Why Luke Grimes From Yellowstone Looks So Familiar

For two seasons of the hit Paramount Network drama Yellowstone, ruggedly handsome actor Luke Grimes has portrayed Kayce Dutton, the former Navy SEAL and tamer of wild horses who all too often finds himself in the middle of tragedy. The son of main character John Dutton (Kevin Costner), Kayce has endured the death of his mother at a young age, the killing of his brother Lee at the hands of his brother-in-law, and a host of brutal events in between — yet he remains grounded, largely thanks to his wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille), with whom he lives on the Broken Rock Native American Reservation.

If you've had a bit of trouble placing Grimes' face during Yellowstone's run, it may be because until being cast in the series, his career had consisted largely of relatively minor roles in movies and television series that were seen by a heck of a lot of people. Here are a few of the reasons why Yellowstone's Luke Grimes might look just a bit familiar.

Luke Grimes' first-ever role was in a cult horror classic

Grimes made his acting debut in a little film called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and if this is where you recognize him from, good on you. One of the first starring vehicles for Amber Heard (Aquaman), the ultra low-budget slasher flick began making the film festival rounds in 2006, but due to a series of complications involving its distributor (complications which ended in said distributor's bankruptcy), the flick wasn't available in the U.S. on any platform until 2013. 

Directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), All the Boys Love Mandy Lane leaned into its miniscule budget, sporting a down and dirty, grindhouse aesthetic and isolated setting that's been compared favorably to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the greatest horror films of all time. Mandy Lane is a pretty damn fine example of the post-'80s slasher genre, lovingly recalling that golden era while still being infused with a sense of nihilism that is distinctly of its era.

In the film, Grimes portrayed Jake, one of a group of popular kids obsessed with Heard's titular character (and in the habit of bullying her unstable best friend Emmet) after she blossoms over one summer. Jake met his end early in the flick, and even if he hadn't, it's safe to say that Mandy Lane — with its release held up for so many years — didn't increase his visibility much. The actor would take on a number of bit roles in film and television over the next several years, landing his next high-profile gig (strangely enough) in 2013, the year Mandy Lane finally made its stateside debut. Unfortunately, it was one that would end in controversy.

True Blood recast Luke Grimes' character amid controversy

Grimes appeared in the sixth season of the hit HBO series True Blood as James, a vampire with a heart of gold who shows up to romance Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). The role allowed him to blossom into something of a sex symbol for a time, but when the seventh and final season of True Blood debuted the following year, viewers noticed a slight change in the character: he was being portrayed by a different actor, Nathan Parsons. Grimes publicly chalked the change up to his disappointment in the fact that his character's story would be diverging from that of Woll's (his friend and eventual co-star in the 2015 drama feature Forever) in season 7 — but some of his co-stars, including the late Nelsan Ellis, told a slightly different story.

Late in the series' sixth season, it became apparent that James was bisexual, and he appeared to be headed for a hookup with Ellis' fan-favorite character Lafayette (which came to fruition in season 7). This, according to Ellis, is why he quit the show. Speaking with Vulture in 2014, Ellis said, "I'm just... I'm over him. You quit your job because you don't want to play a gay part? As if it's ... You know what? I'm going to stop talking." However, he did not. "You make a statement when you do something like that," the actor continued. "You make a statement, a big statement, when you go, I don't want to play this part because it's gay.' If you have a child, if you have a son, and he comes out as gay, what are you going to do? If you have a daughter who comes out gay ...? You just made a statement, and it has ripple effects."

For his part, Grimes had no further comment on the matter after departing True Blood. But despite the controversy, his star only continued to rise — with his next major role coming in one of the most successful feature films of 2014.

Luke Grimes first portrayed a Navy SEAL in American Sniper

Grimes was cast in a major supporting role in American Sniper, the Bradley Cooper-starring biopic of the deadliest sniper in the history of the U.S. military, Chris Kyle. Grimes portrayed Marc Lee, a Navy SEAL, in a role that could be seen as something of a warm-up for his eventual turn on Yellowstone

In real life, Lee was the very first SEAL to be killed in during Operation Iraqi Freedom when he was caught in the middle of a firefight between U.S. forces and insurgents while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq. As it did with the character of Kyle himself, American Sniper — which was directed by the great Clint Eastwood and was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one for its sound editing — took a great deal of liberties with Lee, who was depicted in the film as being so profoundly disillusioned with war as to be on the brink of suicide. In 2015, Lee's mother Debbie told Newsmax, "The Marc Lee you see portrayed in that movie is not my son... Marc believed in the mission and what he was doing there. There's one line in the film where Marc's character says 'I don't believe in what we're doing here,' and that wasn't true."

Creative license notwithstanding, Grimes was praised for his portrayal, and American Sniper became the highest-grossing war movie of all time, behind only Saving Private Ryan. The flick's Hollywood-ized version of events may not have been a terribly accurate portrayal of real life... but Grimes' next high-profile role was about as far removed from reality as movies get.

Luke Grimes was in all three Fifty Shades movies

You may very well be familiar with Grimes from his portrayal of Elliot Grey in the Fifty Shades series, and if so, it's okay to admit it. He was cast as the club-hopping younger brother of main character Christian in 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey shortly after his departure from True Blood,and he reprised the role in 2017's Fifty Shades Darker and 2018's Fifty Shades Freed. Of course, nobody would ever accuse the series of being high art — but it certainly made a boatload of money, so it's safe to say that the movies contributed to a marked increase in Grimes' visibility.

If none of these are ringing any bells, and you still just can't quite put your finger on where you've seen Grimes' mug before, you may need to reach back to your memory of Christmas 2017. That year, Grimes gave us a little holiday cheer in the form of an unheralded and underrated black comedy — although you might have simply lost him in the sea of famous faces.

Luke Grimes led an all-star cast in El Camino Christmas

The Netflix original film El Camino Christmas flew under a lot of people's radar, which is odd, because its pedigree is simply freakin' crazy. The flick was directed by the prolific playwright David E. Talbert, from a script co-written by Theodore Melfi, who wrote and directed the excellent 2014 Bill Murray vehicle St. Vincent and the 2016 historical drama Hidden Figures, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. The story of a young man whose road trip in search of his errant father ends with him barricaded with five strangers inside a liquor store on Christmas Eve, El Camino Christmas gave Grimes a rare starring vehicle and a supporting cast that would make any actor green with envy. 

The flick co-starred Vincent D'Onofrio (Marvel's Daredevil), Dax Shepard (Idiocracy), Tim Allen (Toy Story 4), Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy), Kimberly Quinn (who appeared in both St. Vincent and Hidden Figures), Jessica Alba (L.A.'s Finest), and the great Kurtwood Smith, who is equally revered for his roles as acerbic dad Red Forman on That 70's Show and the ultra-villainous Clarence Boddicker in Paul Verhoeven's classic sci-fi actioner Robocop. Very few film fans seem to even be aware of the existence of El Camino Christmas, which is a crime — the flick is everything its tagline ("Bullets, Beer, Holiday Cheer") promises, and Grimes proved to be a capable comedic lead.

Since Yellowstone's debut in 2018, Grimes has only appeared in one other project: Into the Ashes, a limited-release crime thriller that saw him take on the lead role opposite Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later), Frank Grillo (Captain America: Civil War), and Robert Taylor (The Meg). At the time of this writing, he has no future projects on his IMDb page other than Yellowstone — which should suit fans of the show just fine. Grimes is certainly settling into his role, and the hit series will surely give his character plenty more dramatic developments in future seasons.