Close-Up: An Interview With Yellowstone Star Brecken Merrill

Actor Brecken Merrill joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about his role as Tate Dutton in the hit series, Yellowstone.

You play the role of Tate Dutton in Yellowstone. How did this opportunity come about for you and what was your reaction to getting the role?

I was only 8 years old when I auditioned for the role of Tate Dutton. One of the scenes they used for the audition is when Tate calls his uncle the F-word. A lot of the kids were too shy to say the bad word or they would giggle. They called us back 4 times, and for the last callback, they flew us to Utah. It came down to me and two other boys. I was thrilled when my parents told me I got the role. 

Can you tell us about Tate and your experience playing this character?

Tate is a tough, sensitive kid who admires his dad and wants to be just like him when he grows up. I love playing Tate because I have been allowed to do things I never would have experienced in my regular life – riding horses, fighting snakes, racing bison, playing with wolves and bears.

The show has so many terrific actors, including your on-screen grandfather Kevin Costner. How was your experience working with Kevin and the rest of this talented team?

Yellowstone was my first serious role on TV and I was the baby of the show so everyone was kind of careful around me at first, watching their language and that kind of thing, but I was still there to work and my cast mates treated me like a fellow actor and not just a little kid. Kevin has always been very professional with me.

Once during season one I called cut on a scene and asked if we could take it from the top. I had seen Kevin do that before so I thought actors were just allowed to call cut whenever they needed. The director and crew all chuckled but Kevin asked me why I wanted to start over. I couldn’t see his coffee cup, which was my mark in the scene, so he fixed the blocking and went on with the scene. I feel blessed to get to work with such great people. I can really trust them, and that makes performing a lot of fun.

Photo credit: Kristy Phillips 

What will be your biggest takeaway or standout memory from working on Yellowstone?

There isn’t one stand-out thing really. It’s more of an overall feeling. These past years have had a special filter over them, and I’m really going to miss it when the series ends. People don’t realize that we spend four to six months every year filming this amazing show. We live on location, oftentimes away from our families, and we make up our own little work families.

What do you love about acting and performing?

I love getting to dive into the mind of a character. How are we similar? How are we different? Does he have a secret? 

How do you like to spend your time away from acting?

When I’m not working I enjoy being back home. I hang out with my friends. I like to skateboard. In the past two years, I’ve become really interested in Muay Thai. – it’s a combat sport where you use fists, elbows, knees, and shins. They call it the art of 8 limbs.

What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?

After I graduate high school I want to go to NYU and live in the city. I love New York. My dad’s from there and I want to experience that fast-paced city life.

Photo credit: Kristy Phillips 

Brecken Merrill (@breckenmerrill) • Instagram photos and videos

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