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Denim Richards Highlights Black Rancher Experience in Paramount's 'Yellowstone'

Since 2018, Denim Richards has portrayed Colby Mayfield, who is a Black ranch hand in the Paramount Network series Yellowstone.

Richards describes the character as a ‘ride or die’ and when he is initially introduced isn’t branded by the Dutton family, but by the third season he is. Despite being branded, Richards says, “We all know that he [Colby] westwasn't like a hardened criminal that had been in and out of jail or spent time in prison or anything of that nature.”

Before stepping into the role of Colby, Richards had starred in the Netflix western Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher, where he gained experience in riding horses and other ranch duties. While on set he was told about Yellowstone by co-star Tommy Flanagan. When he was ready to audition for Yellowstone, Richards said, “we started sending John Papidera‘s (who was the casting director of Yellowstone) office videos and clips of me in the Western apparel.”

“Finally they called me in for an audition and then 24 hours later, I was in a producer's session with John Papsidera, John Linson and Taylor Sheridan. It was pretty nerve-wracking and it was the first time I'd ever been to a producer session of such magnitude. Taylor just made me feel so comfortable and welcoming. And then six weeks later, I was in Utah at a cowboy camp with Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Dave Annable, Cole Hauser and Jefferson White. It was absolutely just a surreal moment for me,” Denim added.

In taking on the role, Denim is stepping into the line of Black men who have starred in Western genre films and television series. Denim pointed out, however, that growing up while he was familiar with Black men starring in the western genre, he wasn’t around during the era when those projects were made.

“I didn't grow up with those Westerns being at the forefront of my television or movie experience. Danny Glover has done some westerns, Obba Babatundé has done westerns and things of that nature and Morgan Freeman. So there had been some Black men that were in these different westerns, it just was kind of out of my time. So for many years of my earlier maturation, I didn't really see that and I never envisioned myself, in the western world, it was kind of just an area that I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to be a part of,” Denim stated.

Lack of visibility in the western genre didn’t stop him, however, he shared a piece of advice for pushing through and pressing on when it seems there are no open doors. “I was like, I gotta go to every audition, go to every opportunity and not be biased to every opportunity because it's very easy as a Black man, especially if you're going to a Western to be like, they're never going to cast me in something like this, right? So going into it without thinking about the bias of it all, and just trying to be as truthful and honest to the character you're auditioning for, or reading for, I think, was kind of what my major goal was,” Richards stated.

Denim Richard's Instagram

Aside from his work in Yellowstone, Richards also helped tell a story about the experience of Black prisoners being experimented on by Nazis during the Holocaust in a short film called The Zoo. “It was exactly 10 years ago, in 2012. I started the process of wanting to do something like this in 2011, but in 2012, I thought as Black men and Black women, we have been a part of every single major event in history, not just American history but history in general. So one of the things I wondered was why we have never heard about Africans in the Holocaust,” Denim explained about the need and inspiration for The Zoo. He went on to explain how the film ultimately is a story about the human spirit and the strength and will of Black men and women to not give up.

Richards has also added author to his resume with the release of his book Mastering Your Mind. The self-help book helps readers to bring enlightenment and positivity into their lives. With his busy schedule, Denim is still waiting for his next great big project to come along.

Photo Credit: Diana Ragland

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Denim Richards shines, embodying the essence of the Black Rancher Experience in Paramount's 'Yellowstone,' proving his mettle in a rugged landscape; time to channel his Western flair with a Mens Western Denim Jacket.

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