In Conversation with Denim Richards
Words & Interview by: Rachel Beckmann
Yellowstone, by Paramount +, is expected to soon become the most watched series in the world by 2024. Now on its fifth season, Yellowstone has followed the tensions between the Dutton family & their Montana ranch. The recurring character of ranch hand Colby Mayfield, played by Denim Richards, has become a leading presence on the screen, and the actor has many blessings to share regarding his overarching career, Yellowstone, & the uncertainty he faced on the road to his achievements.
Photo credit: Diana Ragland
PWR: When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
Denim Richards: I didn’t really have the urge to become a star, to be on billboards… that was not my main motivation. I wanted a space to live the life of other human beings for a moment through the characters I would have played. No one can just wake up one day and be like, “I wanna be an artist!”, but I always wanted to be in the creative arts ever since elementary school. I pushed for more responsibility than just standing on stage with a sign and continued to dominate the stage as I continued onto larger roles. Musical theater was a large influence on my going into TV and film and it was through this that I became a well-rounded actor. I decided, then, to niche down to TV which led into a natural progression up to roles such as Colby Mayfield in Yellowstone.
PWR: Did you receive any professional training for the arts?
Denim Richards: There’s this misguided preconception that people feel like there's only one set way to build a career, but really there’s no real path. While my friends went to NYU and UC Berkeley, I contributed to 20+ community theater productions. Through musical theater, I got hands-on training. Training on the job was beneficial to me because I had never done well in a classroom setting. As I continued on with this I got my first paying job; I’m talking months of work for a small stipend, but I was inspired by the small batches of income that I received. Through the low moments and feelings of self doubt, I kept pressing forward on my path to becoming an actor. It was a slow progression towards national commercials and slowly up towards the entertainment industry. I am blessed to have been sure of what potential I had in my future, and am now truly blessed with the work that I do.
PWR: When you aren’t acting, what are you doing?
Denim Richards: I love acting, and most people know me as an actor, but I am beginning to appreciate the producing and directing side of it all. By practicing the business of the entertainment industry, I am able to understand the technicalities of what goes into each scene. I’d like to branch out and do more producing work when I’m not on screen.
Photo credit: Diana Ragland
PWR: Can you tell me a bit about your nonprofit organizations?
Denim Richards: I made a promise to myself early on that if I were ever given an opportunity to have a platform, that I wouldn’t just shine a light on myself but give those who need a voice, a voice. Those who come from underprivileged communities could very well be the ones who make an impact on society, but if they are not given a voice, they might not feel like they have no obligation to themselves to grow and succeed. YES (Youth Empowering Success) serves underprivileged communities, including children in foster care, offering these children a safe outlet to express the arts through public speaking, dance, film, and mentorship through different stages of life. OUR (Operation Underground Railroad) is an organization dedicated to culling human trafficking, going around the world conducting covert operations working with governments to rescue children from sex trafficking and human exploitation.
“Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) has made a significant impact in the fight to end sex trafficking and sexual exploitation by assisting in rescuing and supporting thousands of survivors in 30 countries and 50 U.S. states. Our approach is adapted to geographical location, the needs of survivors, and best practices in the field. Since 2013, O.U.R.’s operations and aftercare efforts have led to the rescue of over 6,000 survivors and the arrest of over 4,000 predators. We have expanded into over 40 countries and all 50 U.S. states.” (www.OurRescue.org)
Denim Richards in Yellowstone
PWR: Tell me about Paramount’s Yellowstone.
Denim Richards: Yellowstone is currently rated as the #1 show in the United States, and in about a year, it will be rated #1 show in the world. I don’t know that any of us who started in Yellowstone in 2018 would have imagined that it would be as supported as it has been since then.I am very very blessed to have the opportunity to play Colby alongside Yellowstone star Kevin Coster and the show’s creators, Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, it is unfathomable.
Since starring on Yellowstone, I have a greater appreciation for the entertainment industry, as challenging as it is to be a part of– and I have cried many nights out of frustration and sadness, but I continued on, blocked out the noise, and beautiful things happened.
Photo credit: Diana Ragland
PWR: How does Colby Mayfield in Yellowstone measure up to the real Denim Richards?
Denim Richards: While I'd like to think that I, as Denim Richards, am loyal, Colby is more quiet and reserved than I typically would be. Colby’s a roaddog, pack animal, a ride or die. If you haven't watched the show, we have these characters who are branded with a Y on their chest which shows the viewers that they’ve been involved in some sort of criminal activity. While this Y typically is displayed when a character is introduced, Colby wasn’t branded until Season 3. Colby is all buttoned up, loves his work, and just wants to work with cattle.
PWR: What was your favorite Yellowstone episode to film & why?
Denim Richards: My favorite episode to film would have to be Season 3, episode 9. In the previous episode, the viewers were led to believe that Colby & Teeter were dead under the water after their foes attempted to trample them to death. Set in a harsh Utah winter, I opened up episode 9 with Colby coming out of the freezing waters in Utah, shirtless, as Teeter’s nude, all while we filmed this scene in the forest. We were shooting these scenes until three in the morning, and in between takes we were just laughing about how blessed we are to be shooting in the middle of the night when the whole world is still asleep and that we have the opportunity to live our own lives as actors as well as the much simpler lives of our characters.