Yellowstone's Jefferson White Is Every Bit as Humble and Charming as You ImagineCarissa Pavlica at . Updated at .
We had the pleasure of chatting with Yellowstone star, Jefferson White, about our favorite TV show, and we can't wait for you to read what he shared.
When Jimmy first arrived on the scene, he was a no-good kid seeking a second chance with the urging of his grandfather. John Dutton and the Yellowstone gave him that chance, and he's found friends and family that will last forever.
Of course, it's unlikely he knew what he was getting into when he took the brand, and we asked Jeff about that and a lot more.
How much did you know about horseback riding when you got hired for Yellowstone?
Nothing. I had never ridden a horse in my life. I've never spent any time around horses, so it's been an incredible joy, and I feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to learn alongside Jimmy.
Jimmy has been pretty clueless too, so I'm really grateful to learn as he learns about horse-riding, about the rodeo world, about the ranching community. I feel really, really grateful to have been exposed to this whole culture that I knew nothing about.
Whenever you first sat on a horse, did they actually film you being Jimmy? Just curious how you managed to make it look so real.
I was very lucky. They took some time before we started filming. They were very gracious and spent a couple of weeks teaching me how to ride before we ever started. So I'm lucky in that way. They didn't get my first attempts on camera.
And how do they make the rodeo scenes look so real? How much of that is you on something, and how much of it is movie magic?
It's a lot of movie magic. So I don't do any of the bucking. I've got an incredibly talented stunt performer whose name is Bobby Roberts. And Bobby is a real life rodeo cowboy who is just a brilliant, brilliant athlete.
So Bobby's been playing Jimmy as long as I have. My very first day on set was the scene in season one when Jimmy gets faced to the horse. That was my first day on set, and Bobby was there too. So Bobby's been taking care of me from the very beginning.
Oh, that's lovely.
Yeah, I enjoyed it.
So does everybody who watches! Jimmy is the heart of Yellowstone, so what kind of conversations have you had with Taylor about Jimmy's place on the ranch?
Oh, that's very kind of you to say. It's funny, Jimmy kind of looks up to and mythologizes John Dutton and Rip and these sort of... He has all these kinds of heroes around him that he's always looking to learn from, Lloyd, Forrie J Smith, and it kind of the same with me.
So I very much look up to Taylor. I look up to Cole Hauser. I look up to Forrie, I look up to Kevin Costner and so rather than having real long conversations about the future, I really just try to learn from everyone that I can.
I really just try to learn from Taylor because Taylor himself lives this lifestyle, and Taylor himself is an incredible horseman and actor and writer and director. So I really just try to learn everything I can from these folks.
And Jimmy has had a great arc on the show. He's one of them more fleshed out characters, especially among the Wranglers. What have you most enjoyed about Jimmy's journey so far?
To be honest, it really is the learning. It's learning from all of those guys. I've learned so much from Ian Bohen and from Denim Richards, who play Ryan and Colby. I've learned so much from Forrie J Smith, who plays Lloyd. I've learned so much from Eden Brolin, who plays Mia.
I think the thing I love most about Jimmy's journey is that he starts out a clueless kid, and that's very much how I feel every time I'd step on set. I always feel like a clueless kid who's just trying to catch up and trying to figure out where he belongs and to learn everything he can.
So one of the things I really love about Jimmy's journey is that he keeps sort of pushing through all the roadblocks, and he keeps trying to learn and keeps trying to grow and change. And that's very much how I feel as an actor and just as a person in the world.
And after the penultimate episode, all the Wranglers are branded at this point.
Do you think that everyone fully understands what that means, and does Jimmy understand? Because he was kind of hoping to make a name for himself doing rodeo and how much can people do outside of the ranch?
Yeah, I think it's a huge... I don't think Jimmy necessarily knows what it means to wear the brand. I don't think any of us necessarily do except maybe Rip and Lloyd and John Dutton himself and Kayce certainly.
Because I think it's since Jimmy took the brand basically because he had no other choice and I think he's been learning what it means for the past three seasons and I think he's now really bumping up against the boundaries of what it means to wear the brand.
He's seen Walker be beaten up, almost killed for defying the brand. He's seen Fred disappear for defining the brand.
I think he's learning just what it means to make that kind of commitment. And especially in that last episode, [Yellowstone Season 3 Episode 9], we see Wade killed for defining the brand.
We see him hung from a tree for defining what it means to wear the brand. And so I think Jimmy's journey of discovery, Jimmy's learning what exactly the commitment he made means over time, and I think in some ways it's terrifying.
It's terrifying to learn what it means to swear that kind of oath and to kind of make that kind of lifelong commitment. There's no backing down at this point, and Jimmy is learning that kind of the hard way.
Watching that scene, that brutal scene where Walker carves the brand off of Wade, for them then to turn around and have everybody who was leftover branded? I can't even imagine putting myself in those positions. Did you guys have discussions about that as it was happening, or did you just roll with it?
I think that's a a real illustration of the gravity of what it means to wear the brand.
There's always been sort of mystery around it, but that's kind of the clearest expression of it. To defy the brand means death. And then it's amazing for them to turn around and take the brand immediately after that.
And it really feels like changing the parameters of that employment. It means a sort of lifelong commitment. We all know that Lloyd wears the brand, and Lloyd's lived in the bunkhouse for what, 30 years, something like that.
And so I think it's a real sort of lifelong commitment that we're all going to be, all those characters are going to be, struggling with and juggling for the foreseeable future.
And let's talk about something a little more pleasant with Jimmy and Mia. So were you surprised that Jimmy was a virgin?
[laughs] I was surprised! I was grateful. Every script we read gives us a chance to learn more about our characters, gives us a chance to learn more about the world we're in.
Taylor's such a brilliant writer that he's sort of full of surprises, and in this case, I was surprised and it really... I'm grateful for every little piece of information.
We are the biggest, us in the cast, are the biggest fans of Yellowstone in the world. So every little piece of information we get, we're so grateful for.
We're always kind of mining those scripts, trying to look for clues about where our characters are coming from and where they're going. And that was a pretty big clue, a pretty big piece of information that I'm grateful for moving forward.
Some fans think that Jimmy is kind of apathetic towards Mia. What's your take on Jimmy having a girlfriend and Mia in particular?
They think he's apathetic towards Mia?
Oh, interesting. I think Jimmy is obsessed with Mia. I think that Mia is the first person in Jimmy's life who's ever seen him for who he wants to be.
Mia only knows Jimmy in the context of rodeo, in the context of this sport, where he feels most like himself and where he feels most like successful and most proud of himself. And that's the only context in which Mia knows Jimmy.
Mia doesn't know Jimmy the fuck up, or Jimmy, the bumbling oaf.
Mia only knows Jimmy as like a rodeo champion, and I think that's beautiful. And I think for Jimmy seeing himself through Mia's eyes is an incredible gift.
So I think Jimmy cares very much about Mia. And I also just feel so lucky as Jeff to do those scenes with Eden Brolin because I think she's an incredible actor who really paints that character Mia as incredibly complex.
I think that she makes that character so interesting and rich and it makes that relationship, we only have a few scenes, but in those scenes, I think Mia, or Eden, really paints a portrait of a sort of complicated person, a complicated young woman who is also trying to figure out what she wants.
She had equal praise for you, for making her feel very comfortable in that extraordinarily awkward scene that you guys had in the hospital bed.
Very awkward scene! That was our second scene, our second day working together, but she's amazing.
And you've had roles on some really great TV series, but could anything have prepared you for the success that you found on Yellowstone?
I'm grateful for all the opportunities I've had, and I try to look at every opportunity as an opportunity to learn.
I think the only constant when you're an actor is change. You never really know where you're going to wind up. You never really know what skills you're going to have to learn, and Yellowstone has been the biggest surprise in that regard.
I never really thought I would wind up on a cowboy show, and I've been so grateful for the patience and expertise and generosity of the Wranglers, the trainers, the sort of experts who have taught me along the way.
And also for the other actors on the show who have been so patient and generous with me. Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Kevin Costner, they're brilliant actors but also just incredibly kind and generous people from whom I've learned so much.
I was so clueless coming into this job, and everybody has been so generous and kind and patient with me along the way. And the same is true for the audience. It's impossible to say how grateful I am for the fans of this show who have really made it what it is.
We get to keep making this thing because of the fans and the sort of generosity and engagement that they have with the show, and that community has been so rewarding. It's been so rewarding to watch that community sort of grow. And I'm so grateful for those folks.
So really it's I just feel so lucky to be a part of this, and I feel so grateful to the fans and to the other actors and to everyone who makes it. The crew of our show, we have the most incredible crew I've ever worked with. Just the hardest working crew in the business.
All the shit that we're pretending to do, all the acting that we're doing, acting like we're working hard, they're doing for real every day, and it's incredible.
And my last question for you is just what one word can you use to describe your thoughts on the finale?
Brutal. I love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, Jeff. It's lovely meeting you.
Thank you, Carissa, it's been great.
The Yellowstone Season 3 finale airs Sunday, August 23 at 9/8c on Paramount Network.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.