Denim Richards is a powerhouse.
He landed his first big TV role in 2018 on Paramount Network's Yellowstone as Colby, opposite Kevin Costner. In the upcoming third season of the series, Richards was upgraded to a series regular. He co-starred in his first feature film The Chickasaw Rancher, which was filmed in 2017 and slated to premiere in 2020. Richards also appeared as Elijah in the second season of Freeform's spin-off series Good Trouble.
He's a man of many talents: he can act, sing opera, ride horses, write and direct screenplays, and offer the most insightful and down-to-earth interviews. Check out our interview with Denim Richards.
Denim Richards Discusses ‘Yellowstone' and Exploring Untold Black Stories with ‘The Zoo'
Maggie Lovitt (ML): So how has quarantine been going for you?
Denim Richards (DR): You make the most of what you can. I've been able to get a lot of things that I probably wouldn't have been able to complete [finished] because usually, you're kind of just running around all the time. So with the shutdown, I started a garden, and you know, I was able to finish some [of the] other little projects around the house.
I wrote a book. It's kind of the thing where you understand everything that's going on, but instead of me just sitting around licking my wounds, you just try to make the most out of it. So, you know, I've tried just to make the most of it.
ML: Have you got a chance to watch any of the shows on streaming services?
DR: There have not been any shows that I've been able to watch yet, only because I have been finishing my book, and then I was finishing editing my film. So I have just been very inundated. It's crazy because I have so many friends that are like: “There's this documentary about a tiger.”
ML: Oh, God, Tiger King. That feels like a lifetime ago.
DR: Exactly! All these people were like you gotta watch this! You gotta watch this! And I'm like, okay, and I start writing them down. So I have like a list of like ten shows I'm probably supposed to watch, and I just haven't watched them yet. So I'm so far behind, but I promise it is because I'm doing things that are gonna be very, very beneficial for everyone else.
ML: Yes, that's good; you've prioritized.
DR: I tried to. So you know, I decided to take advantage of this and then once things start to pick up a little bit, and I have some other type of downtime, and all this other stuff is finished then I will kind of, mellow out a little bit and get back to some of these other shows that I have just been so far behind on. So, because of that, there's been a lot of my friends that are like, “Just don't talk to me!”
ML: Oh, that's too funny! So how did you get into acting?
DR: Acting was always something that I think I was just born to do. The first time that I had an experience, I remember I was in kindergarten. And you know when you're in kindergarten, you always do like these, like really crappy plays?
DR: And it's like, you know, hold this sign and stand there. And so I remember we used to have these at the school that I went to. We would have these things called “School Family” every Friday. [It would be] a performance of some kind from all the grades — from kindergarten to eighth grade. For one of these performances, I was supposed to be wearing this sign to stand there, and then they were like, “Okay, all you do is you just put this sign-on, and you walk to the front of the stage, and you stand there and do nothing else.” And I was like, “Whoa!” But then when I saw everybody in the assembly and everything, I was like, so excited. So I got up to the front, and then I started moving around and doing all this nonsense, and just completely pulling away from everything else.
So because of that, the teachers kind of got together like, “Look, we have this annual performance coming up [and] we think that your son would be good to see in this performance.” I think I was five years old. They just kind of walked me up there, and I started singing, and the crowd just kind of lit up. I was so excited to see the smiles and how happy everyone was. After that, it was just like, “Oh, this is what I want to do! Like, this is like an amazing thing.” So I kind of had that realization at five years old, and I never really looked back.
ML: That's awesome! That's such a unique experience to kind of get into is so young when you were in kindergarten.
DR: I mean, the whole journey has been so unique and fun, but you know, it's all part of it. As a kid, you hope that when you say that you want to do something that you're able to do it. I remember after that I went into first grade there was a time where the teacher had called my mom and was like, “Hey, you know, your son's kind of being a distraction.” And she was like, “What is he doing? Because usually, he's not really like that.”
So, I'm aging myself, but it was the first year that Lion King had come out. Now I got the movie soundtrack, and I was just playing it all the time. So in first grade, during a time when people were probably taking tests, or I don't know, doing what we're supposed to be doing, like reading, I would get up on my chair and start performing all of the songs to the Lion King. And they're just like, “We don't know what to do with him because he won't stop.” Like, was he singing on pitch at least? And they're like, “We don't know.” So you know, it's always just kind of been in me.
ML: That's too funny that you say that. I just found my cassette tape from Lion King, and it still works. Like just last week. It was such a good movie.
DR: It's still one of my favorites. And still, if I ever get downtime, and I just kind of want to turn my brain off, I absolutely play the original.
ML: So is that how you ended up moving into doing opera singing? Was it your interest in singing?
DR: It was. I always loved singing. I was doing plays, and then the plays kind of got me into doing musical theater. So I was doing a lot of musical theater performances. I [have] probably done somewhere over twenty musical theater shows. I was doing that, and that was something I loved and enjoyed doing. And then with the way that I am, I'm always [wanting] another challenge. [At] fifteen or sixteen, I started getting into the opera side, and I wanted to learn opera. I had heard all of these opera singers, and still, to this day, my favorite vocalist of all time is Leontyne Price. I remember hearing her sing, and the command [she had] was just everything. The focus. I was like, “I want to do that.”
I think I was probably sixteen when I started my first official opera lesson, and it was the most difficult thing I've ever done. I was crying in the voice lesson because it was so difficult.
But I loved it because it was so challenging, and it was something I had never grown up around. So it was very great for not only me but for everybody else that was around my family and me and my friends. And that's usually just not a super common thing a sixteen-year-old would be doing, just trying the opera thing.
It just really kind of helped me vocally, but [it] also just helped me kind of just as a man, just to be able to have more command and to be able to be more present in my body and understand what that meant.
So it kind of parlayed into so many different aspects [with] the discipline. Opera is something that you have to be willing to put in hours and hours and hours every single day. Like you could not slouch. So it's been super beneficial. That did layout a lot of the foundation for me being an artist, you know, all the way up until today.
ML: Yes, and I'm sure that it helps with acting as well because it helps you maintain that command and discipline that you're talking about.
DR: Yeah. I think that with acting, [it] was always interesting for me because when I was doing musical theater, I always felt that I could kind of just be like a windup toy. After all, there was the singing, there was the dancing, and there's the acting. There were bright lights and costumes. There were [these] huge sets, so you could kind of just be as big as you wanted to be, depending on whatever the scenario was.
When I was trying to then make the transition from the musical theater into commercial television and film, that felt like an impossible feat. I couldn't tell you how many agents and managers, where it was just doors slammed in my face because I could not bring it in. I could not get focused because I was so big. When you're doing camera work, you have to be so small. It's all about your eyes and all these other things. I was just not able to do that for the longest time.
But then when I started getting more comfortable, especially with opera, because you're not moving around that much. You have to just be able to stand and deliver. That kind of helped me when I was starting to get more into that discipline [and] make that transition over to the television and film side. It [made it] a little bit more manageable to be able to just be confident within the work on the inside to be able to emote on the outside.
ML: And then over on Yellowstone, you got upgraded to a season regular this season, correct?
DR: Yes. From day one, episode one, season one, it's been such a blessing. You know, everything in my life, it's been such an amazing journey. I just feel so blessed by The Most High to be able to be used in this way. And to be able to kind of team up with Taylor Sheridan who created this thing and wrote it. [He] has put such an amazing cast and crew together.
So me being able to be a part of that and as an artist, especially when you're getting into television, one of your biggest goals is always to become a series regular on the show. So the fact that I've been able to be a part of that on a show that is the first show I was actually part of multiple episodes on, not just coming on for one or two episodes and going the next day. It's just been such a blessing, and I know I'm so thankful for not only Yellowstone but for the Paramount Network, because they've taken me in, and they've embraced me, and they've just allowed me to be how I am. It's been such a blessing. I couldn't imagine being a series regular on any other show.
ML: And what can fans of the show expect for Colby's arc this season?
DR: This season is awesome because you get to see Colby in such a different light. He is finding himself and exploring his own unique personality within the Bunkhouse, within Yellowstone, and within the Dutton Ranch in general. So you're gonna see, which I think is kind of the theme for this entire season, whereas seasons one and two were very action-packed and [they] just really punched you over and over. Season three also does that, but we also add in another layer where we really kind of get inside of all [of] these characters emotionally. So you kind of get to see what they're all feeling, and you get to explore all of that.
[The fans] are gonna get to see who these characters actually are all the time. Not just when they have to, you know, be strong and big when they're in a vulnerable state and when they don't feel like they have all the answers. Colby is one of those people that kind of gets the go through those ups and downs. He has a really, really surprising storyline. I'm not going to give it away yet, because I want people to watch it. But I promise it's worth it. And I promise that it is something that no one — there's nobody that has watched seasons one and two — that will ever be able to expect it. It's a amazing journey, and I'm excited for our audience to be able to take part in it.
ML: That's fantastic, especially since [the audience] got to see your character grow over the past few seasons. Now to have this bigger part in the story.
DR: It is a testament to being able to be a part of amazing writing and also just the characters and all of the artists that we have on the show, it just makes the show so fun. We get to experience being out in the wilderness and be more physical. That's also fun. Every year getting to go back and not only growing as a human being but then also getting to see your character growing as a human being as well. It kind of makes it like a nice symbiotic relationship between the two, which is fun.
ML: How was filming out in Montana, because I looked up where Darby was, and it seems like it's in the middle of nowhere.
DR: That is very true. It is in the middle of nowhere. It's so amazing. You know, I say this all the time that every time we go to Montana, I feel like I get ten years added back onto my life. Just because [the] pace is so much slower, it's so relaxing. There are no freeways to get on and sit in traffic. You go to a coffee shop, and everyone's engaging with each other. They're not looking at their phones and then having to run outside and put money in the meters. It's just a very small town, so it's very relaxing.
It's also cool because the cast and crew become much more of a family because it's pretty much just us. So it's nice because so much of that time when we're not filming, we're together around the campfire just telling stories and just talking or playing cards and just having more of a family environment. Which I think is unique outside of other shows. When you're shooting at studios and the stages, you go to the stages, and then you go back home to your family or your home, and you're not engaging like that. So for this show, we're kind of together all the time during filming, which I think kind of adds to the depth of what the show has to offer.
ML: It helps you create the characters [when you] have those connections both on-screen and off-screen.
DR: It's awesome because when you're connecting off-screen, you get to know all of these amazing artists. You also get to know a way for them to challenge you and for you to challenge them. So you can bring out the best in you, and you can help to bring out the best in them. And that's kind of really a beautiful thing as well.
I think this is just a credit to Taylor Sheridan and the cast and crew that he brought together. He was very specific about wanting the people that he wanted because he knew what this show had the potential to do. He knew the family that he wanted to bring together. It is a beautiful thing to see that the audience is responding to hard work.
ML: Going off the idea of challenges, you were already a horseback rider when you got both Yellowstone and The Chickasaw Ranch. Were there any challenges with what you had to do with the animals that were a challenge for you?
DR: I could ride horses, but I wasn't a cowboy. I wasn't on ranches, herding cattle, and all of these other things. It was definitely a transition. On Chickasaw Rancher, you're on the horses, and you're herding cattle, whereas, in Yellowstone, we're not only herding cattle, but we're doing a lot of dialogue on the horses, we're gonna have fight scenes and battle scenes and all of these scenes. We're running wild horses and all that. I mean, it's just an amazing thing.
Being able to be a part of that and to get these transitions from how I remember riding horses, to what I'm doing now, has been so amazing. Not only that but [Taylor] also brought on all of these amazing cowboys and all these amazing people that are in rodeos. Still, to this day, a lot of our stunt doubles and the other artists on the show, when they're not working on the show they just go back and do the rodeo circuit. So we're getting to learn from the best of the best in doing all of these different things. It's a sport, you know, they're so athletic in what they're able to do.
I feel like there isn't anything I can't do on a horse, which is something that I definitely would not have been able to say several years ago. It's just another tool to be able to put into the tool bag — which is awesome.
ML: I know people love hearing stories about actors who bond with the horses that they get to ride. Were there any of your horse co-workers that you hit it off with?
DR: For people that don't know a lot about horses, they're pure spirits. Whatever you bring to them is kind of what they're going to embody. So the way that I like best-described horses, they're kind of like avatars. You know, when you sit on them, they kind of plug into you. You have to be able to have a command. I would say that I can have a stubborn personality if you will.
I've had the same horse since I think, at least midway through season one all the way up through seasons two and three. This beautiful horse is called Colt. He's so stubborn and so hard-headed. So we will get into the scenes together, and it'll be a scene where all we have to do is walk up and stand here. That's all we have to do. And then it's like okay, action, and he just goes and does whatever he wants.
It's really funny for everybody else around us. Still, then it's irritating because it's not that I don't know what I'm doing, it's just the fact of my personality, his personality, we just want to battle. But I don't want to ride any other horse. It's hilarious because you get that feeling of that symbiotic relationship. When you kind of lock into each other and you kind of understand that this is what makes him go and this is what makes me go. He has a lot of energy. There are the things [that] I need to do when the camera's not rolling to help him kind of harness this energy, which is very much how I am.
For people that have watched the show from the beginning, they'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm sure that if they watch some of the scenes closely, they'll be like, “Why are all the other horses standing perfectly still, and then Denim's horse is just constantly moving back and forth?” It's because we are having a battle at that moment.
ML: And then you're also on Good Trouble as Elijah, correct?
DR: Yes! I had the opportunity to go on Freeform's Good Trouble and play the character, Elijah. Again, [it was] another exciting experience because I never imagined myself being on the network or ever being on that show. Everybody on that show is so amazing. I had heard of The Fosters beforehand. But here's the thing that gets everybody — I don't watch television that much. So I don't know too much about all of these shows that I often have auditions for. But when I was younger, I had heard about The Fosters, and I knew that it was a spin-off of The Fosters.
When I came back from out of state, my agent was like, “There's this new show, it's amazing. It's season two, and you're going to come on and play this really, really unique character.” I was like, “Oh, this would be awesome and another challenge.” So being able to get on that show and being able to have the opportunity to be a part of such amazing people and beautiful writing. [It was] just another way to continue to put another kind of experience under my belt and move forward. But yeah, it's been awesome. The last year it's been a blessing to be able to have so many different experiences. And I just feel very grateful to have been allowed to come on and participate in the show with such amazing people that have been together for years already.
ML: Do you think there's an opportunity for Elijah to return in season three?
DR: I have no idea because of the way that Elijah's exit was open-ended. But, who knows, if I had to guess, I would probably say probably I doubt it. But I don't want the fans to get upset about that. I'm just being honest because that's all I can do.
You know, often, I get people that message me completely out of the blue, and they're just like, “I hate Elijah.” But I'm a good person! It's kind of interesting to see the response and [fans] just message you out of the blue when they're watching reruns. And I'm like that was a year ago!
They're like, “I always knew that you were up to no good!” I'm like, wait, who? Me as a person? No? Oh, okay. It's something that I haven't been able to get used to yet. It's kind of an awesome experience to be able to see that this is what some of these artists always go through. People have a hard time kind of making the separation between the actual person and the artist.
ML: Yes! When I was researching the character, I came across some very interesting posts about people who hate this character.
DR: It's funny because I've had people come up to me, and they'll be like, “Elijah,” and I'm like “No.” You know, they'll sit there, and they'll bring up when I did this [as Elijah]. They'll say, “This is why I know that you were up to no good!”
And I'm just like, “Oh my god! They don't realize that they're not talking to Elijah; they're talking to Denim. But okay, I'll play along with you. You know, it's cool, though. It's a testimony to the writing of the show and the artists and the atmosphere. [They] can bring in the fans and have them engage in such a way is very interesting. It was something I was not used to before I had that experience on Good Trouble.
ML: So what can you tell us about your role on The Chickasaw Rancher? You filmed this back in like 2018, right?
DR: At some point, this film is coming out! I'm excited for when it does come out. It was such an amazing experience. I had always had a dream, since I was younger, to be able to be in a film or a show where I had the opportunity to play a real-life character. This was my first co-starring role in a feature film.
I played a character named Jack Brown, who was actually Oklahoma's first sharecropper. The film The Chickasaw Rancher is about, essentially these Native Americans — quote-unquote — Native Americans (because that's the name that the people gave them). Montford T. Johnson, his family, Jack Brown, who is an African American, team up together to do this giant cattle draw. They did, I think it was a 400-mile cattle draw, which took place in 1866.
We were able actually to shoot this in Oklahoma. It was such a beautiful experience to see so many of our native brothers and sisters who were able to be a part of this film and have me be able to share this experience with them to play a real-life character.
In real life, I had the opportunity to visit his gravesite, which is out in the middle of nowhere where he and his wife had been laid to rest. There was this one day when we were sitting on set, and one of the producers comes up [to me] and says, “Hey, this is a friend and family day.” And I was like, “Oh, that's cool.” I don't have any kids or anything. So, you know everyone could bring their kids. But they were like, “No, no, this is a day where everybody that's going to be the background in the scene is all descendants from Montford T. Johnson and Jack Brown.
ML: Oh, wow!
DR: The film production brought in, from all over the country, all of these descendants of these two men and their families. It was just such a beautiful experience. Jack Brown's great-granddaughter and then her great-granddaughter came to see me. I had my full Jack Brown gear on, and they knocked on the door, and they're like, “Hey, you know, the descendants are here and they just, they're so excited! They just want to know if they can meet you.”
I was like, “Wait — they want to meet me? I want to meet them!” Being able to see them at the moment that they saw me… they started crying! They were like, “You look exactly like him!” It was such an emotional experience because it was something that I had always dreamed about as a child, which they never knew about. It was awesome for them because they always wanted their grandfather's story to be told because of what he did.
[It was] such an important thing that he was a part of, and it was something that kind of just got swept under the rug in the history. For me, it was something that I just felt so humbled to have been able to have the opportunity to do that. Still, to this day, it is probably the most meaningful thing that I've done in the arts. To be able to kind of share this story and then also share the story with their family. I'm excited for when the film comes out for the world to see what we were able to do with this project.
ML: That's amazing. That gave me goosebumps just thinking about the descendants being there!
DR: Those types of experiences don't happen very often. Like I said from the very beginning, The Most High [has] blessed me in so many ways to be able to just have these very, very unique experiences pretty early in my life. Where a lot of the time, a lot of these things could take you an entire lifetime. So I just feel so blessed.
ML: Switching gears a little bit, you've been delving into this world of writing and directing with your own film. So what was the inspiration behind The Zoo?
DR: I think it was 2012 when this whole thing started. I've always been a person that, when I was a child, I never needed a lot of friends. I always loved creating stories. I was the kid that every time I would go to my grandma's house, I would go to this place, and again, this is for this new generation, because I don't know if they exist anymore — there was a place called Toys” R” Us. There would be toys there, and you could buy them. I [would] get these action figures, and I would place them all around the house and have these different scenarios play out.
As I've gotten older, I've always wanted to do that. I always knew that if I were ever blessed with the opportunity to become a storyteller myself, I would be able to find stories that were never actually told and be able to tell them. So in 2012, I was watching the movie Schindler's List, and at the end of the film, it was talking about how there's like 7 million Jews that are being killed during that time. I wondered if there were any men of color or any black men and black women that were a part of all of the atrocities that were going on during that time.
Again The Most High just dropped it into me. I was like, “Let's just go down this rabbit hole.” I started just digging and researching, and finally, after a month of researching — this was in 2012, now you could probably find it in like less than half an hour. But I finally found a book called Germany's Black Holocaust. The book showed a picture of this black man sitting on a milk carton. And there it was, I was like, well, this is it—I kind of just delved into it and wanted to create a story. And so The Zoo is a kind of an offshoot of my original film, which is The Forgotten Ones, which will come out after this film comes out.
The Zoo is talking about the experiments that were done to men of color during the time of Nazi Germany, where you essentially would take these black men, and you would experiment on them. They would test their skin, and because the whole point was during this entire time everything was going on during World War II, there was also a major pillaging of Africa. This is a part of history that a lot of people don't know about.
Again, this is a part of the thing that I wanted to be able to tell. During this time in Africa, you have all these different countries that were going into these different countries in Africa and pillaging and killing the men and women. But one of the problems [is] that a lot of the people that were going in there were [dealing with] the heat and all of these diseases. All these other things that they could not figure out how come the people that originated there were dealing with it like it wasn't even a big deal, but then they were dying. So they would capture a lot of these men, and they would experiment on them. In their experiments, they were trying to break some type of genetic code to see if they could come up with their own formula so that they could better come in and conquer Africa.
For instance, during King Leopold, who built that giant castle in Belgium. That entire castle and everything that was built in Belgium was built off of the rubber mines in the Congo, and there were over 10 million Congolese men, women, and children that were killed during that time.
For me, The Zoo is an opportunity to talk about these types of stories and be able to start a dialogue to not only share with the world but then for us to understand what our other history is. Before all these other things in 1619, arriving in Jamestown, Virginia, in chains before this Africa was a mecca, we were kings and queens. We were inventors, we were scientists, and we were all of these amazing things. This is just an opportunity to expound upon that information, but then to also help start that dialogue.
Without further or do.. The ZOO‼️
Please let me know what you all think🙏🏾 I thank you in advance for your support and positivity as we go on this journey. It’s only the beginning but it is my hope & desire to share every part of the project process with you! Thank you! pic.twitter.com/yE2nJJ65fy
— Denim Richards (@DenimRichards) November 2, 2019
ML: That's remarkable. I'm a historian, and I never knew about this period of history. So after I read the stuff about your film, I went and started researching it. I was like, “Why is this not taught? Why is this not readily available?”
DR: I always say I'm an artist, and being an artist is what I do, but it's not who I am. It's part of the blessings that The Most High has given me to be able to start a different kind of dialogue.
Anytime I have an opportunity to put my pen to paper or to be able to put my money into something, I want it to be something that is uplifting to our community. So much of it is [that] we just don't know our history and because we don't know our history, that's why history always repeats itself. It's always being washed over or is getting kind of watered down. People oftentimes don't want to have the hard conversations because of what I like to call, “They want the sugar in their ears.”
And that's not really my personality. I just tell the truth and it's not really my job to make you feel some type of way about it. It's like this is just what it is. So to be able to put on The Zoo, with my amazing team, is my first opportunity to really start to have this conversation with the world. Especially to teach our men, women, and children of color — this is not only our black men and women, but this is also the Native Americans and the Hispanic community. We all came over during this transatlantic slave trade. The only difference was that we all just got dropped off in different places. These are all things that in history we don't learn about.
It's really important for us to understand where we came from and what we were doing beforehand so that we can understand the world much more than what our circumstances often dictate around us.
ML: So are any of the characters in The Zoo going to also be in The Forgotten Ones? Or is it going to be a different kind of side to the story?
DR: Yeah, I'm hoping that every single person that has been in The Zoo will also be a part of the bigger story of The Forgotten Ones. That is definitely the goal. I'm going to do everything within my power to make sure that can happen. Whenever you're dealing with industry there's always these loopholes and all of these things that you have to jump through. I feel like this is a story that is so important.
That's why I'm so excited for the short film to be coming out. People are going to be able to get a really nice taste of what this is going to be about [when the trailer drops].
Like you were saying, a lot of us thought that we knew a lot about history and assumed that we knew everything about history. We're kind of bringing up this thing where it's like, “What the heck? We didn't even know about this.”
The reason why I called it The Zoo was because, even here in America, we had these actual, physical zoos, where they were just like museums where they were taking people — men, women, and children from Africa. And they built exactly what you would imagine a museum being like, but it was a zoo.
They would recreate what the atmosphere in Africa would be, and people would buy tickets to go and watch them be in whatever their environment would be. People would just go and buy tickets to watch people of color be the way that they are, and so this is part of what The Zoo is about.
For us to have these dialogues that we are all claiming that we want to have, we also have to be willing to go back and acknowledge how all these things started.
Our kings and queens are running around, and they have no idea what their history is. They understand what they came from, but they came from much more than just being here in chains and being pimped out. What I would say [is that] we came from greatness, and there were so many things that we have done, there's so much beauty and until we know that we can't ever evolve in the way that we want to.
This is just going to be another offshoot, and I'm hoping that when people see this film, and whoever decides to become a part of the bigger film, I hope that they will allow us to be able to kind of keep the same symbiotic energy moving forward.
ML: This sounds like it's going to be an incredible project. You also wrote a book called Mastering Your Mind.
DR: Yeah, during COVID, during the shutdown. I pray and meditate a lot. Usually, on social media, like Twitter or Facebook, I'll post motivational quotes that drop into me. I knew that so many people were going to be affected, with job losses and uncertainty.
So why not try to write something motivational to help people get back into themselves and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives? I believe, oftentimes, that the people in our lives dictate the things we do in our regular lives. We will do things that we maybe didn't want to do just to appease people or narratives.
Why not have something like a daily motivational to help people further dig into themselves? I wanted to create something to help you empower yourself and the people around you.
ML: And you choose Operation Underground Railroad as the non-profit for the proceeds to go to.
DR: It's a phenomenal organization that is dedicated to eradicating child sex trafficking. This is something we don't talk about in the entertainment industry. We don't want to have this conversation in general. It's uncomfortable. I'm not the person who gives sugar to your ears; I shoot it straight. It doesn't matter if it's a difficult conversation — it's happening. It's one of the biggest businesses in the world. I wanted it to be a win-win.
These amazing people have stopped their lives to infiltrate child trafficking rings and bring the traffickers to justice, but also rescue these children and give them a better life. These kids are getting taken from all these different places around the world and being thrust into places where no one knows who they are or where they're from. There are not many organizations doing this. The book is only ten dollars. I never made this to make money. All the proceeds go to an amazing organization that is dedicated to protecting our youth. It's the most important thing.
ML: It sounds like an amazing cause. Now, I always try to wrap up interviews with a couple of fun questions. So what is something you always have to have in your trailer?
DR: I am very holistic with a lot of things, so one of the things that I always have to have is lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil. I put it on every single time before I leave the trailer. It's really weird because everything is thrown off if I don't go through this ritual of putting on these different oils. That's the trio I have to have in my trailer.
ML: I have always joked that I got into acting because I love set catering. What's the best meal you've had on the set?
DR: Oh, man! That's hard; there's been a lot. I'll do a before and after. I've been a vegan for a year. Before I was a vegan, we had surf and turf: steak and lobster. Everything was buttery and juicy. We have some of the best catering now because I'm a vegan. All the food I love… “Bro, stop. It's brussel sprouts!” There are these balsamic glazed brussel sprouts. I love vegetables. The before is much more exciting, just edit out the after!
ML: That's a great answer! What you always have to grab at crafty? Hopefully, they have plenty of vegan options.
DR: They do! It's always funny because I know when I say this, I already know how people are going to act. But if the cast and crew listened to this, they'd know what I was going to say. Oftentimes, we'll do this long scene and then stop for the turnaround. Crafty will have made this giant pot of jambalaya. You can smell it. And I'm over here sitting in my chair, scrunching on seaweed and green tea. I eat a lot of seaweed and bananas. It's very strange, but the good thing is I'm not hard to please. Those are my two things. I'm a big green tea drinker.
ML: Have you got into the sparkling water debate? I know out here in the Mid-Atlantic Region we have a lot of LaCroix sets.
DR: We're a big LaCroix set. I used to drink sparkling water, like San Pellegrino, but then when LaCroix came around, it was like no one had ever known sparkling water existed. On set, we have tubs of LaCroix everywhere. That is the thing. I don't drink LaCroix; if I want something sparkling or fermented, I drink kombucha. But our set is a huge LaCroix.
ML: Then, Yellowstone is the best set because I love LaCroix.
DR: We have giant coolers! Sometimes when we're filming in the summertime, we have a huge crew, and they're working their tails off; everyone is pounding LaCroix. There's never an emergency on set unless we run out of LaCroix.
ML: What is something you always have to make sure you have with you on set?
DR: I have a travel kit. It has all my essentials in it. Usually, when I'm on set, I usually have those. What else do I take? That's the major thing. I'm trying to get better about it, but I'll take an extended battery pack. Sometimes when we're filming in the middle of nowhere, there's no cell service, so your phone will just be trying to establish a connection, and your battery will just burn. And you're there for thirteen hours. I'll take that to listen to music while we're waiting for turn arounds.
Usually, it's the essential oils, battery packs, and headphones. As a novelty, I always bring a book, but I never read the book. It just becomes an added thing I have to be responsible for. I'm the type of person; I can't handle multiple objects on my person because I will lose everything. I need to stop doing the book thing. I never read the book, I lose the book, and then on the weekends, I have to go and repurchase the book. I'm getting better.
ML: So, those are your essentials.
DR: My essential oils, if you will.
ML: I like that. That was a good one. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
I look forward to your trailer dropping.
DR: Thank you!