While it’s far from uncommon for actors to eventually decide to pursue some of their other interests professionally, like with moving into directing , producing, or writing TV shows and/or movies, it does seem to be rare for them to then have even more success behind the camera than they did in front of it. However, such is, arguably, the case for Sons of Anarchy actor turned Yellowstone mastermind Taylor Sheridan, who recently got very candid about why he mostly quit acting and started writing a lot more.
For the past several years, if you mention the name Taylor Sheridan, people are much more likely to think of his hit (and hopefully relatively long-running) series Yellowstone, or the many neo-western films he’s written since leaving Sons of Anarchy. But, by the time Sheridan left that series in 2010, he’d spent over 20 years guest-starring or recurring on other shows, such as Walker, Texas Ranger, Star Trek: Enterprise, and Veronica Mars.
Sheridan has since become a prolific writer in film and TV, and in a recent chat with Deadline, he admitted that the end of his time on Sons of Anarchy led him to purse his writing career, and said:
I’ve always said Hollywood will tell you what you’re supposed to be doing, if you will listen. At that time, they were offering me what I thought was a very unfair wage. It was less than virtually every other person on the show, and not enough for me to quit my second job. So, the business affairs attorney, who I won’t name, here’s what he told my attorney who said, look, there’s kids on the Cartoon Network making more than you’re offering this guy. The guy goes, ‘I know and you’re right that he probably deserves to make more, but we’re not going to pay him more because guess what, he’s not worth more. That’s what he’s worth. There’s 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.’ And that’s really when I quit.
Wow, that must have been rough. At the very least, it definitely sounds like it served as a wakeup call for Sheridan, who played the deputy chief of Charming’s police department, David Hale, until the Season 3 premiere, when his character was hit by a van and killed. He may have been perfect as the square-jawed lawman with black-and-white thinking when it came to right and wrong, but SOA creator Kurt Sutter freely admitted that Hale being killed off was the plan they came up with if contract negotiations with Sheridan didn’t work out, and that they didn’t mind making the move at all.
It makes sense that Sheridan would have thought that, after two seasons and 20 episodes of the mega-popular crime drama, he’d have proven himself important to the Sons of Anarchy cast, but when it was made clear that those behind the show didn’t agree, he had no problem finding a place for himself where he’d be valued a lot more.
Luckily for us, this has led to some amazing work from Sheridan behind the camera. Since just 2015, Sheridan (who does have a recurring part on Yellowstone), has brought us films like Sicario, Hell or High Water (for which he got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay), Wind River, and Those Who Wish Me Dead, as well as the aforementioned Yellowstone, it’s new spinoff 1883, and the new series Mayor of Kingstown. About leaving SOA, Sheridan added:
It wasn’t so much over money. It was so much more that that’s how the business saw me. It wasn’t just this jerk business affairs attorney who simply articulated what obviously was said in a room with a bunch of executives when they decided ‘Nope, we’re going to save a dollar here. He’s easy to replace because he’s just not that good at his job. Let’s replace him with someone cheaper.’ And I decided right there that I didn’t want to be 11 on the call sheet for the rest of my life. Now, I am happily 11 on the call sheet on Yellowstone, but I don’t think anybody wants to watch me do anything on television for an hour, because the business told me they don’t.
Basically, if it hadn’t been for this disappointment at Sons of Anarchy, Taylor Sheridan might not have created one of the biggest shows on TV right now. The Yellowstone Season 4 finale just aired, but you can keep up with the Dutton family by watching the prequel, 1883, on Paramount+ when new episodes land every Sunday. For even more to watch, check out the 2022 TV schedule!