Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, whose resume also includes the films Sicario and Hell or High Water, recently explained what he believes the key to a successful story, but also shared a warning to imitators.
Speaking to Variety’s Joe Otterson, Sheridan shared an anecdote about how he put together his upcoming series, Tulsa King, that will feature Sylvestor Stallone as a mob boss banished to Oklahoma, and revealed what he believes are the keys for a successful story.
“I was talking with a producer, and it’s COVID,” Sheridan explained. “Everyone’s kind of going stir-crazy. He was asking me about ideas. I said, ‘Look, all you need, in my opinion, to have an interesting TV show is take a really fascinating character and drop them in a world that we don’t know anything about.’”
He then added, “I call [the producer] two days later and said, ‘Hey, I wrote that thing we talked about.’”
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While he was able to put together Tulsa King quickly, he typically likes to take his time and put in significant research for his projects. In a more in-depth piece with Variety he revealed he spent six months at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, California for a space race story he worked on previously.
“If I just tried to sit down and write it and Wikipedia some things, then it would have felt false, right?” Sheridan said.
He also touched on what he sees as the job of artists, “Our job as artists is to hold a mirror up to the world and let people see the reflection, to teach them about a part of life and human experience that they may not be aware of.”
“Whenever we’re ignorant of something, then typically we fear it, or we judge it, or we dislike it. And it’s the job of all artists, I think, to try and find these little pockets of the world and show some humanity,” he elaborated.
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As for his influences, Sheridan revealed, “I was very influenced by writers like Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Toni Morrison, who wrote about the time around the Civil War, which is obviously very similar themes.”
He added, “There’s a lot of Westerns about it. And in terms of the movies that influenced me, it was watching ‘Unforgiven’ when I was in my late teens or very early 20s. The same with ‘Dances With Wolves,’ where you’re looking at the Western genre through a whole new lens that had never been explored before.”
Sheridan and Yellowstone’s success, which includes the show’s Season 4 finale being viewed by over 14.7 million people between Paramount Network, CMT, Pop, and TV Land, has ushered in a new wave of westerns that includes Prime Video’s Outer Range, NBC’s Unbroken, and an upcoming Hell or High Water series from Fox.
The creator shared his opinion on these new shows saying, “So I don’t know that it’s flattering, because I don’t they’re doing it because Yellowstone is good. They’re doing it because 15 million people watch it.”
“And they’re like, ‘A lot of people watch Westerns. Let’s make Westerns,” he added.
Aside from Yellowstone, Tulsa King, and the Yellowstone prequel 1883, Sheridan also has six others shows in development.
He’s currently developing 1932, which is another Yellowstone prequel series that will follow the Dutton family during Prohibition and the Great Depression.
The Yellowstone world will continue to get bigger with 6666. This one is set in the modern day and set at ranch, which bears the show’s title.
He’s also working with Zoe Saldaña and Nicole Kidman for a show called Lioness that sees a number of women trained by the CIA to infiltrate terrorist and criminal networks.
Jeremy Renner stars in Mayor of Kingstown that follows a family in the titular Kingstown that is home to a local prison.
His other two shows in development are Bass Reeves adaptation starring David Oyelowo and Land Man which stars Billy Bob Thornton as an oil man in West Texas.
What do you make of Sheridan’s key to an interesting and successful story? What about his criticism for those trying to imitate the success of Yellowstone?
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