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The Vicious Insult That Inspired Yellowstone Creator Taylor Sheridan To Start Writing

When you ask someone to describe Taylor Sheridan nowadays, the first thing that will come to many people's minds is his talented writing career, with credits that include Paramount's "Yellowstone" and the critically-acclaimed films "Sicario," "Hell or High Water," and "Wind River." But there was actually a time when the famous Hollywood scribe wasn't even thinking about putting words on paper, and all he ever cared about was acting — no matter the role or project.

"I'd eked out a living, but I wouldn't say it's what I dreamed of doing," Sheridan told AdWeek in a May 2022 interview. "I didn't do a lot of work I was proud of."

Taking on his first TV project in 1995 — which was an appearance on "Walker, Texas Ranger" — Sheridan wound up making a career out of smaller parts and B-list work, including one-time credits in "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," "Party of Five," "Star Trek: Enterprise," "NYPD Blue," and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." He eventually landed larger roles on "Veronica Mars" and then FX's "Sons of Anarchy," with Deputy Chief David Hale being his last big acting part before becoming a writer. So what could have set Sheridan down his current Hollywood creative path, right at a time when it seemed like he'd be taking on larger roles and bigger salaries? The answer is simple — an insult. And from the studio suits at FX, no less.

'He's not worth more'

According to Taylor Sheridan, it was a vicious insult from one of FX's business affairs attorneys that ultimately set him over the edge and fueled him to become a writer. The verbal jab came during contract negotiations over his "Sons of Anarchy" salary, which was at the guest star rate (per Deadline).

"When my attorney said, 'Look, there are kids on the Cartoon Network making more than you're offering this guy,' this jerk business affairs attorney goes, 'He probably deserves to make more, but we're not going to pay him more, because guess what? He's not worth more,'" Sheridan told Deadline. "'There are 50 of him. He is 11 on the call sheet. That's what that guy is and that's all he's ever going to be,'" the attorney allegedly added. "That's really when I quit [because] that's how the business saw me: 'Let's replace him with someone cheaper.' And I decided that I didn't want to be 11 on the call sheet for the rest of my life."

After spending some time trying to figure out what to be other than an actor, Sheridan eventually landed on screenwriting following a creative meeting with his acting buddy Hugh Dillon. "I knew what I'm supposed to do," Sheridan told AdWeek. According to him, he wound up writing the first episode of "Mayor of Kingstown" the very next day, with it being put on hold until 2021. "I said, 'Hugh, I'm sticking this in a drawer, and we're not pulling it out until I have enough power to make it the way we want to make it.' And it took 10 years," Sheridan recalled.