Part of the fun of “Yellowstone” Season 5 was to watch Jamie (Wes Bentley), the adopted son of John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and mortal enemy of John’s biological daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly), mutate into an even more oily and complicated character. And all of his political maneuvering led to one of the best showdowns in the history of the series, as he and Beth went at it, with both characters letting the venom fly.
If you aren’t totally caught up, this season Jamie assumed his role as the attorney general of Montana, working under John Dutton and alongside Beth. Of course he was constantly undermined and badgered by his family members, even after he fell under the spell of a powerful new operative looking to bring down the family.
TheWrap spoke to Bentley about what went into the scene, what his relationship with “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan is like and what he can tease about the back half of season 5 (set to debut on the Paramount Network this summer).
You’ve been on the show since the beginning. Did you have any indication that it would be this phenomenon?
No, I mean Taylor did. I hear this stuff all the time, I’ve worked with people that believe it, but they say, “This is going to be this and that and that”. But everything Taylor said the show would be – it’s going to go many seasons and it’s going be the biggest thing you ever did. And it’s going to be biggest show on TV. And you’re like, Well, I could see the potential of that, but let’s see. And it is all of that and more. It’s been a trip, though, to see the growth and who watches the show and what they’re into about the show. It just proves that Taylor can avoid the polarizing things and let you into the life of it all.
What is your relationship with Taylor like? And how has it changed over the years?
It’s great. It’s been great from the beginning. And from the first phone call with us talking about it to now, even what he said to me then, which is this is a Greek tragedy in big sky country. Well, that’s how I described Beth and Jamie, that’s a bold Greek play relationship between them that complicated, that has that heightened feeling that they bring that comes from that. But he and I are close. And I don’t ask him any questions because I find it in the writing. I love to discover in the writing, sometimes line by line, what’s coming out, what the depths he’s put into it, because he puts a lot of stuff in there. And you just give it the time to discover it. Every once awhile, we just talk to catch up. But also, if I have questions, he definitely will answer and help guide me, which is great.
The fun thing about Jamie as a character, too, is that he’s so different season to season. How do you prepare for that as an actor and does Taylor give you any kind of heads-up?
Well, no, but I find it in the writing. He doesn’t… I shouldn’t say that… in conversations, I hear ideas come out of him. I’m not asking but he’ll say what Jamie’s plan is or thinks his plan is because we both agree, Jamie is a chess player thinking steps ahead all the time. He always had a plan up until this beginning of this season, where he felt stumped for the first time, since he didn’t know what Beth knew or not. Anyway, Taylor and I are really close on when we need to be close and it doesn’t take much if he’s on set, we don’t even have to say much to each other. It’s a few words. But doing it for so long you get into the depths. And I’m so grateful. All I ever wanted to do is play diverse characters. And I’m playing diverse characters in one character. Every scene is a big moment for Jamie. Since season 2, it’s just these huge swings and things that he goes through and it’s been the biggest challenge in my career and also the biggest joy in my career to try and meet his writing and bring what he’s given me to life. It’s been a challenge and a pleasure to do all of that.
We’ve got to talk about some of your big scenes in the finale. Can you talk about what went into the big confrontation with Beth?
We’ve worked so long on building that. When we met, we just clicked and he’s so sweet and unlike Beth. She doesn’t have that cold streak and so working in to get into that space with her, we together worked on how nasty she could be to Jamie because it was key. She was really working hard, doing a great job and we were working together and it was really fun. We were finding that in the nastiness that had to be there between them, to just use brutal force. We trust each other because we know each other, we like each other. I told her, “You can just do it. Do it. Don’t worry about me. You know, if it hurts fine, we’ll get over it, it’ll look great.” And it did work.
She was amazing at all the physical stuff but also emotionally, being able to relate to as well, her telling me to go for and saying awful things and being awful to her. That trust gets us there. And these last scenes are different for Jamie because he steps into a power position in a moment, who knows how long but, but he has a moment of like, Oh, I got the power here. She doesn’t know about this thing. I’ve made my move on the impeachment. It’s working. And you just feel him change his position on her. Even his stance on her in that moment. That was different even for us to get on the day, the things I was doing and the things she was doing to get into the scene. But we’re at a point now where we don’t even have to talk much. We know that trust is there. We know we’re going give it. If we don’t, we just say, “Come on go, go go let it loose on me.” Like the scene on the side of the road, like, let loose on me. She went to a place I’ve never seen her go, which was horrifying and terrifying and so sad crushing and so amazing. But that was because we can let each other go there and feel safe.
The other amazing part of that scene, which is implied, is that by Jamie telling her about where the bodies are buried, that will put a strain on Beth and Rip’s relationship.
Yes, because the season before she threatens that thing – she threatens Rip on Jamie and Jamie freaks out and panics and begs her not to do that. And so we see the transition just in those two moments where he must know what’s coming by making the impeachment move. He knows three moves down is his demise. Now it’s about his kid or about the future of the ranch. And he’s already resigned himself. There’s some power in that. When you’re like, Okay, well, I’m done. I’m going to do the best I can to push my idea forward.
In your estimation, how much of this is Jamie and how much of it is him being controlled by Dawn Olivieri’s character Sarah Atwood?
It’s this fascinating thing where it’s both. Jamie has been used his whole life, he knows what being used feels like. It’s different coming from Sarah because she he’s attracted to her. And he also is realizing that that’s the world he may be meant for. He’s been drawn in by her but also realizing that they have something to offer him as well. It’s, I think, more transactional than it may appear, because Jamie may be playing it smart and not trying to reveal too much himself about what he wants out of this. And maybe that’s what we see at the end of that scene when he realizes that I’m going to have to kill Beth, that this is was my plan if I needed to do that. I need help. Can you help me? Who’s going to come out on top? It’s probably them. By submitting to this, he is both trying to get what he wants finally, through them instead of the Duttons but also resigning his fate. It’s a puzzle she but she’s definitely focusing it by what she’s saying to that push that power in the right direction.
What can you tease about the second half of the season?
I can’t tease anything because I don’t know anything yet but I wouldn’t say if I did because that’s part of the joy, right? It’s frustrating but part of the joy.
“Yellowstone” returns to the Paramount Network this summer.