the right roles weren’t materializing. He switched to writing screenplays instead. Sheridan was down to his last $800 when he sold his first one — and now, the writer behind Paramount’s dynastic drama about a Montana cowboy fighting to protect his family’s ranch is wealthy enough to own a ranch of his own.
To a certain extent, Sheridan’s position about being forced to collaborate with other writers is understandable. This is the same creator, by the way, who has apparently butted heads behind the scenes with Yellowstone star Kevin Costner (both of whom are reportedly difficult personalities to deal with, although Costner is the one who’s exiting the series). Sheridan built a career for himself from the ground up, elbowing his way into a cutthroat entertainment industry that had no room for him until he made some of his own. So, yeah, he’s going to keep doing things his way. Gotta respect the hustle.