Kelsey Asbille Can't Leave Ivy League

All clothing and accessories by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.

Kelsey Asbille is both a lead in one of the most popular television shows of the moment and a self-appointed super senior. She plays Monica Dutton on the American neo-Western Yellowstone, a Native American teacher who marries into a violent and dysfunctional family and lives a life of relentless distress. “She can’t catch a break,” the 31-year-old actor reflects. Between shooting the Paramount Network hit and projects like the comedy-crime anthology Fargo, Asbille, who lives in Brooklyn, has been studying human relations, race, and ethnic studies at Columbia University since she was 17. “How long has it been? Thirteen, 14 years later, I’m the old gal in class.”

Despite starting her career in her teens, Asbille does not consider herself to have been a child actor. When she was 13, she landed a role as a “local nerd” on the WB teen soap One Tree Hill, which shot in Wilmington, North Carolina—just a few hours’ drive from her home in Columbia, South Carolina. “It was a fluke,” she remembers. “They had to tell me to stop smiling because I was so excited to be there.”

Photo of Kelsey Asbille. Image courtesy of the artist.

Before the opportunity came along, Asbille thought that “being an actor just didn’t seem real.” But almost two decades later, her performances feel realer than ever. “I care so much about my characters,” she says, particularly when it comes to Monica in Yellowstone, a show she’s been in since its debut in 2018. The actor is committed not only to continued learning, but also to finding a truthful headspace for emotionally intense performances, integrating her character’s emotional life into her own. Monica’s trauma—which spans explosions, brain injuries, and child loss—helped Asbille bond with her own parent. Ahead of filming its last season, she road-tripped from Brooklyn to the show’s Montana set with her mother. “She was there for all of those really traumatic scenes,” the actor remembers. “It allowed her to share experiences with me that we hadn’t talked about before. It was a really powerful time, a moving experience."

Makeup by Sara Tagaloa
Hair by Tiago Goya
Nails by Blue Arios
Photography Assistance by Maya Guice
Fashion Assistance by Tallula Bell Madden, Molly Novack, and Tom Grimsdell
Makeup Assistance by Hannah Jaclyn
Hair Assistance by Sadaf Azimi