Cowboy State Of Mind With Ethan Lee From Yellowstone
How following his passion of saddle making and cowboying led him to become a character on the TV show Yellowstone and giving his family a life he’s proud to give.
“Any direction you look is snowcapped mountains, the weather is perfect most of the time, and it’s just simply gorgeous,” says Ethan Lee on his fifth return to Montana to shoot the fifth season of Paramount Networks popular TV drama Yellowstone. “My whole life has been a preparation for what I do now.”
You may recognize Ethan from his debut in our 2022 brand spot, “This Is How We Live,” but he’s most known for his role as one of the bunkhouse wranglers on the national sensation TV show Yellowstone. Ethan plays himself on the show and is one of the many reasons that Yellowstone is revered for its authenticity.
We chatted with Ethan Lee recently about his life, what it means to be a father, and what it’s like working on the set of the hit TV show Yellowstone.
Cavender’s: Take us back to the beginning, where you grew up and how your surroundings impacted you as you got older.
Ethan Lee: Well, I grew up around horses and my father raised Angus cattle. As early as I can remember I was in Little Britches rodeos riding steers, team roping and always managed to have a rope in my hand. I started riding bulls and saddle bronc riding as I got older, and even wound-up performing trick riding and roping. To bring in income I started making saddles, horseshoeing, and riding colts. I’ve always had a mentality of being the best horseman I can be.
Cavender’s: How did you go from making saddles to being on the sets of major motion pictures?
Ethan Lee: Well, my name got around for what I did – horseshoeing, working with horses and such. In 2013 they were shooting the civil war movie “Free State of Jones” about 30 minutes from my house, and I got a call from the head animal coordinator that they were needing some help. I talked to my wife about it and went for it. It led to a three-month stint as an animal wrangler on set. The show wrapped on a Saturday and the following Monday they started filming “Magnificent Seven” with Denzel Washington which, long story short, I got hired for.
Cavender’s: Isn’t it crazy where life will take you by following your passion?
Ethan Lee: Absolutely. I didn’t know anything about the film industry, but I knew it paid better than riding colts. My horsemanship led me from animal wrangling on movie sets, to doing stunts and being a stunt double for different actors and then becoming a SAG-actor.
Cavender’s: What exactly is a SAG-actor and what would you call your big break?
Ethan Lee: It’s an interesting story, so on the set of “Free State of Jones” there was an actor that didn’t feel comfortable driving a wagon with a team of horses across a narrow path with a deep ditch on both sides. The producer grabbed me and asked if I could say this one line and drive the wagon myself. I said, “Yes sir.” So, they put me on a SAG contract, and everything snowballed after that. That’s how it all got started. It’s been a total blessing for me and my family.
Cavender’s: Tell us about Yellowstone.
Ethan Lee: When I first started Yellowstone, I was an animal wrangler and Ian Bohen’s stunt double. Anything from riding to fighting, if the actor could get injured, I would step in. At the end of Season Two the work I was originally hired to do was over so I went and found Taylor Sheridan to shake his hand and thank him for the opportunity to work on the show. I told him that I’d be leaving and he said that I couldn’t because I was too established in shots around the ranch and in the bunkhouse. So long story short he made me part of the cast and I’ll always be very much appreciative of that because he could’ve easily chosen anyone.
Cavender’s: That’s awesome, what a blessing. We’d love to know what having a “Cowboy State of Mind” means to you.
Ethan Lee: Well, it’s just stepping up to the job and helping any way I can. If I’m on set and I see something that’s not right, or a horse needs shoeing, I just do it. I don’t have to do that because that’s not necessarily my job, but that’s just who I am and who we are. Call it old school if you will. It’s also being aware of things going on around you and hopefully seeing an accident before it happens. Having good judgment, I guess. It’s important to me to perform the tasks I was hired to do also and not just say I can do them.
Cavender’s: For those that don’t know, Ethan and his wife Dr. Brennan Lee, are a part of the most recent Cavender’s brand film and commercials. Ethan, share with the readers about your wife and wonderful kids who are also a part of the brand film.
Ethan Lee: There’s not enough hours in the day for me to talk about my wife and my kids. They are my world and I’d have them up here with me 24/7 if I could. My wife Brennan is an equine veterinarian and has a practice at home and we have three kids: Kenlea is 13, Case is 9, and my baby girl Kit is 6.
Brennan and I met at my saddle shop, and she was doing her clinicals with a mutual friend. They were passing through and he asked her if she had met me. She said yes that her dad and brothers had brought some saddles for him to repair but I’ve never met him. They stopped in and we met and that was it. She came again to visit one morning, and we ended up talking from like 10am to 3pm in the afternoon. It was just one of those things where it felt like I knew her all my life. We got married eight months later.
Cavender’s: What does being a father mean to you and what has it taught you?
Ethan Lee: If I had to put it in one word, I’d say it’s a privilege. It’s a lot of selflessness and I’ve learned a lot from them. I feel blessed that the Lord saw me fit enough to be a dad and allowed me to become one. I try to stay as involved in their lives when they can’t be here with me on set with baseball games and practices, youth rodeos or whatever it may be.
Cavender’s: What do you admire the most about your wife Brennan?
Ethan Lee: Her inner strength and independence. She’s goal-orientated and we both have goals for our family. We literally started with nothing. It’s been a wild ride and looking back there’s nothing I would change. None of it. We’ve had to work hard for everything we’ve achieved and we’re still doing that.
Cavender’s: What sort of things did your parents and grandparents instill in you that you are instilling in your kids?
Ethan Lee: Be respectful and work hard. Brennan and I try to teach them the value of a dollar. If they want something, then we give them little jobs and have them earn it. Every time I leave to go film, I sit Case down and tell him he’s the man of the house, to help mom carry groceries, to help feed the horses, or whatever it may be. We try to teach them good morals and values and the basics that most parents would.
Ethan Lee and his family are the characters in our latest Cavender’s brand film “Generations Western.” We are proud to have them represent Cavender’s.