‘Outer Range’ Actor Will Patton Considers True Knowledge, Good vs. Evil + His Fate on ‘Yellowstone’
Forgive yourself if your feelings toward actor Will Patton are complicated. Yellowstone Season 4's villain (or was he?) is back as the headstrong and obsessive — and maybe a little unstable — Wayne Tillerson on Outer Range, a Sci-Fi-meets-Western drama on Prime Video.
Once again, his scenes are impossible to turn away from, even if his motives are suspect. Once again, he's antagonizing the main protagonist, a rancher with two sons and cattle to feed.
After that — well, Outer Range kind of transcends all assumptions about ranching, Wyoming, what we know about life and death, and time. The cagey Tillerson wants the west pasture of Royal Abbott's (Josh Brolin) ranch, feeling it's legally his, but secretly believing there's something mysterious and powerful out there. He's 100 percent right, and it's here we'll do the standard spoiler alert thing. Several mild spoilers from Season 1 of Outer Range are weaved into Abbott's conversation with Taste of Country. The presences of a giant wormhole on the property is revealed in the show's opening minutes, so that's not one of them, but what the hole is and what it hides most certainly are. These particulars are not discussed here.
Patton is a veteran television and film actor with dozens of recognizable credits. He seems to have a knack for signing onto blockbusters (Armageddon, Gone in 60 Seconds, Remember the Titans), but as you'll see, there is a thread that ties together his most devious characters. On Yellowstone, he played Garrett Randall, Jamie Dutton's birth father and the man who orchestrated the attacks on the Dutton family. Season 4 revolved around the complex emotions father and son had for one another. When Jamie (actor Wes Bentley) caves to family pressure and kills Garrett, the viewer is left wondering who really died, the good guy or the bad?
Those same questions of good and evil emerge and stiffen during the first eight episodes of Outer Range, a show where there are more secrets than sunrises and fewer answers than murders. Taste of Country tracked down Patton to ask what appealed to him about the wild-eyed Wayne Tillerson, what he thinks of Garrett Randall and what he was really looking at while filming scenes on the lip of the giant hole.
Taste of Country: I just finished Ep. 7 and 8 and I gasped audibly when another of your on-camera sons tried to kill you. You've had your share of family issues on screen lately!
Will Patton: (laughs) That's interesting, isn't it? I know what you're saying.
What attracted you to this role and this series?
I think the writing. Brian Watkins, he comes out of theater and you can tell he's into good literature. His writing has so many layers to it and it was really unusual and brave. I was completely intrigued. I resisted it, mostly because of the character — I wasn't sure I wanted to get into this guy — but then I'm glad I did.
As you worked to find this character, did you have any memory or personality trait or anything that was kind of the seed that you could draw from?
Definitely. The one side of my family. An uncle in particular that is totally channeled for me. I could even possibly see him drinking Clamato. That was a kind of thing. And he had a toughness and he was wealthy, you know, and the rest of us weren't necessarily. I definitely channeled him.
You've done a lot of audio books, which I take as a sign that you're fairly well-read. Do your personal tastes dive into this kind of science fiction?
Not really, no. I think what's interesting about this is it's based in this kind of really powerful family drama that kind of challenges ones perceptions in a different way. It's kind of the opposite of saying, "Here's what cowboys are like. We know what cowboys are like." It's kind of like, "Maybe we don't know anything." I prefer that because I think it would get the entire world out of a lot of trouble if they didn't hold so tight to what they are forcing themselves to believe is true for survival. Just looking up in the sky at night for a minute, man. Do we know what's going on? Hell no.
Both Outer Range and Yellowstone really challenge our perception of good and evil. We're forced to see someone like John Dutton or Royal Abbott as a good guy, when it's not that simple. Is it enjoyable to watch the audience try to figure that out?
Oh yeah. That's interesting. I think both of those, in terms of where I entered into them, was very much like that. The guy in Yellowstone may have been a killer, but in some ways he was a lot more heroic with Jamie's character than John Dutton was. This guy, on the surface, you got wealthy land baron who hunts and kills animals as trophies, but you look at it a little closer and it's — are those animals on his wall really about trophies? There's this animal theme going through (the show) that's really interesting. If you've watched all the episodes you know what I mean in terms of our connection with the animals. The buffalo being the epitome of the Western symbol.
With Garrett Randall on Yellowstone, did you always see him as a good guy?
I know that I've never been able to play a bad guy. I have to — I think most actors, I'm assuming, have to find, "why am I doing what I'm doing? I believe in what I'm doing. There's a reason for this." I've gotta feel that or there's no way I can play it. Even with the most extreme things, I've got to locate why this person is doing that. And there's some pretty extreme things in Yellowstone. I think that's one reason I could never play somebody who would abuse a child or keep a woman imprisoned in a basement and torture her, because I wouldn't be able to understand how to justify that. But I can find things with killing, unfortunately.
Was it difficult to watch the your final scene on Yellowstone, where Jamie shoots you? Or the attempt on your life by Luke on Outer Range?
I don't think so. I think with that scene on Yellowstone I was so concerned for Wes, you know, how he had to play that. That's a really tough thing for him to play and he did wonderfully. It's a really big challenge for an actor what he had to do in that scene. So that's what I felt for that and really proud of him that he pulled it off.
The uncredited star of Outer Range is the giant hole on the Abbott Ranch. You had a scene where you were staring over it. What were you actually looking at in real life?
There's lights, there's cameras. There's hopefully not a still photographer getting in your eye line. I always watch each actor when they have to deal with that hole to see how they dealt with it. I know what they're looking at is not what they have to imagine. It's a challenge.
Was it just a grassy field you had to imagine a hole in or was there a piece cut out in the earth?
There's a piece cut out in the earth.