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Kevin Costner on John Dutton’s entry into politics

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Kevin Costner isn’t saddling up for a new season of “Yellowstone.” He’s buttoning up.

Costner’s John Dutton begins “Yellowstone” Season 5 on Sunday (Paramount Network, 8 EST/PST) showing the tough-as-nails rancher in his finest duds being sworn in as governor of Montana. So Dutton will have to step away from his beloved Yellowstone Ranch to actually govern.

“I know how hard it’s going to be on him,” says Costner. “His heart is at the ranch, not trying to find middle ground with people. That’s going to be problematic. He has a lane that he operates in that is not as expansive as some would want it to be. And he won’t change .”

That sentiment will bring a big sigh of relief for the “Yellowstone” faithful. The sixth-generation patriarch of Yellowstone Dutton ranch Costner portrays remains the unyielding cornerstone for TV’s biggest show, which averaged 10.7 million viewers in 3-day viewing, up 73% from Season 3. That success has prompted an entire Dutton family Western franchise from creator and executive producer Taylor Sheridan, including “1883” and “1923,” due in December.

‘Yellowstone’ season 5: Everything to know – and see Kevin Costner as Montana’s governor

Rather than change, Dutton is only going to dig in his heels even more. It’s an attitude that has kept his expansive ranch intact despite powerful competing interests, and kept him alive after gritting out an assassination attempt in the Season 3 finale that still reverberates.

Season 4 ended with the family circling the wagons – daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) even blackmailed her brother, Jamie (Wes Bentley), to ensure his cooperation – to fight off the growing threat of fierce developer Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver), who wants the Dutton ranch for a Montana airport proposal.

Season 5 shows Dutton dealing with more personal tragedy, but also victorious in his governor’s race. The new office will help him wages personal battles, but comes with a cost the actor understands.

“It’s like being in school versus being in recess. Where would you rather be?” Costner asks. “He thinks most clearly on his horse.”

John Dutton (Kevin Costner) on inauguration day in "Yellowstone" with daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) and son Jamie (Wes Bentley).

Unlike his screen counterpart, Costner will not be pulled into the political arena.

“No, I don’t think there’s any reason for me to run,” he says quickly, “though I wish the people that did run had a bigger vision and more of a morality about how they see the country evolving. I’m disappointed.”

The actor, 67, has thrown his high-profile support around candidates from both parties, including unsuccessful 2020 presidential Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg and Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the outspoken critic of former President Trump who lost her August primary election. Costner has no regrets about his support.

“Just because you lose doesn’t mean you’re done; it doesn’t mean you’re even wrong,” he says. “I was clear that (Cheney) probably wasn’t going to win her election. But I wanted to let her know, as a citizen, how much I appreciated her brave, clear-headed stance.”

That stance brought criticism, even from some of his “Yellowstone” fans. “I didn’t really care how the cookie crumbles, that people who liked me now don’t like me,” Costner says. “That’s OK.”

The Hollywood maverick, whose career has been propelled by ambitious achievements like 1990’s best picture Oscar-winner “Dances With Wolves,” and overcame disasters like the $175 million 1995 epic “Waterworld” keeps a big-picture outlook toward the success of “Yellowstone.” “

“I’m not naïve; I’m aware that it’s a No. 1 show,” he says. “You’re always happy when something’s received well. I’ve had things that I thought were pretty good that weren’t exactly hits. But you can’t be driven by the ratings; you just appreciate that there’s an audience.”

That “Yellowstone” audience has been given a wagonload of Duttons since Costner blazed the trail. Original patriarch James (Tim McGraw) and his wife Margaret (Faith Hill) starred in the limited prequel series “1883.” While December’s series “1923” stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as Costner’s screen great-great-uncle and aunt, Jacob and Cara Dutton. These are just two of the projects in the rapidly expanding Sheridan universe (including Sylvester Stallone as a non-Dutton modern-day mobster in “Tulsa King,” which premieres Nov. 13 on Paramount+).

Costner shrugs off any concerns about the universe expanding too fast. “It all depends on the writing,” he says. “What you do needs to stand up. And that’s what I’m watching constantly.”

He’s willing to go along for the “Yellowstone” ride as long as it feels right, declining to confirm his involvement in a sixth season.

Kevin Costner in "Dances With Wolves" which won seven Oscars including best picture, best cinematography and best directing.

“I was only going to do one season, but I’ve done this many,” he says. “I give everything when I’m there. But the moment I feel that it’s not right, I’m just going to step away.”

Riding high in Hollywood with the success, Costner has his hands full with other projects, He’s producing, directing, starring and co-written another Western, a passion project that he’s co-financed with his wife of 18 years, Christine Baumgartner.

“Horizon” is a sprawling look at the settlement of the American West (with 170 speaking parts) that he’s been thinking about for the last 15 years. “And it was time for me to do it.” He has plans to make it a four-part movie series, with the first hitting theaters in 2023.

On Sunday morning, Costner scouted the perfect location in stunning Moab, Utah. during the marathon

“We have many miles to go before we sleep,” he says. “I’m relentless, and there’s people that are giving me their Sunday to go look at one more place.”

As he is reminded by Dutton’s new office, it sure beats a desk job.

“I wouldn’t have done well in the office,” Costner says. “I’m really grateful to be able to find what I love to do. It’s fun to be outside. This is recess.”

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