Anaheim Native Denim Richards On His Role on Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone”

He has a scene-stealing role on Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” premiering its second season this month.
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Photo by Ralph Palumbo

When Richards heard about a casting call for an African American man who could ride a horse and sing, the actor jumped on the rare opportunity. An equestrian since childhood and classically trained in opera, Richards ticked all the boxes and landed a role in the upcoming film “The Chickasaw Rancher.” He played a cowboy so well, co-star Tommy Flanagan steered him toward a role in the modern-day Western drama “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner.


FINDING HIS VOICE

At 6, Richards was already a performer, crooning “Away in a Manger” in the former Crystal Cathedral’s elaborate Christmas show. “That’s when I thought, ‘I always want to do this.’ ” At 16, Richards started training in classical opera. “I’ve never had to do anything more difficult than learn how to sing classically. I cried in some lessons because it was so hard.”

WORKING WITH A LEGEND

When asked his favorite part about working on “Yellowstone,” Richards doesn’t hesitate: “Obviously, working with Kevin Costner. Growing up, I never thought I would ever be meeting or working with him.” The two actors bonded over their O.C. connections. “He’s a Villa Park High School and Cal State Fullerton graduate, so it was cool to talk to him about Orange County. He definitely has a laid-back Orange County vibe that he
still carries with him today.”

COWBOY TYPECASTING

Getting cast in a Western twice in a row was an unexpected turn of events for Richards. “I just filmed ‘Chickasaw Rancher,’ a period piece set around 1860, where I played a real-life cowboy named Jack Brown. So when they sent me the (lines) for my character, Colby, in ‘Yellowstone,’ it was easy for me to prepare for the role. I felt like I was playing Jack Brown’s great-great-grandson.”

HOLDING ON TO HIS ROOTS

“When I come back (to O.C.), it’s so homey and welcoming,” Richards says. “I’m still close to lots of the people I grew up with.” One such person is Foodbeast co-founder Elie Ayrouth, who attended Covenant Christian School in Orange with Richards. “He’s been my friend for over 20 years. We hang out all the time, play basketball together, and travel. We’re still very close.”

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Richards says filming in small-town Darby, Mont., is a welcome break from Hollywood. “Every night, the ‘Yellowtone’ actors get together, make a bonfire by the lake, share stories, and look at the stars. We get to live this very simple lifestyle while also living out our dream of acting, which is amazing and hard to do in California. It’s usually just one or the other. That’s what makes all of this a dream come true.”

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