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INTERVIEW: Kai Caster Talks Rowdy and ‘Yellowstone’

Kai Caster as Rowdy in Yellowstone on a horse

Yellowstone has been slowly become the talk of the internet because audiences have begun to realize that the show isn’t as polarizing as they might have originally thought. It’s about the Dutton family and the Yellowstone Ranch in Montana and the show has been using flashbacks to tell aspects of John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) life for quite some time, with Josh Lucas playing the younger John.

But as the show went on, we’ve seen more and more characters get arcs from the use of flashbacks and even some characters appearing for the first time (and only time) in flashbacks. Like Rowdy in season 5. Played by Kai Caster, the cowboy who was part of John’s inner circle made for a problem with Rip (Kyle Red Silverstein) and while in the mid-season finale we saw exactly what happened to Rowdy, he is an exciting addition to the cast that I hope gets to come back in other flashbacks.

Talking with Caster about his role in Yellowstone, I asked him about the unique opportunity that he had as a young actor. With other characters in the flashbacks, they’re playing versions of established modern characters so they have performances to pull from for their own. But because Rowdy is new and only exists in the past, Caster didn’t have that to pull from but he still had to know how his arc was playing into the regular Yellowstone storyline.

“I think it was definitely very interesting because while you’re focusing on the present of what you’re part of, at the same time, you kind of keep in the back of your head that everything that you’re doing and every scene you’re doing is setting up what they’re gonna end up doing in the present time,” Caster said. “So I thought it was actually pretty cool to think about it in both ways that every little fight or every little discrepancy me and Rip had kind of led into the start of the episode for the present day Yellowstone for Beth and Rip and kind of how we’d go into a flashback and then Beth would wake up from a dream and it would be how she started her day, you know? And so that was something that was definitely interesting to think about when we were playing it. But, I actually really liked it. I think it was definitely a new way to act in general.”

Caster gets to work with Silverstein and Lucas and I pointed out to Caster that he doesn’t have to have that responsibility that someone like Lucas has in playing a character honestly and earnestly while also still being true to what Costner is doing in the modern storyline. And so I asked him about that balance with the other actors and his own freedom.

“I mean that was definitely, you know, a lot of fun to be able to kind of have more free reign than to have to really try and not mimic, but sort of take note after another character,” he said. “But I think at the same time in the back of my head when I was preparing for this role, a lot of what I do, and this is kind of a conversation I had with Taylor (Sheridan) and a lot of other people about it, but a lot of what I do kind of swayed Rip in certain directions on his loyalty and his demeanor in general as he grew up started with what happened between him and I. So I think that while I do have free reign over my character’s demeanor and and whatnot, I did have to kind of keep it in the back of my head that how Rip ended up in present day, some of what I did and how Rowdy lived had to do with with who Rip was and who he became.”

Sometimes, Yellowstone can be funny

While we saw Rowdy’s death, it was one of those moments that has become a staple of Yellowstone. Meaning that he died after Rip looked at him and said that Rowdy brought a knife to a fist fight. It was funny and then became such a somber thought because we, as the audience, could tell that something was up with Rowdy but young Rip couldn’t seem to recognize it.

So I asked about what drew Caster to the universe as a whole and how that leveling of humor and anguish was to work with. “There was so many draws to it,” he said. “It’s hard to even say. I mean obviously working with Taylor is, I think, most actors’ goal. And I think that when you work with a writer as good as he is, it’s so easy to visualize exactly how you want the character to be brought to life. So, not that the job’s easy in any way, but it definitely makes visualizing things and visualizing your storytelling right off the bat pretty easy. And I loved the show even before I was casted on it and I’ve watched every episode. So it was pretty much a no-brainer. And definitely those one-liners and those random lines in the midst of super dramatic or intense scenes where people are dying and stuff is awesome because I think it makes it because it is a very dramatic show, it kind of puts it more into a real perspective because that’s just how people are and sometimes your thoughts sway from what’s actually happening. And to be able to just detraumatize it for a second and put it into real life is a really cool way to tell a story I think.”

And when I asked whether or not there was improv in the filming of Yellowstone, Caster made it clear that the cast loves and respects Sheridan’s words too much to want to veer away from it. But then we did get into talking about “Cowboy camp” with the show. For the actors, they have to go through the camp prior to filming to get back used to being on the horses and bring the cowboys to life that we see on screen.

And now, I’d like to go to Cowboy Camp. “I think everyone could say something different about their experience there,” Caster said. “Just because everyone’s coming in at different times. Like a lot of the actors like Luke (Grimes) and Denim (Richards) and Ian (Bohen) and all them, they’ve been there since season one, so they’ve done four cowboy camps and so it’s a little bit more fun and it’s like a reunion kind of for them. But for, you know, guys like me who are coming in for the first time, never riding a horse before. I mean it was intense. Like I was sore every minute of every day. I struggled pretty bad at the beginning and it took me a while to really get my fit there and find the right horse and all that and there’s a lot that goes into it.”

But Caster seemed to love it. “And so it was definitely a very tough almost like a bootcamp for me,” he said. “But once I got it, it was like the most fulfilling thing ever because we worked really hard and I worked with a lot of different amazing trainers and wranglers who worked with me throughout the entire shoot and it was a very fulfilling thing because while it was a fun time there and we got to play a lot of games and do a lot of competitions, most of the day it was just repetition of doing exactly what I was gonna need to do on set, which was trotting and everything like that. And going up hills and going through creeks and stuff like that, which was like very scary the first time you do it. But after a few days you start to get the hang of it and Luke and Ian and Denim and all them who are pretty seasoned with horseback riding gave me a lot of tips and helped me out a lot. And so that was really nice. But it definitely was like a ‘you gotta lock in here in my head’ type of thing where I was a little nervous. I gotta make sure I look really good on this horse. But by the end of it I felt really comfortable, which was really, really fun.

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Is that the end of Rowdy or will we see Kai Caster back in other flashbacks? I hope we do because he was a great addition to the Yellowstone cast!

(image: Paramount)

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Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.