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'This Man Is Our Monster': Taylor Sheridan Incurs a Fierce and Deserving Backlash

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 22, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 22, 2023 |


Yesterday, in writing about the Taylor Sheridan piece in The Hollywood Reporter, we discussed the Yellowstone of it all, but we didn’t get into what how Sheridan came off as an arrogant, egomaniacal prick. He was not shy about taking all the credit and, as they say, pulling up the rope ladder behind him so that no one else could benefit from his success. Not only did he fire Terrence Winter, and not only does he refuse to work with other writers, but he also publicly dismissed the people who work on his shows. “I don’t really give a shit what a line producer or some physical production person thinks,” Sheridan said at one point during the interview, eliciting Mo Ryan’s ire on Twitter. “If you’re a person with even a modicum of power in this industry, let alone a lot of power, & you go out of your way to shit on support staff, publicly or privately, I know ALL I need to know about you! I have no interest in writing abt what you’re making all by yr lonesome!! 🙄”

It’s not just that he comes off as a prick in the piece. According to Walter Chaw, probably the consensus pick among critics for the best critic on the Internet, Sheridan is the real deal. “I know this looks bad, but I know several people who have worked with Taylor and I just wanted to stand up and say that he’s apparently a lot worse - both as a creative and a human being - than a single article could possibly capture, no matter how damning. A real piece of shit.”

However, the quote that pissed off the most people — especially television writers — was some cocksure bullshit about how “the freedom of the artist to create must be unfettered.”

“If they tell me, ‘You’re going to have to write a check for $540,000 to four people to sit in a room that you never have to meet,’ then that’s between the studio and the guild. But if I have to check in creatively with others for a story I’ve wholly built in my brain, that would probably be the end of me telling TV stories.”

I like Taylor Sheridan’s television shows, but I would not necessarily miss his “blunt, peremptory vernacular,” and his influence on the industry is obviously an overall bad thing. Some of the staff discussed Sheridan at length last night, and I admit that I initially was of the unpopular opinion that there is a place for television shows written without a writers’ room — I’m thinking of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe, or Aisling Bea’s This Way Up — but I was rightly persuaded that the best television writers — David Simon, Dan Harmon, Issa Rae, Aline Brosh McKenna, Mindy Kaling, Damon Lindelof, Jesse Armstrong — wrangle the work of many writers into a singular voice. Overall, that not only results in better work most of the time, but it’s also better for writers and the industry. Hell, even Michaela Coel had story consultants on I May Destroy You, one of the best-written series of the 2020s.

That’s also the opinion of Gennifer Hutchison, a writer on Lord of the Rings, who came up through the ranks on Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. “Gilligan is unquestionably regarded as the creative center of Breaking Bad, and he takes every chance he can sharing credit with and praising the other writers, actors, department heads, crew, assistants, every single person who worked on that show,” she tweeted. Anyone who has ever heard Vince Gilligan on the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul podcasts for more than five minutes knows that because for better or worse, he cannot go five minutes without praising the work of someone else. “Well-run writers’ rooms are some of the most magical, creatively fulfilling spaces I’ve been in,” Hutchison continued. “The high of a room in harmony, building an idea together… indescribable.”

Television writer Zack Morrison also notes that Sheridan’s perspective is “antithetical to the craft. Television is a collaborative medium. If you want to be an auteur, go be a playwright. Being a leader means knowing how to communicate your ideas to others and find creative compromises. That’s filmmaking 101.”

Meanwhile, Andrea Ciannavei, a writer on Mayans MC, is not surprised “that a guy who ‘writes’ a white fantasia about white settler colonialism takes all the credit, shine, and most importantly — the money — for all of it. Taylor Sheridan is nothing if not on brand.”

“Famous, powerful, privileged showrunner throwing other writers and the Guild under the bus in the middle of the strike is a plot twist I absolutely saw coming,” Terri Kopp, a writer/EP on Power Book IV tweeted.

I should also note that Taylor Sheridan dismissed his own script coordinator in the interview. “They tell me there’s a story coordinator,” he says, “but I don’t know who that is.” Her name is Stacy Milbourn, and she got a lot of love on social media last night. “Thanks for being so validating and supportive,” she tweeted. “I, like most SCs, want to be a writer — I’ve been working on getting staffed for 9 years now. Never forget your support staff wants to be writers too (in normal times)! And support the WGA!”

I think the most venomous anger at Taylor Sheridan, however, came from the Native community, particularly after Taylor Sheridan essentially took credit, via Wind River, for a law that was passed making it a crime for a U.S. citizen to commit “rape on an Indian reservation, and there’s now a database for missing murdered Indigenous women … that law had a profound impact. All social change begins with the artist, and that’s the responsibility you have,” Sheridan said.

Oh, he didn’t, tweets an indigenous historian. “Literally no one will associate a TV show written by a white guy with MMIW laws being passed. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever. Taylor Sheridan’s comments undermine the hard work of MMIW activists & advocates to bring about change.”

“The genuine gall for a white American man to claim he is the sole cause of a 30-year long Native-led movement,” Kelly Lynne D’Angelo, a Native TV and musical writer tweeted. “he ‘saved us’ thanks to the ‘good work he’s done.’ just like all those churches did. just like all those colonizers did. just like all those murderers did. disgusting.”

“We’ve held our breath over the years hoping one day we could speak out,” she continued. “Today was the day. Not because he’s racist. But because his ego was exposed. This man is our monster, in so many ways. The entitled, the colonialistic, the boaster. Don’t be him too.”