The day after I chatted with Yellowstone’s Kelly Reilly, she texted me a follow-up comment: “Get into it (yuh) v loud,” punctuated by the painted-fingernail emoji.
This is her final answer to my question, “What is on your hype-up playlist?” Her initial selections (intense classical music, Fleetwood Mac) are fine, but there’s something particularly satisfying about imagining Beth Dutton vibing to Doja Cat as she plans her next move. Reilly has just started production on the much-anticipated fifth season of Yellowstone, the breakaway Paramount Network hit everyone’s parents loved before the rest of the world clocked it. As Beth, Reilly plays Montana’s most ruthless daughter. She’s survived everything from sexual assault to a window-shattering bomb, and each season returns more jaded, more vicious, and more intent on setting fire to anyone who crosses her family or their generations-old Dutton ranch. As season four closed, Beth blackmailed her adoptive brother Jamie into murdering his biological father, then photographed him disposing the body with a haunting threat for the upcoming season: “You’re fucking mine now.” You know, standard fare for mixing business with family.
From the cabin she rents in western Montana during filming, Reilly turned her laptop camera around to reveal a sprawling view of a field that folds into mountains in the distance. “When I wake up in the mornings and have my coffee and look at those mountains,” she says with a soft English accent — a far cry from Beth’s menacing whisper — “I mean, I’m from South London, so it’s a bananas sort of reality.” She returned to the States in May, a few months earlier than last season’s August-to-November schedule, to accommodate for extra filming after the network bumped the season-five episode order from ten to 14. During her Zoom with Vulture, Reilly dug into the process of finding Beth behind the wheel of the car, the hardest scene she’s filmed to date, and what to expect in season five. “People keep saying, ‘Is it the end? It must be the end,’” Reilly says. “It’s not the end.”
Beth has always walked a tightrope between confidence and arrogance, but at the end of season four, she seems at her most arrogant and also her most vulnerable. Does she think she’s in danger?
It is a healthy arrogance, right? You know that Beyoncé song “Ring the Alarm” — “He’s so arrogant and bold,” and it’s meant as a compliment? I think the word audacious suits her better because there is such audacity in the things she says and does. In a way, she’s holding the cards now because she owns Jamie, and Jamie is very useful when he’s on her side and not a danger to her.
There’s a bit of recklessness to Beth, but also a part of her that doesn’t know how to keep the wolves at bay. In season four, John comes up with this idea of running for governor. That’s a light-switch moment for her. I don’t think it’s anything she ever thought he would consider doing because that’s not who he is. He’s certainly not a politician, but Beth understands this will be the way she can manipulate power in order to shut down the airport and shut down Market Equities. So when he — I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell you that.
Wait. Does John become governor of Montana?
I will say as the kingdom gets bigger, it becomes more difficult to manage. In a strange way, at the beginning of season five, Beth is probably at her most powerful. But how she toes the line of that is going to be interesting.
Beth has plenty of reasons to resent Jamie — namely the forced sterilization Jamie approved when he took Beth to an abortion clinic as a teenager. Now she’s blackmailing him for the murder she insisted he commit last season. For Beth, will there ever be enough for her to forgive Jamie?
In her mind, Jamie tried to kill her father. If you think about what that would do to someone like Beth, there is no end point. I don’t think she ever goes, “I’m going to wrap this up and forgive him.” I don’t think that’s in Beth.
In my rewatch, I’ve found something very Shakespearean about Yellowstone. I get a Lady Macbeth quality from Beth.
I talk about Beth as a powerful, dangerous woman and Lady Macbeth is that, but Lady Macbeth has a bitterness in her. I’m not sure Beth has that bitterness. She’s so alive. I don’t think it’s necessarily about vengeance, but more, “If you come up against me or anything that I care about and love, I will destroy you.” It’s more active. It’s more American. It’s less sitting in her room, manipulating, thinking of ways she could fuck someone over. And Beth only does that to people she believes deserve it.
As an actor, I’m trying to balance her. But at the same time, she is who she is. If I try to intellectualize about her too much, I lose the essence of her because she is not up for psychoanalyzing, even though she’s ripe for it. I don’t want to do that as the actor playing her because I don’t want to judge her or pigeonhole her. She’s just a force of fucking nature. And I think that’s where people have gone, What is that? Because she doesn’t play by the rules we expect women to play by. Sorry.
Toward the end of season four, Beth seems separated from her family after her father tells her she’s gone too far exacting revenge against Summer. Where does that leave her? Is there a core to Beth without her family?
Family is everything to her. That’s why she has a really hard time with the dining table earlier in the season. It’s full of ghosts.
One of the hardest scenes I’ve played was when John and Beth are having that fight and they’re talking about Summer and he says, “We kill wolves, Beth. Not sheep.” She’s learned from him how to kill. She’s learned from him how to destroy people and protect. She only knows how to fight and she doesn’t know the difference. She thinks of Summer as an enemy and he doesn’t. When he says, “I never thought I’d ever say this, but I feel disappointed in you.” That is a dagger to her heart. Everything she does is for him. She already lives with a feeling that she’s taken from him the thing he loves the most, which was his wife. Beth feels wholly responsible for that. Not only did she lose her mother from her own fear of horses, but she took away her father’s happiness.
I don’t think a season has started with as many adversaries lurking around as it will the beginning of season five.
And they’re coming. They’re infringing. It’s like what is really happening in Montana. It is being bought up by billionaires. People come here because they love what I just showed you, but they’re going to destroy it because they come here.
The amount of cement, and building, and taking from the land. Where’s the water going to be cleared for the sewage? What is the effect on the environment? They can’t protect it without playing dirty. I mean, I quote Beth’s lines all the time because I love them: “His dream is the Alamo that I will die defending.”
What’s Beth listening to? What’s on her playlist?
I listen to a lot of classical music before work. I try to find that soul and a heightened sense of that omnipotent quality she has. Really, that sends me into Beth. Oh, that and Fleetwood Mac. Maybe Nelly. She can switch on some great rap. Rap? God, how old do I sound?
Beth drives fast. I think she listens to loud music. I think that’s her energy. It’s quite a long way to get anywhere in Montana, so driving is one of the best times to be with your thoughts. That’s where I found Beth. I was working hard on the scripts and working with Taylor, and I couldn’t find her for a while. I didn’t really believe that I could do it. It was only when I went to that primal, free place: driving a bit too fast and hiking my skirt up a bit too high and finding that little fuck it attitude she has. And there she was.
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