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’Yellowstone’s’ Josh Lucas treasures life’s simple pleasures

Updated March 28, 2024 - 10:40 am

Actor Josh Lucas has a permanent wake-up call. It’s on his land in Ojai, California, where he’s driving a tractor before the first rays of sunlight pierce the black sky.

He’s working the expansive mountain property and seeking peace of mind.

“Something inside makes me yearn for nature. And you have to collect the days you know you will treasure,” says the easygoing 52-year-old who plays the younger John Dutton, the rancher Kevin Costner portrayed in the present day, on “Yellowstone.”

Lucas’ property is off the beaten track, a 30-minute drive straight into the clouds. “It’s so gratifying and not connected to any external thing when I’m on my land,” says Lucas, whose big-screen roles have included “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Glory Road” and “A Beautiful Mind.”

“There’s no yearning to get the part or make a movie when I’m out there. I just am — and those are truly perfect moments,” he adds. “So many of the coolest things in life are simple.”

Lucas’ new venture is the Apple TV+ series, “Palm Royale.” The show revolves around an ambitious woman (Kristen Wiig) who aspires to secure her place at America’s most exclusive resort, set in the high society of Palm Beach in 1969. The star-studded cast includes Ricky Martin, Laura Dern, Allison Janney, and Carol Burnett.

When he’s not working, Lucas can be found with his girlfriend, Brianna Ruffalo, and his son, Noah.

His good life tips:

Stay busy

“It’s a wild time in the acting business,” says Lucas, who filmed “Palm Royale” and the first part of “Yellowstone’s” last season simultaneously. I was leaving this opulent world of Palm Beach to slap on a mustache to pretend to be Kevin Costner,” he says with a laugh. “It was challenging in the most amazing way.”

Focus on yourself

“Palm” is about the haves and have-nots. Lucas says he can identify with wanting more in life. “I think it’s human nature to say, ‘I wish that were me,’ but you can’t dwell on what someone else has,” he says. “Take the Oscars. I’ve thought, ‘Why can’t I be there? Why don’t I get those movies?’ “It’s human to have those moments where you yearn for the grass to be greener because it’s so green in someone else’s yard. But that takes the pleasure out of where you are now. But I’m still guilty of going there.”

Follow your dreams

Lucas was still in his teens when he envisioned owning a place like his California property. “I had these bizarre dreams about the place where I am right now. I didn’t understand them then, but I’d have one every six months, every couple of years,” says Lucas, who was living in New York City when he began acting. A doctor’s friend encouraged him to visit Ojai. “I heard a piece of property was for sale the next day. I drove to see it, and a huge owl swept down on me. All of a sudden, I knew this was my place.”

Childhood lessons

Lucas was raised on Sullivan Island, South Carolina, outside Charleston. “I remember growing up on the beach and learning about taking care of what’s around you,” he shares. “One day, a pelican crashed and broke a wing. I got my mom, and we put a blanket over it, took it home, and had that pelican inside for a few days until the Audubon Society could come to help. I learned that everyone has to pitch in.”

Heed your mentors

Lucas, an actor since age 9, says that a high school teacher set him on the right track. “I was a student-athlete and an actor. One of my teachers was the high school football coach and the drama teacher. That teacher pushed, and he said, ‘You’re not that good an athlete, but you’re a pretty good actor. ”

‘Always dangerous’

“I always hope for the underdog story or the comeback,” Lucas says. “The idea that you can reinvent yourself or get another shot at any age in this life is inspiring. … (Director) Joel Schumacher once talked to me during a frustrating time in my career, and he said, ‘Once on the charts, always dangerous.’ It’s the best quote no matter what you do for a living because it says that once you’re in the game, you’re always dangerous. Your job is just to try to stay in the game.

Look to the future

What does Lucas know about the “Yellowstone” finale or any impending spinoffs? “All I can say is it’s a high point career-wise to be part of something people love and keep asking you about every day.” Would he want to play a young John Dutton in a spinoff? “Man, from your lips to God’s ears! I would love it,” he says. As for the series’ final episodes, he adds, “I’m hopeful that I’ll return. … I love being out there.”

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