Mo recently sat down for an interview with TheNew York Timesto discuss his story, along with Native American representation in film and how he tries to make it as accurate as possible in Yellowstone.
He discussed how he tries to make sure the Native American lifestyle is preserved and displayed accurately:
“In our culture, we use these items to cleanse the space and protect the mind. But burning sage and sweet grass has become a fad and has been culturally misappropriated.
The misrepresentation of us has been occurring for so long.”
Mo began his time on Yellowstone as Rainwater’s nameless driver, but quickly became a key character on the show.
He weighed in on the deep meaning of the scene where Monica and Tate got into an awful car wreck after hitting a bison, ultimately resulting in the loss of Kayce and Monica’s unborn baby, John.
His mother lost three children when he was only a young boy:
“It was a powerful moment, and very real for me.”
He was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where his interest in acting began after he would ask kids on the reservation where they saw themselves in the future…
And none of them said “on TV.”
So, he began in theater and worked his way into stunt riding, and then began to land supporting roles in movies and TV, like Hell on Wheels and The Revenant.
However, a few years ago he was on the verge of hanging acting up for good, and heading back to his ranch in Kansas.
But in that year, his buddy Gil Birmingham who plays Thomas Rainwater helped get him on Yellowstone.
Birmingham likes to tell the story about how Taylor Sheridan just used Mo as a no name driver, until Birmingham decided to use his real name “Mo” in a conversation between the two in one of the scenes.
“So Taylor decided that he was going to use that name for the character as well. When Mo is out and about, it’s pretty funny because people tend to call you by your character name, and it happens to be his real name. There’s no distinction there for fans.”
Sheridan himself loves Mo for his authenticity.
He shared in an interview:
“There is a real honesty to Mo’s acting, a comfortable vulnerability. One of the great things about long-form storytelling is that it allows me to react to actors who really shine.
Mo began as a co-star on the show, and now he is a series regular. That is how much his portrayal leapt from the screen.”
Birmingham also weighed in on what Mo brings to the table on Yellowstone:
“Mo brings a great cultural anchoring, and a perspective that tries to balance out the kind of world that Thomas Rainwater is operating in… that is, a system of laws and paradigms that aren’t familiar for, or operated by, the Native people.
Mo brings a great stability and a great loyalty, and you just have a sense that you’re being protected and you’re safe with Mo around.”
He also admitted that Native Americans’ representation on Yellowstone has paved the way for shows to come, saying:
“‘Yellowstone’ was the catalyst to make room, to give space and inspiration for others to get involved with Native stories and give Native people opportunities.
We’ve often been left behind, but the way I see it and understand it, Taylor Sheridan said: ‘Come on, let’s go. That’s enough of you guys being back there. Let’s bring you up to the forefront.’”
Sheridan himself also weighed in on the importance of the accurate portrayal of native peoples:
“One cannot accurately tell the story of the West without telling the story of the original inhabitants of the region. Sure, ‘Yellowstone’ is highly dramatized, but the story lines are all rooted in truth.
To ignore the impact of our settlement on Native people is to tell half the story. And the Native American half has been habitually ignored by the entertainment industry.