‘Yellowstone’: Piper Perabo on Messing With ‘the Most Dangerous Family on Television’

Piper Perabo as Summer in Yellowstone
Paramount Network

Piper Perabo has officially made her Yellowstone debut as activist and protestor Summer Higgins, getting right into the Duttons’ business, but that’s just the beginning.

In her first episode, she was arrested for her role in a protest — which Kayce (Luke Grimes) broke up — and interested John (Kevin Costner) enough that he bailed her out and offered to show her the ranch. It might help them understand each other better, he said.

“Just the fact that Summer’s on the ranch could spell trouble for the Duttons,” Perabo teases. We’ll have to see just what that means in the coming episodes, since last we saw, John was still driving back.

While we’ve seen her with John and protesting the industrial farming of animals brought her to Montana, that’s not all she’s up to this season. “When she realizes that this airport is going to be built on this pristine land in the center of Montana, she decides to take that on and she doesn’t have any sense of the place that she’s getting involved in,” Perabo previews. “She just knows the issue. And so she doesn’t know anything about the Duttons and how dangerous it is to mess with them.” Speaking of danger, “it’s going to get really dangerous.”

Perabo teases more of what’s to come.

Who is Summer away from activism? Are we going to get a sense of that?

Piper Perabo: Yeah, you actually find out a lot about who she is. She doesn’t come from a place like Montana and she has a lot to learn about how the rules are there, and I think it kind of opens her eyes to a world she knew nothing about.

What can you say about what her interactions with the Duttons are like?

Not all Duttons are the same. And so some are more appreciative of her sense of fight than others, but each Dutton is kind of trouble in their own right. So even just having one Dutton as your enemy, I don’t think you’re safe.

Jacki Weaver as Caroline in Yellowstone

Paramount Network

Looking at the airport, Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) has come in as part of that storyline.

I have to say when I found out that Jacki Weaver was going to be in this season of Yellowstone, I was so excited. She’s one of my favorite actresses. I’d never met her in real life, I’d never seen her in real life until Yellowstone, but I have seen all of her work. So I was so excited and I had to really try and be cool and not be a fan girl the first time I met her. She walked in in her leather jacket and I thought to myself, “Oh my God, it’s Jacki Weaver.” But she was so cool. And I think she’s terrifying on screen. She’s so powerful. I think she’s the perfect person to be the sort of villain that goes up against the Duttons, because even someone like Beth Dutton would be nervous to tangle with Jacki Weaver.

What can you say about Summer and Beth’s (Kelly Reilly) dynamic? That has to be fun.

Summer and Beth’s dynamic is one of the funnest relationships I have this season. Summer and Beth hate each other. And it just goes from bad to worse. Summer and Beth have enemies in common, and so there’s a chance for them to be on the same team while they have a common goal.

Does Summer get involved in all the conflict the Duttons are in the middle of?

Summer gets right into the center of the family.

Kevin Costner as John, Piper Perabo as Summer in Yellowstone

Paramount Network

Talk about filming at the ranch.

I’m a fan of the show. I don’t think I’ve ever done a TV show where I was a fan before I did the show. That’s really rare for me. The Dutton Ranch is a real place. It’s called Chief Joe Ranch. It’s out in Montana and that’s where they film. And so to have watched three seasons of Yellowstone on this sort of almost dreamlike perfect ranch, and then to drive up the road onto Dutton ranch, I almost can’t compare it to anything. It’s sort of like being in a dream.

It was so strange because it’s real. And when you watch a TV show, you imagine, “Oh, just turn the camera a little bit to the left and then there’s skyscrapers right there. Oh, you just turn around, and there’s a huge housing complex right there.” The Dutton Ranch isn’t like that. The Dutton ranch is even bigger than you can see on television. It goes for miles and miles, and it’s so beautiful. And there was one night when I had a long time before I started filming and I went for a run out on one of the dirt roads of the ranch, and there were elk out in one of the main pastures and it just felt like, “Oh my God, I’m really on Yellowstone.” It was so cool.

What’s the biggest challenge that Summer will be facing?

Summer is used to being one of the big fish when she goes into conflict and she’s never gone up against a force like the Duttons. They sort of work on so many levels. They’re in local government. They’re in state government. They’re on the wrong side of the law. They’re on the right side of the law. They’re in the community. They’re in the business community. They’re so pervasive and she’s never gone up against such a well-oiled machine as the Dutton family.

Piper Perabo as Summer in Yellowstone

Paramount Network

What’s going to keep Summer around in town?

It’s the protest that brings Summer there and it’s a protest that keeps her there but parts of the Dutton family also end up keeping her around.

Your husband, Stephen Kay, is a director producer on Yellowstone, so did he direct you this season?

He did. We haven’t worked together in such a long time and it was so fun to work with him. The last time we worked together was on Covert Affairs which is the opposite of Yellowstone. It was so fun to work together. And because he works on the show, I know the cinematographers, I know so many people on the crew. It was so fun to work with him and to work with so many friends. That was one of the highlights.

What was your favorite scene to film this season?

There’s a scene that I have with Beth in the kitchen that’s pretty fun. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s more dangerous than any protest.

And is there anything else that you can tease about Summer?

It may have been a big mistake for her to ever come to Montana.

It looks like it’s going to be so much fun.

It’s really was so much fun. It was so much fun, even though I know I took the most dangerous family on television to mess with.

Yellowstone, Sundays, 8/7c, Paramount Network