“I never want to do anything straightforward,” he tells Variety. “I find it boring. This felt like a major swing and it had all the room to fail, and I like those odds.”
The series, despite being part of the western genre, isn’t like others. Set against the Teton Mountains in Wyoming, using the allure of a bottomless hole to weave a multi-layered story together.
“I think the West is a lot stranger than our narrative categories have always really portrayed,” creator Brian Watkins says. “I wanted to write something that I felt encompassed the West I knew, as a place that was always reaching for transcendence. It is a place that is undeniably filled with mystery and wonder.”
As for the genre’s rising popularity — see Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” the highest-rated cable telecast in years — Watkins isn’t surprised.
“The idea of a showdown is not a low-stakes, mumblecore event. It is a literal showdown, there’s a payoff at the end and the fun of that is what I hope we tapped into for ‘Outer Range,'” he says.
Brolin, for his part, is used to the genre, starring in “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit.” Now, his daughter Edin appears on Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” while he leads “Outer Range” — but don’t call it a copy-cat.
“‘Yellowstone’ was the first — like we were with ‘True Grit’ — in bringing back the Western, and that’s a great thing. If you piggyback on that trend, you feel like you are piggybacking,” he says. “But if you are coming with something within the genre that’s wholly original, then you feel good about it. There’s nothing other than horses and cowboy hats and maybe warring families in ‘Outer Range’ that reminds me of ‘Yellowstone.'”
As for why the time is right, Brolin feels it’s because the genre has changed tremendously over the years, and fans want to see that. Watkins ponders whether its due to the “current malaise” happening.
“We feel stuck, we feel like we want to reach up to a higher plain — or at least imagine a future that is different than the current place we live in,” he says. “In that way, the Western is this real emblematic narrative of how and what we do with our dreams … so I’m thrilled there is such an investigation of the nooks and crannies of it right now. It’s a good time to write about cowboys and gunslinging.”
Earlier this year, Sheridan told Variety his thoughts on the “Yellowstone” kicking off the resurgence of the genre.
“So I don’t know that it’s flattering, because I don’t think they’re doing it because ‘Yellowstone’ is good,” the creator said. “They’re doing it because 15 million people watch it. And they’re like: ‘A lot of people watch Westerns. Let’s make Westerns.’”