‘Yellowstone’ star Jen Landon shares her rekindled passion for horses and on-set heroes
Yellowstone viewers and cast members alike have fallen in love with the character of Teeter, the young ranch hand with an unmistakable and frequently non-understandable accent. Loud, quirky, and not afraid to tackle any ranch task, Emmy Award winner Jen Landon was first brought on to the mega-hit Paramount television series in Season 3 in this unforgettable recurring role. Teeter’s popularity grew when she and Colby (Denim Richards) were caught in a dangerous stampede at the end of Season 3, and it was not sure if they were going to survive. Landon was on the show to stay, however, and the rough and tumble ranch hand is front and center in Season 5.
Oscar and Emmy winner Kevin Costner takes the reins of the ensemble cast in this drama series, starring as the patriarch of the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch in Montana, a powerful and complicated family of ranchers. A sixth-generation homesteader and devoted father, Costner as John Dutton, controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.
Landon started acting in high school and joined a theatre company at sixteen, performing in the states and then overseas. She then attended the NYU Tish School for the Arts for undergraduate drama at the tender age of seventeen. While still in school, she booked her first television appearance on the daytime drama, As the World Turns. The job was originally written as a one-episode guest-star, but production called her manager soon after, telling him they wanted Landon for a three-year contract. This guest-star role became a starring role as Gwen Norbeck Munson in the CBS drama, and won three consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series.
In between shooting Yellowstone, Landon saddled up for two seasons on the CBS procedural FBI: Most Wanted, playing a recurring role as Sarah Allen, Special Agent Jess LaCroix’s (Julian McMahon) love interest. “Jess and I had fantastic chemistry,” she says.
Constantly working, she has guest-starred in episodes of The Orville, The Resident and Chicago Med, as well as recurring roles on Banshee, Animal Kingdom, and Jason Reitman’s Frontrunner starring Hugh Jackman. She also recently completed a Max Barbakow comedy.
But nothing quite prepared the Yellowstone fans for Teeter.
According to Kelly Reilly, who stars as Beth Dutton on the mega-hit series, Teeter was the “role of the season,” when Landon joined the show as a ranch hand living in the all-male bunkhouse on the Dutton Ranch.
“Teeter is really a fit for me,” explains Landon. “When I got the pages, I could see that this wasn’t English, and thought maybe this was an audition for a French character, as I speak French really well. But it wasn’t French, and it wasn’t English. It was written phonetically, and I delivered her way of speaking exactly like Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone’s co-creator) had written it.
“I didn’t think I was going to get the part, but I fell in love with the character, thinking this was the weirdest and greatest thing I’d ever auditioned for.”
When asked whether the accent was a Texan accent, Landon recalls, “I made a choice very early on that Teeter speaks the way her family speaks. That it isn’t loyal to any regional dialect, and I relate that to my own family. I come from Utah stock on my mother’s side, and they live forever. My great grandma was a rodeo queen and could certainly ride a horse. She spoke like nobody I have ever met from Utah. She had the thickest accent I have ever heard, and I figured that’s just the way her daddy and mama spoke.”
The role of Teeter was meant to be, as Landon took a sabbatical from acting twelve years ago and lived on a cattle ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana, where the show Yellowstone is set. “So, to end up on a show set on a cattle ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana, was kismet,” Landon adds.
Not only does she co-star on the series, but she is also a huge fan of the show. “I’m a lunchbox actor,” she told Decider. “Each job is a job fought for and a job got. So, after all that hard work, to get something like Yellowstone, and to get to work with Taylor Sheridan, who I have tremendous respect for…is a no brainer.”
Never fearing rejection from the other wranglers, Teeter’s story takes a turn for what the viewers think is going to be for the better at the end of Season 3 when she starts to form a relationship with Colby. Getting naked and jumping into a shallow lake for a little old-fashioned skinny dipping, the afternoon turned dangerous, when the pair is caught up in a water stampede orchestrated by some of Dutton’s enemies.
Her face needed to appear very badly injured, “so production sent me to a prosthetics specialist in Los Angeles to make a latex mold that hardened around my face. They added a plastic piece under the prosthetic, so that when Colby is stapling her face together in the scene, he was using a real staple gun and stapling that prosthetic skin together, and I had a protective shield underneath to protect my face,” she explains.
Landon has now been upped to a series regular and says that “the new season is really fun, and the show will not disappoint the fans, even given the interminably long wait to get back on the air.” And even after 3 seasons under her belt she knows she has so much more to learn about ranch life and horsemanship.
The on-set wranglers and stunt people have been with Landon every step of the way. “The wranglers are my favorite people on earth,” praises Landon. “There is some overlap between the wranglers and stunt people, and these are the people I’ve grown the closest to on the set. I came onto Yellowstone
Landon says that in the process, she has developed amazing friendships with them. “I think about our stunt-coordinator Jason Rodriguez, (we call him J Rod) and how close I’ve gotten to him and his family, and I even play video games with his kids. These are the people who keep us out of harm’s-way, as we really do everything it looks like we do on the Yellowstone Ranch in Season 5. There is a lot of cattle work and the actors do it all, including several branding days. I can confidently say that I know now how to flank a calf.”
The show is a fully immersive experience as the cast and crew live and work together in Montana for months at a time.
Although she grew up around horses and began riding at a young age, an incident that almost killed Jen’s mother gave her a serious fear of horses for years. She had a terrible fall, being dragged around an arena with her foot stuck in a stirrup. “She really shouldn’t have survived that accident,” says Landon, “and I was still quite young and just stopped riding.”
“My mom rode hunter-jumpers, and that accident was horrible timing. I was seven and we were in Arizona getting a new horse, just after my pops had died and my mom was thirty-four years old with two young children. She jumped on a horse that was either green or was having a bad day and her foot just tapped the side of the arena; but that was enough to get the horse riled and her thrown off. Mom’s foot got caught in a stirrup and she was dragged around the arena, hitting her head on the ground.”
The actress didn’t start riding again until joining Yellowstone after her team told the Casting Directors that she was “a professional rider.” “It was really healing on one level, but I do have fear every day that I get on a horse. But each season I ride a different horse and by the end of filming I’m really attached to it. This season I rode a cutting horse named Shorty, and am just wild about him.”
Recently Landon participated in the Careity Celebrity Cutting, where she was paired with National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) champion Lindy Burch. Burch is an Ambassador for the Careity Foundation-Cancer Care Celebrity Cutting that is held each year during the NCHA Futurity to raise funds for direct aid to cancer patients and their families in North Texas. She is also the first woman to capture the most prestigious titles in the sport of cutting, including the NCHA Open Futurity Champion and NCHA Open World Champion. “I was lucky enough to get her,” said Burch, who had won the NCHA Futurity Open in the same arena Landon rode in. “She’s been working amazingly hard, and she’s come a long way in a very short time,” she told the Quarter Horse News. “There’s no fear in her and she’ll do anything.”
“I was so lucky to be paired up with Lindy,” Landon continues, “as I didn’t really know what cutting was, and it was a really fast learning curve. Early on in my riding, I watched a video of her barking at me as I did everything wrong, and believe it or not, I would bark back. I might be the only person in the state of Texas who will argue with Lindy Burch.”
A turning point for Landon in her riding career was when she started turning back for Burch in her practice sessions. “It just took the focus off of myself,” says Landon. “I was so focused on doing a good job for her, that it made me forget about my fear.”
Burch has been a mentor, inspiration, and a true friend to Landon for more than two years.
Returning from Montana in mid-September, Landon is excited to explore other possibilities before returning to location to film the second half of Season 5 of Yellowstone.
When asked about working with Taylor Sheridan, Landon says that “he is a genius. He is one of the most heartfelt people I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve always felt that he was the big brother I’ve never had, and when on set he is truly one of us.” She also says he makes acting seem, “like an athletic event which is the greatest thing for an actor because you can’t overthink it.”
Her hope is to eventually get behind the camera as a writer and producer. “I love storytelling so much and believe the older I get, perhaps the direct spotlight may need to shine on someone else.”