The Californian actor talks learning to ride horses for the Yellowstone prequel and her favorite SoCal hotspots
Words by MARTHA HAYES
Photography by DENNIS LEUPOLD
PORTS 1961 dress.
Forget Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren; the co-stars that truly intimidated Michelle Randolph on the set of hit Paramount+ drama 1923 were the horses. “There was no safety meeting, no introduction—they just threw us straight on,” quips the rising star, whose turn as Elizabeth Strafford in the prequel to Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone is also her TV debut.
Randolph, 25, who was born and raised in Northern California before settling with her family in Huntington Beach, Orange County, had never even sat on a horse before she relocated to Montana for five months to film the show. Luckily, a grueling two-week stint at so-called Cowboy Camp was designed to prepare the whole cast to “look like we had been riding our whole lives.”
“I don’t think any of us had done any riding before,” Randolph says. “We herded cattle, we barrel raced, we did trail rides. We would ride from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. I think we all knew we had to get good, so we were driven to do our best.”
How competitive was it? “We got really competitive. I grew up playing soccer and volleyball, so I like competition, but apparently everyone else on the cast does, too,” she laughs. “They gave us these riding shorts with pads in them on the first day and we were like, ‘We don’t need them!’ By day three we all had them on.”
Randolph, who previously modeled and had only appeared in a handful of small film roles before she was cast in 1923, is the younger sister of Cassie Randolph, who won season 23 of The Bachelor in 2019. Here she talks about the hidden gems of Orange County, going into business with her sister, and why she’ll never live anywhere but California.
CAROLINA HERRERA dress.
C Magazine: As daunting TV debuts go, entering the phenomenon that is Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone universe has got to be up there.
Michelle Randolph: It felt really daunting with the fanbase Yellowstone has! And my dad is the biggest Yellowstone fan ever. I had seen 1883 [Yellowstone’s first prequel series, which premiered in 2021], but I hadn’t dived into Yellowstone. Sometimes when there are five seasons of a show it’s a little daunting to start. It’s the same reason I haven’t seen Game of Thrones. I got the audition for 1923 and I kind of dedicated it to my dad.
C: How did you find the audition?
MR: You go on so many auditions and you try not to get too tied to anything because it’s crushing when you don’t get something you’re excited about, but you also have to care enough to do a good job. I immediately connected with Elizabeth. The audition was some of the opening scenes, where she’s very upset about her wedding being postponed, so I tried to give my take on it and show her strength rather than her sob story. Thankfully, Taylor liked it. I was so excited to fly out to Jackson Hole [where Sheridan is based] for the screen test.
C: Where were you when you heard you had gotten the role?
MR: I was actually with my dad. He was watching my cats for me while I was in Jackson Hole. I came home and I was mentally exhausted because all I had thought about for the past week was these lines. I had two margaritas and all of a sudden a call came up on my phone: “Maybe: Taylor Sheridan.” And I was like, “I can’t speak to him!” I think I cried for an hour straight after that.
C: What was it like working with screen legends Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren?
MR: I definitely had moments on set where I was like, “What?!” [pinches herself]. I have this photo my mom framed for me for Christmas. It’s my cast chair between Helen’s and Harrison’s. And it’s so special. They are the loveliest people and they made everything feel so comfortable. When I first met them, I just thought they were so kind—not that I didn’t expect them to be. One day I took a water break at Cowboy Camp and there was this man propped up against the fence and I was like, “Why is everyone acting so weird? Who is that guy?” I walked over to throw my water bottle away and it was Harrison Ford just hanging out. I was like, “Now I understand why all the boys are geeking out!”
BRUNELLO CUCINELLI silk kimono.
C: It must have been nice to get back to California after filming in Montana for five months.
MR: I didn’t miss Cali that much! We kept ourselves so busy and explored on our days off. I went to Glacier National Park, to Big Sky, and all around Montana. I love California, though. I will never live anywhere else.
C: You’re currently living in Orange County, where you were brought up. Have you spent much time in L.A.?
MR: I lived in L.A. for six years. I was in West Hollywood for three years, downtown for a year, and in Studio City for two years. I love Studio City. I’m actually going to be living in an Airbnb with two of the girls from the cast of 1923—Julia Schlaepfer [Alexandra] and Aminah Nieves [Teonna]—for the next month. Julia is from New York and Aminah is from Chicago, so I got them to California and I’m going to try and convince them to stay longer!
C: What’s so great about Studio City?
MR: I love Ventura Boulevard. Having lived in West Hollywood and the craziness that was there, I love being able to walk around my neighborhood and look at all the nice houses I want to live in someday. A dream day in Studio City, honestly, is going to the grocery store, coming home and cooking, and then taking a walk. I can’t decide whether I like Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s best. If I could shop in only one grocery store for the rest of my life, I can’t decide which one it would be.
C: How do the beaches in L.A. compare to the beaches in Orange County?
MR: I spend a lot of time at the beach, and I prefer OC beaches. There are less people. Obviously I’m biased with Huntington Beach. We go boating a lot. My family will take Duffy boats and go around the harbor and look at all the houses. I love driving around a neighborhood called Bayview, which is between Laguna and Newport. There’s a beach you can walk down to and see Newport Harbor. It’s so beautiful.
C: Do you have a favorite spot to stop and refuel?
MR: I love Huntington Surf & Sport. It has a little coffee shop called Java Point right by the pier in Huntington. That was my first job. I worked at Surf & Sport when I was in high school and my sister, Cassie, worked at Java Point. The only reason I didn’t want to work at the coffee shop was you had to get up at 4 a.m., so I was like, “I’ll fold clothes instead.” Even though making coffee sounded more fun, I don’t like waking up early.
C: You and your sister are working together again on LNDN Denim, the sustainable denim line you founded in 2022. How is that going?
MR: We work well together. Working with family is nice because you’re able to be honest and you don’t have to hold back!
C: Why denim?
MR: It’s all people wear in California. I’m in denim shorts, pants, or a jean jacket almost every day. And when you find a brand of denim you love, you stick with it, so we combined all our favorite things from our favorite brands and really focused on sustainable materials and the fit. It took us three years to perfect it. We’re just starting to get into a few little Orange County boutiques, which is really exciting.
C: What are your other must-dos in Orange County?
MR: I love Ola Mexican Kitchen in Pacific City in Huntington Beach. I’m vegetarian and I get a quesadilla every time. And The LAB in Costa Mesa is a really fun place to go. It’s this really trendy shopping center with cute little vintage stores, a record store, coffee, and pottery classes. It’s a hidden gem.
Stylist ORETTA CORBELLI @orettac .
Stylist Assistant ALLEGRA @jesuisallegra_ .
Hair by MARISSA MARINO.
Makeup by JEN TIOSECO.
Feature image: CALVIN KLEIN jeans, jacket, top. TOD’S shoes.
February 27, 2023
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