Not every actor can play a renowned sniper as convincingly as a vampire in a darkly magical alternate universe, but 34-year old Luke Grimes does so with a rugged and intense cool that beguiles audiences. Grimes first came to our attention as a vampire called James in the cult series True Blood, but it was his performance as the first US navy seal to be killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the 2014 Clint Eastwood directed American Sniper, alongside Bradley Cooper, that cemented his status as a star on the rise.

Grimes embodies everything a Hollywood leading man should: good looks, penetrating eyes, a hint of scruff, rich vocal tones, broad shoulders, and he has the height to carry it all off! I may be speaking for myself, but a leading man shouldn’t fit into my jeans. A leading man should make me believe that he can shield me from exploding bombs or whisk me up in his arms as we flee a burning building, and not get a hernia doing so! A leading man should also be earnest, convincing, and a damn good actor.

Now Grimes—who discovered a love of horse riding when he played Teddy in the 2016 remake of the iconic western action The Magnificent Seven with Denzel Washington—is back in the saddle with the gritty new drama series, Yellowstone, and film, Into The Ashes. It is clear that this Ohioan born talent, and son of a Pentecostal pastor, is here to stay.

AS IF: Tell me about your new film, Into the Ashes.

Luke Grimes: I liked Into the Ashes when I read it because it’s a kind of movie they don’t make anymore. It’s a revenge film. Essentially, it’s about a guy who works in an upholstery shop in this little town in the south and no one in town knows much about him. On the outside, he is the type of guy you wouldn’t expect to be harboring the things he is, which suddenly come to the surface and he starts to exact his revenge. I was drawn to the mystery surrounding the character, and I knew I wanted to work on this film.

We’ve also been watching you in Yellowstone. It’s the type of TV series I didn’t think I could get into, but I really did. Tell me about your character.

Yellowstone is a about a modern day cattle ranching family and their family drama is at the center of it. Kevin Costner is the patriarch and in watching the show, you get a sense of Americana and also what comes with that as billionaire, land grabbing, greedy guys try to take the valley away from the family who’ve been on it for generations. The show also addresses how the Native Americans feel having been placed in terrible reservations when the land was rightfully theirs from the beginning of our nation’s history. I love my character because he is caught in-between: he is a part of the Dutton family who own the cattle ranch, but he is married to a Native American woman, they have a child together, and live on the reservation. Subsequently, he is not quite accepted by either side and, because of his need to take care of himself, he became a Navy Seal. He served for America, and now he doesn’t know where he belongs. There’s something about being in the center of really important issues while playing a character that I relate to that has been very rewarding. He’s got a lot of heart and vulnerability, while embodying cool, masculine, powerful traits. He’s fun to play!

Luke Grimes in Calvin Klein 205w39nyc Jacket

Calvin Klein 205W39NYC oversize puffer jacket in black nylon, and embroidered quilt sweater in off white + red

You didn’t take the traditional “good-looking actor path,” of arriving in Los Angeles and relying on your looks to get you in the door. You moved to New York to study.

My initial plan was to move to LA, but once my family understood how serious I was about acting, they did what they could to send me to acting school in New York. We found a reputable school that wasn’t as expensive as Juilliard or Tisch, but the approach was similar. My parents sacrificed a lot to send me there, and I think that changed my trajectory. Otherwise, I would have gotten to LA without an eye for the material and probably would have taken whatever project I could to make money. I’m sure I would have ended up getting pigeonholed in roles I didn’t want. My training provided me with a good sense of the kind of actor I wanted to be, and the kind of projects I wanted to do.

You have worked alongside esteemed actors such as Julianne Moore, Bradley Cooper, Mary Steenburgen, Ellen Barkin, and Bruce Willis. What’s the most valuable piece of advice any of these veteran actors gave you?

That’s a good question. I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned from other actors was how they treated people on set. When you reach a certain level in your career, some people feel as though they can act however they want, without any regard of how it affects others and the mood of the whole project. I have learned that much of the creativity that comes out of a project is affected by how people in these top spots treat everyone. You mentioned Julianne Moore. She treated everyone with so much respect, was so beautiful to work with, and made everyone happy because her attitude was so great. Some of the other actors you mentioned were the same way. Bradley is also the nicest guy in the world. That is where I want my goal post to be.

Luke Grimes in Todd Snyder & Golden Goose Deluxe Brand

Todd Snyder navy knit topcoat, marled cashmere turtleneck, olive wool pleated trousers

Golden Goose Deluxe Brand silver sneaker

What project has taught you the most?

When I did American Sniper, I never had any close relatives or friends in the military or served our country in that way, but throughout the process I met a lot of people who had. I had the opportunity to meet the partner of Marc Lee, the guy I played who died in real life. I was able to experience first-hand how that war effected people. I will never truly understand what our military go through in battle, but I understand what the cost is. I see how necessary it is to stop war altogether. We should be way more evolved than resorting to war. What I learned in American Sniper has guided through in Yellowstone. I am playing another Navy Seal with PTSD, which is something I did a lot of research on when I played Marc. PTSD is one of the hardest things a person could go through. It is incredibly unnatural and heartbreaking.

I heard you have two loves: music and acting. Which is your true love?

Acting came to me first, though growing up in Ohio there weren’t many opportunities to do it. Acting was the first thing I knew I wanted to do artistically, and I had a lot of ambition. Music came from a place of not being able to satisfy the need to act, so I started playing music in church when I was really young. My dad’s a pastor and they needed a drummer, so I learned how to play the drums, I also play guitar and sing. Music is very important to me, but I’m not ambitious about it. I’ve played in bands in LA, but the moment the band picked up momentum I backed off to not lose sight of acting

“My parents sacrificed a lot to send me there, and I think that changed my trajectory. Otherwise, I would have gotten to LA without an eye for the material and probably would have taken whatever project I could to make money.”

Tell me about your Chanel Allure Homme Sport campaign.

Ha! I had just completed the remake of The Magnificent Seven where I rode a horse, and Chanel needed me to ride one for the campaign. I can ride a “movie horse” to a mark and say a line, and the director, cinematographer, and editor can make me look very skilled. I remember showing up to the set in Cape Town and the horses they had were like nothing I had ever experienced! They were full on, purebred race horses. They were very fast and spirited. Luckily, I had a body double because I would not have been able to do some of the riding needed for the campaign. But now, in Yellowstone, I ride horses every day, so I wish I could film that campaign over again!

Describe your style.

I’m at a style crossroads. I’m 34 now, so I have to grow-up a little bit when it comes to the way that I dress. I have a few more blazers in my closet now. In my 20s, I bought really funky, hand-me-down lookin’ clothes from thrift stores. Now, I have to look a little smarter, I have to walk into a business meeting and have people take me seriously.

Luke Grimes in Ovadia & Sons
Luke Grimes in Ovadia & Sons

Ovadia & Sons plaid blazer, Ian flannel sport shirt, Joe Strummer T-Shirt, Ball track pant, and Type 02 Strummer sneaker

Describe your perfect day.

Waking up on a beach somewhere in a nice room, in bed with my girlfriend and dog. We’d spend the day on the water, eat good food, and I’d have no worries in the world.

What role would you love to play?

To be honest, the one I’m playing right now, Kayce Dutton, in Yellowstone is a dream. I couldn’t have imagined it better myself than if I sat down and asked, what would be the perfect character to play? I’m literally playing it

Luke Grimes in Louis Vuitton Taped Blouson

Louis Vuitton taped blouson

“I have learned that much of the creativity that comes out of a project is affected by how people in these top spots treat everyone.”

Luke Grimes in Bottega Veneta Multicolor Wool Coat

Bottega Veneta multicolor wool coat, and Nero cashmere sweater

Luke Grimes in Dior Homme
Luke Grimes in Dior Homme