Teeter has taken Yellowstone by storm. She's funny and fearless, and part of that success (in addition to Taylor Sheridan's impeccable writing) is the woman who portrays her -- Jen Landon.
Jen got her start in acting alongside her father, Michael Landon, as a little girl in an episode of Touched by An Angel. She carries acting in her genes, much like her costar, Eden Brolin.
During our chat, Jen talks about joining Yellowstone and adoption the one-of-a-kind dialect Sheridan created for Teeter, how working with animals empowers her, her new fitness secret, and more. Enjoy!
How much did you know about Yellowstone before joining the cast?
Oh my goodness. Well, I was really familiar with Taylor's other work and was such a huge fan of his. Found out he had a show. Watched it. I thought it was phenomenal. And that's what I knew about Yellowstone.
And as a three-time Daytime Emmy winner, you've had some really interesting follow-up roles. And while you've proved that you have a great ability to create unique characters. Why Teeter?
Well with me, I say I'm a lunchbox actor. So every job is hard-fought and hard-won. When I read the sides for this, I was like, this is the craziest, craziest, coolest thing I've ever read because all of her lines are written phonetically.
I've never come across that. I think I've had some sci-fi auditions where I'm speaking Martian language number seven, but I saw this, and I was like this is awesome. So the question is, why not Teeter? I loved it.
And how hard was it to read a script phonetically?
It was so weird. It was always really easy for me. And I'm not sure why. I think that's a sign of a good fit. I always understood what she was saying. I think there were maybe one or two lines over the course of the season that I was like, hold on, hold on. I had to read it four or five times.
And you just laugh because as you're sounding it out, you're realizing the kind of horrifyingly wonderful thing she's just said. So I would just laugh reading those.
So in ways, it was easier because I couldn't pursue any kind of dialect coach because the dialect was whatever Taylor wrote, so that made it easier and harder, more confining, and more liberating at the same time.
And did he appreciate though your spin on his written dialect?
I mean, I think he must have a cause he gave me the job, but I don't spin it. It's so funny because everyone's like your interpretation ... I say it exactly the way he wrote it.
I wish I was more creative than I am. I'm literally doing exactly what he says. My contribution to it was in the audition. I wore a baseball cap instead of a cowboy hat. Teeter was always a cap kind of gal to me and I used gum, but I always saw her chewing and spitting in my mind.
Teeter has the pleasure of providing a lot of the comic relief on the show, and that's not the norm on Yellowstone. So what's it like to be that character on set?
That's always a tricky job, right? And I've had it a few times now where the character almost exists slightly out of genre. The temptation is to fall into rhythm with where the other characters are. Thank God there's directors and producers and our script D, who's really tracking continuity and making sure that you keep staying in the rhythm that you are.
It's a trap for any actor in any role. Sometimes you watch a show, and you're like, "Why is everybody talking exactly the same." It's our desire to sing the same note, but there's a great team here who gives you the confidence to do your own thing.
When I talked to Eden, she mentioned that when she did her funniest scene so far, she was determined to do it without fumbling, without really making it a funny time when she was shooting it. How do you approach the funnier scenes that you have?
You always want not to play the comedy, right? You're always trying to play the truth of it. It's really hard, especially with someone like Teeter, where it's like these one-liners. It's a constant practice, but yeah, it's always funnier the more truthful it is.
I mean, what's that famous saying? I'm not going to be able to quote it right. It's a trap I fall into all the time, but when you start playing the comedy of it, you're dead in the water. No pun intended!
What's been your favorite scene? We're going to get there even though we're not going to talk about it. What's been your favorite scene so far?
I liked being in the cow shoot. I liked screaming at the cow, and I liked the fight scene. I liked the physical stuff. I'm such a nerd. I want to be an action star.
What kind of history do you have with animals? What's it like to join a show, a Western, in 2020? It's not the norm.
It's totally not. I was raised with anywhere between 12 and 20 dogs. Definitely peed outside a lot growing up. That's something that I told Taylor when we were talking. He's like, "Okay, that's good to know." And I rode horses as a kid. My mom took a really, really bad fall, and her foot got stuck in the stirrup. And it was right after my dad had passed.
And as a single parent, she made a judgment call, so that was the end of riding for us. So this was a return to horseback riding, but I would say that I am very physically adept. I was an athlete growing up, and I feel very connected. I often feel more connected to animals than I do to people. So it felt like a natural progression for me.
As we roll into the final two episodes, as you mentioned, Teeter's fate is up in the air. I'm not going to ask you to weigh in on that, but I do have a couple of related questions.
Go ahead. Give it a shot.
From a character perspective, working with the Duttons comes with some risk, and it cannot always reveal to the wranglers what that means and what kind of perils they could suffer.
When it comes to women in the bunkhouse, what do you think Teeter learned about joining that particular group? What's the initiation like for a woman into that bunkhouse?
Ooh. For Teeter, I never imagined her as somebody with a mother, and she certainly doesn't fit in. She's not one of the girls, so she's definitely one of the boys.
And so while she's a dude internally in so many ways, she still is a woman who is vulnerable. And so she's had to learn to protect herself from the situations that women can get into on their own, out in the world.
Taylor and I talked about this, and it's crazy. We saw it the same way. Her dad raised her, and she had three or four older brothers. And I think I always imagined that since she left home, she's always been a wanderer. And so the Dutton ranch, for better or worse, has given her a home again. I think that's her secret, how much she loved being there, and why she works so hard.
It seems to be the secret for a lot of them who land there.
They find a home.
Yeah. They're drifters.
And when it comes to the last scene that we see you in, that was a really rough scene. How much of that did you do other than wade into the water and smart off to Wade Morrow? What was your contribution to that tough scene?
We actually did all of it. Our great stunt people tested everything out first. I think they rolled on some of those. I think they ended up using our tape. That horse did charge at me. Those horses were stomping around. That water was freaking cold. And then we drifted downriver like that.
And then for the underwater shots, that was done in a tank with what looked like horse hooves that were soft so that we could take our blows. Everything above the water was shot in that river on the day, and then all the stuff underwater was shot in a tank.
Wow, that must have been a rough day.
I was thankful. You know, it was. I noticed I was so cold, but also I had never been in a better mood in the last six months than that day. So it actually sent me on this whole cold plunge path.
I don't know if you've heard of a Wim Hof Method. So I now take cold plunges and cold showers. It's phenomenal, not only for your health, but it helps with depression. It helps with happiness. It's an anti-inflammatory, so that painful day led to a really integrated, joyful part of my routine.
Wow. And my last question for you is how have you felt with the Yellowstone fans, which can be extraordinarily passionate? What's your experience been so far?
You know, it's so overwhelming. It's so rare that you deal with a fan base like this. I did get training and experience in this department, for sure, working on a soap. The fans are very, very, very dedicated.
I have to say the Yellowstone fans are awesome. They're great. They're so passionate. They are the reason why the show is a success and why so many people have a job.
And that's a wrap on this week's interviews. We assured Jen that we're rooting for Teeter to come out of that water alive!
Be sure to stick around TV Fanatic for more news and reviews and maybe a feature or two as we roll into the final two episodes of Yellowstone Season 3.
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, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.