'Yellowstone': A Complete Timeline of the Kevin Costner Drama and Series' Future as Production Resumes

Read ET's complete timeline of the behind-the-scenes drama with series star Kevin Costner.

The final episodes of Yellowstone are almost here.

Paramount Network shared on Monday that production had begun on the last six episodes of the hit drama's fifth and final season, with fans preparing themselves for the shocking exit of its lead character, John Dutton III, played by Kevin Costner

Paramount announced in May 2023 that the popular flagship series would be ending after the current fifth season, following the impending departure of the series star and executive producer amid ongoing tensions. While production on the final episodes was delayed due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes -- with Paramount announced in May 2024 that filming had finally begun -- the drama surrounding Costner's future on Yellowstone has continued to leave fans with questions.

Created by Taylor Sheridan, Yellowstone chronicles the Dutton family, led by Costner's patriarch John Dutton III, who controls the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. Amid shifting alliances, unsolved murders, open wounds, and hard-earned respect -- the ranch is in constant conflict with those it borders -- an expanding town, an Indian reservation and America’s first national park. Other cast members include Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille and Brecken Merrill.

With Yellowstone nearing the end of the road (with spinoffs and offshoots on the docket) and Costner's involvement with the franchise still in limbo, here's the complete timeline on everything we know about Costner's future with the series and what we can expect moving forward.

June 2022: Costner addresses when he'll hang up his Yellowstone hat

Costner said in an interview with ET in June 2022, while promoting Paramount+'s U.K. launch, that while he didn't foresee hanging up his cowboy hat anytime soon, he wouldn't be opposed to saying goodbye to John Dutton, the character he's played since Yellowstone's 2018 premiere if he didn't find the show narratively "interesting" anymore.

"I'll go till it doesn't feel like we're interesting, and right now we have our foot on the gas and that feels OK to me," he said at the time. "I have interests that are outside of everything I do, including the movies, so I have other things that I want to do."

Acknowledging he didn't know how Yellowstone ends, Costner even joked, "I am going to end [it] if it doesn't end."

July 2022: Costner is possibly the highest-paid actor on TV

Variety report tapped Costner as one of the highest-paid TV stars, reportedly earning well over $1 million per episode for Yellowstone

"First off, Yellowstone is a tremendous hit. It's one of the biggest shows on television right now and Kevin Costner is, of course, the leading force behind that show," Variety TV Editor Michael Schneider said at the time. "He's a movie star, he's now a TV star, he's been around for a long time, he's the kind of person that fetches a pretty penny when working, so when you want to get a star like Kevin Costner, you’ve got to open up the pocketbook from the beginning." 

November 2022: Speculation swirls that Yellowstone could be ending

Paramount

Fans began speculating when the Paramount Network drama's supersized fifth season -- consisting of 14 episodes instead of the typical nine or 10, to be broken up into two parts -- could be approaching the end. Cast members all had varying perspectives on the matter as they expressed their thoughts at the time.

"You know, they haven't given us a number. But I think that we are nearing the end," Kelsey Asbille said at the season 5 premiere in New York City in November 2022. "We've got a story to tell and we don't want to drag it on too long. We want to do a good job for y'all." Meanwhile, Cole Hauser and Wes Bentley both believed there was a lot more Dutton to go around. "I don't think anything's ending soon. It doesn't feel like that... Also just to know that we are taking our time to get through the story and make sure we tell it in the best way possible is important. I think more important than kicking them out fast or any of that," Bentley said.

Co-star Luke Grimes, however, was less certain over whether season 5 was the end. "I don't know, honestly. Taylor hasn't said anything, but I do know that he won't take it past where it's supposed to go," he said. "Sometimes shows that get to this level, they can go on and on and on. But he won't have our show do that. So we'll see. We'll see where it goes."

Jan. 1, 2023: Paramount Network announces Yellowstone return date 

During the season 5 midseason finale on New Year's Day, Paramount Network ran a 30-second spot touting a summer return for the remainder of the season.

That return date would later be pushed back.

Jan. 10, 2023: Costner misses the Golden Globes amid win for Yellowstone

The actor missed the Golden Globe Awards where he was nominated and won Best Actor in a Television Series -- Drama for his role as John Dutton on Yellowstone, due to extensive California flooding that blocked him and his wife, Christine, from making the drive down from Santa Barbara. 

"Hi, everyone. Look, I'm so sorry for everyone who might have been tuning in to watch the Golden Globes. Chris and I aren't going to be there," Costner said in a video prior to the awards show. "Yesterday we had to pull the kids out of school in Santa Barbara. This is the second time in five years that the freeway has flooded out, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the town and we couldn't get back last night."

Feb. 6, 2023: Yellowstone coming to an early end?

About one month after the season 5 midseason finale aired, multiple reports surfaced alleging that Yellowstone may be coming to an early end in its current state. The revelations came amid a Deadline report alleging there were disagreements over Costner's filming schedule. According to the report, Costner allegedly requested one week of shooting to complete the remaining eight episodes in the back half of season 5. His request was allegedly denied by Paramount Network.

Costner's lawyer, Marty Singer, responded to rumors about the actor's alleged desire to shorten his work hours, issuing the following statement to ET: "The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie. It's ridiculous -- and anyone suggesting it shouldn't be believed for one second. As everyone who knows anything about Kevin is well aware, he is incredibly passionate about the show and has always gone way above and beyond to ensure its success."

Speculation that Yellowstone is potentially ending early came as a bit of a surprise following Hauser's recent remarks about the future of the franchise. The actor told ET in January at the Golden Globes that there would be at least two more seasons. "I can tell you there will be [season] 6 and [there] will be a seventh, that's all I can say," Hauser told ET at the time. "That's all I can tell you."

During that same Deadline report, it was revealed Matthew McConaughey was in discussions to star in a potential new Yellowstone series.

February 2023: Growing tensions

Matthew Belloni, founding partner of Puck News and the first to report on the on-set challenges and disagreements that have reportedly plagued the show during its fifth season, noted the drama is rooted in several possible factors, including scheduling disagreements, pay disputes and personal friction between different key players.

"Kevin Costner is famously headstrong and he has been at odds with Taylor Sheridan, the creator of this show, for months now over the days that he's gonna be shooting for the next part of the season," Belloni said in February. He said some felt Costner has "a pretty big ego" and that this likely "came to the forefront on Yellowstone, especially recently, as has a passion project that he's wanted to do for a long time -- to direct this movie called Horizon, which is a Western that he's directing and starring in."

"He really wanted to put that in front of Yellowstone, and the  producers of Yellowstone said, 'Hey, the show is your first priority, we're paying you a lot of money to do this show.' And Kevin just was very headstrong and wanted his way," Belloni said. "This was a fight that has been playing out for the past few months now behind the scenes."

April 1, 2023: Matthew McConaughey series moving forward regardless of Costner's future

Gary Miller/WireImage

Amid mounting uncertainty around the fate of Yellowstone, Paramount boss Chris McCarthy planted the flag in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the McConaughey series, which is being billed as an extension of the franchise, would move forward no matter what Costner's fate on Yellowstone ended up being. 

April 1, 2023: Main Yellowstone cast skip event amid drama

Main Yellowstone cast and creatives, including Costner and Sheridan, were on the bill to appear at a PaleyFest event in Los Angeles, but instead, fans were left disappointed when the majority did not show up. Only Moses Brings Plenty, Dawn Olivieri, Josh Lucas and Wendy Moniz were in attendance, along with Keith Cox, President of Development and Production at Paramount Network, who took part in the onstage discussion.

The absence of Costner, Sheridan and executive producer David Glasser, along with cast members Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Kelsey Asbille, Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham and Jacki Weaver was said to be due to "scheduling conflicts."

Cox addressed Costner's future on Yellowstone, telling the crowd, "What I can say is our star, the face of our show and the executive producer, [we] are very confident he’s going to continue with our show."

May 1, 2023: Costner's wife files for divorce

P. Lehman/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Costner's wife, Christine, filed for divorce on May 1 in Santa Barbara, California, citing irreconcilable differences after 18 years of marriage. She listed the date of separation as April 11, 2023. They share three children together: Cayden, 15, Hayes, 14 and Grace, 12.

"It is with great sadness that circumstances beyond his control have transpired which have resulted in Mr. Costner having to participate in a dissolution of marriage action," a rep for Costner confirmed to ET. "We ask that his, Christine’s and their children’s privacy be respected as they navigate this difficult time," the statement concluded.

According to new court documents obtained by ET in June 2023, Christine maintained she was not the driving force behind Costner's decision to leave Yellowstone. "I have avoided being public about the reasons for our divorce," Christine said in the court docs. "I have done this to protect our family's privacy. I did not pressure Kevin to leave the Yellowstone show. Kevin's public attacks on me are harmful for our family. I believe they are meant to pressure me to move out without a temporary child support agreement in place."

May 3, 2023: Costner officially not returning after season 5

Sources close to production told ET that Costner would not be returning to Yellowstone after the end of season 5. The news came after reports of alleged drama between the star of the Paramount Network series and Sheridan over the actor's filming commitments to the remaining episodes of the season

Additional sources also told ET there was no update on when production was to resume in Montana, where the series is filmed on location, to finish season 5. 

May 5, 2023: The end of Yellowstone is made official

Days after ET reported Costner wouldn't be returning to Yellowstone after the season, Paramount Network made it official: The series was ending in its current form with a tentative return date of November. Filming, however, has not commenced on the final episodes yet. And while Yellowstone will be hanging up its hat, an untitled sequel series from Sheridan was set to debut by December on Paramount Network, followed by a run on Paramount+. 

"The Dutton story continues, picking up where Yellowstone leaves off in another epic tale," David Glasser, CEO of 101 Studios and executive producer of Yellowstone, said in the announcement. "We are thrilled to bring this new journey to audiences around the world."

While no cast was confirmed, the sequel series is believed to be led by McConaughey, who McCarthy previously revealed is set to star in a Yellowstone extension. However, no other details about that series have been announced. 

May 9, 2023: Costner wants a say on how he's written off

According to a report by Puck News, Costner -- who is embroiled in divorce proceedings with his estranged wife, Christine -- allegedly wants to feel "comfortable with how his John Dutton character is written out of the franchise" and that he "wants to prevent what Shonda Rhimes did to Patrick Dempsey, killing off the race car-driving Grey's Anatomy star in an F-you car accident."

Sheridan responded in a June interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he doesn't do "f**k-you car crashes." "Whether [Dutton's fate] inflates [Costner's] ego or insults is collateral damage that I don't factor in with regard to storytelling," the creator addressed.

June 21, 2023: Sheridan breaks his silence on Costner drama, plus possible delay?

David Becker/Getty Images

In a cover story for The Hollywood Reporter, Sheridan shared his feelings about Costner leaving the popular series, acknowledging his disappointment over the actor's decision to part ways.

"My opinion of Kevin as an actor hasn't altered," Sheridan said. "His creation of John Dutton is symbolic and powerful... and I've never had an issue with Kevin that he and I couldn't work out on the phone. But once lawyers get involved, then people don't get to talk to each other and start saying things that aren't true and attempt to shift blame based on how the press or public seem to be reacting. He took a lot of this on the chin and I don't know that anyone deserves it. His movie seems to be a great priority to him and he wants to shift focus. I sure hope [the movie is] worth it -- and that it's a good one."

"I'm disappointed," Sheridan continued. "It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn't alter it, but it truncates it."

THR's Editor at Large James Hibberd spoke to ET after Sheridan's profile was published, and shared two sticking points that proved to be the deciding factor in Costner's exit.

"In the story, my sources give two points of view about Costner leaving, one point of view is that Costner kept waiting for scripts and got frustrated that the showrunner, Taylor Sheridan, kept being so focused on his other shows," Hibberd told ET. "Another point of view is that Costner got his four-movie deal to make his longtime passion project and just increasingly blew off the show."

It also is looking increasingly likely that Yellowstone won't return for its final episodes until 2024 amid the ongoing writers' strike because scripts haven't been completed. Sheridan seemed to suggest in the interview that the second half of season 5 could be more than six episodes: "If I think it takes 10 episodes to wrap it up, they'll give me 10. It'll be as long as it needs to be."

"[Yellowstone] can't be shot in the winter due to the weather," Hibberd told ET. "So, even if the writers' strike ends the window to shoot the show is narrow."

September 2023: Costner speaks out

During a child support hearing, the actor addressed the circumstances of his exit from the show, reportedly saying on the stand that he changed his schedule to shoot the first part of season 5 amid his own four-part movie project, Horizon: An American Saga. While he said he wanted to return for the sixth season, he "couldn’t help them any more." According to Costner, making Horizon was a conflict with filming Yellowstone two times a year. 

"We tried to negotiate, they offered me less money than previous seasons, there were issues with the creative," he claimed, alleging a script for the second part of season 5 had not been written. Costner further alleged that he tried to return to the show and told his reps to "have them pay me whatever number, we came up with a number, and they [Yellowstone] walked away."

At that same hearing, Costner's lawyer revealed the actor has not yet reached an exit agreement.  

January 2024: Final episodes premiere date set

After delays due to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, it was announced that the second half of Yellowstone's fifth and final season -- set to be comprised of six episodes -- will debut on Nov. 10, 2024.

April 2024: Costner says he "hopes" he's able to return for final episodes

At CinemaCon 2024, where the actor and director was promoting his years-long passion project, Horizon: An American Saga, Costner told ET that he would "love" to return for Yellowstone's final episodes -- if he was comfortable with how his ending was written. Ultimately, he left the ball in Sheridan's court.

"I'd like to be able to do it but we haven't been able to," Costner said. "I thought I was going to make seven [seasons] but right now we're at five. So how it works out -- I hope it does -- but they've got a lot of different shows going on. Maybe it will. Maybe this will circle back to me. If it does and I feel really comfortable with [it], I'd love to do it."

And, yes, Costner says he's thought about how John Dutton's story wraps up on Yellowstone.

"Well, you know, he needs to be proactive in what happens and I've kind of had my own fantasy how it might be," Costner said, "but that's Taylor's thing. I said as much to him a while back. I had thoughts how it could happen, but we just have to see."

May 2024: Costner says he "took a beating" amid Yellowstone drama

Costner's most candid interview about the behind-the-scenes drama was perhaps his May 2024 sit-down with Deadline, where he slammed the rumors that he prioritized Horizon over Yellowstone, saying that narrative "wasn't truthful."

"I don’t want to get down in the gutter with the Yellowstone thing but what I’m telling you is straight up. I have taken a beating from those f**king guys and I know a lot of times where it’s coming from," Costner said. "I just elected not to get into that. But if you know me well enough, I made Yellowstone the first priority, and to insinuate anything else would be wrong."

Costner added that he doesn't know "why they don't stick up for me." He claims that he gave the Yellowstone team 25 days for season 5, part B, nearly the whole month of March 2023, but that "there was no script." 

Costner noted that he was willing to give the Yellowstone team an additional week to kill off his character or give John Dutton a satisfying ending, but claimed that it then got spun that he only wanted to work for a week. 

"Do you think that's who I am? I've never missed a day of work," Costner insisted. "I've never left before fulfilling my contractual obligations. A lot of times, I stay as much as I can."

Ultimately, Costner repeated himself about a possible return, saying, "If the writing is there, I will be there too."

May 20, 2024: Production begins on final episodes

A few days after series actor Forrie J. Smith revealed on Instagram that he was back in Montana to begin filming, Paramount Network shared that production had officially begun on the final episodes of the drama's fifth and final season.

In the press release, Costner was still listed as an executive producer on the series.


For more on the latest on the ongoing Yellowstone drama, watch below.

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