Billy Oduory on what we can expect from Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming show Landman…
People often only associate Texas with cowboys, but that is only because many don’t know about the boomtowns of West Texas that replaced cowboys with roughnecks and ranchers with wildcatters. This is the murky world that Christian Wallace’s hit podcast, Boomtown, on which Taylor Sheridan’s Landman is based, explores. After the success of Yellowstone, whose captivating exposition of the ranching industry earned a cultic following, Landman now looks like Taylor Sheridan’s next big thing as it covers another industry that Hollywood often overlooks.
Landman became one of Taylor Sheridan’s most anticipated TV shows since its announcement in 2021, with fan excitement only increasing when Billy Bob Thornton was cast in the lead role. After Thornton’s spectacular portrayal of Jim Courtright, the gunslinger in 1883, fans have a good reason to expect an even better performance as he plays Tommy Norris in Landman . Thornton’s character is a crisis manager for an oil company, which means he interacts with all players in the industry, including land owners, rig workers, investors, and the government.
Boomtown looks at the Permian basin, America’s highest-producing oil field, in the middle of the biggest oil boom in American History that has seen America become the world’s largest oil producer. With the record production comes record investment and with all that money, comes a lot of good and evil, all of which unfold in Taylor Sheridan’s Land Man. From hushing the safety and environmental concerns that come with fracking to executing the murky deals that secure investment in the oil fields, here is a look at what Tommy Norris will be dealing with in the upcoming first season of Land Man.
What is Taylor Sheridan’s Landman about?
“Set in the proverbial boomtowns of West Texas, Landman is a modern-day tale of fortune-seeking in the world of oil rigs. The series is an upstairs/downstairs story of roughnecks and wildcat billionaires fueling a boom so big, it’s reshaping our climate, our economy, and our geopolitics,” reads the official synopsis of Landman. The show follows Tommy Norris, a crisis manager for an oil company, as he secures his company’s interests in the oil fields and the different cities around the Permian Basin such as Midland, Odessa, and Andrews.
Through Norris’s journey, viewers get to see the huge impact of Texas oil on the world stage, as well as the effects of the industry’s frequent booms and busts on the lives of the locals. As a local, Tommy Norris is heavily invested in this precarious industry as is his 17-year-old daughter Ainsley (Michelle Randolph). However, to understand what a day in Tommy Norris’ job looks like, it is important to recap the podcast on which the show is based as it gives a clear picture of what fracking in the Permian is all about.
The oil and gas industry has been the lifeline of the economy of West Texas since the 1920s when the first wells were drilled in the desert. However, the industry is unpredictable because oil prices constantly change and wells get depleted, so no boom is permanent, and so is the current one covered in the show. Landman focuses on the current state of the industry which is the greatest boom ever experienced in history, but it is not without its downsides.
The advancement in fracking technology made it easier to extract oil and natural gas than ever before. The technological advancement coincided with the pressure for the US to gain energy independence from Russia, and OPEC countries. With pressure to drill more oil and gas in the US, came more investment in the Permian Basin and that is why West Texas boomtowns are experiencing a historic boom, but that also comes with a lot of issues.
As a crisis manager, Landman’s Tommy Norris deals firsthand with people who live through this up-and-down lifestyle, from rig workers and their families to the investors that fund the boom, and the government agencies that regulate it, making Norris a busy man as there is always a crisis for him to solve.
What to expect in Landman Season 1
The plot details haven’t been released by the network, but we believe most of the scenes will focus on Tommy Norris and his family as they interact with different players in the West Texas oil industry. As the podcast suggests, the oil industry is never calm, which means a crisis is never far away. In an interview, Thornton promised that Landman would show fans “the world of the oil business you normally don’t see.”
With Taylor Sheridan’s intricate writing and Thornton’s lively performance, fans can expect an action-packed show with lots of schemes and conspiracy. From listening to the podcast, we expect crises revolving around lower-level workers in the oil industry such as injuries and deaths at the oil rigs to take center stage. Fracking has also been the focus of condemnation for its negative impact on the environment, which gives Thornton’s character another concern.
As a crisis manager, Tommy Norris deals with all the players in the industry, so fans can expect him to get his hands dirty by doing whatever is necessary to keep the rigs running, whether it be calming grieving families after their loved ones die on the rigs or shutting down climate activists who want an oil field shut down. Tommy Norris’s fancy side involves dealing with wildcatters and shadow investors who are the faces behind the historic oil boom the show is about.
Landman is also a family story just as much as it tells the story of the oil industry. The show follows the Norris family including Tommy’s ex-wife Angela, his eldest daughter Ainsley, and his son Cooper. Like Taylor Sheridan’s other stories, the family is bound to take center stage in Landman , and we believe Ainsley will be a close replica of Yellowstone’s Beth Dutton.
In the casting call for Landman, Legacy Casting said they had scouted oil rigs in the Permian to get a clear picture of what roughnecks look like in their work environment. The company also called for people with actual experience in the oil industry to work on rigs in the show’s background for safety and authenticity. The casting call suggests that Landman will bring an authentic experience of life in the oil fields just like Yellowstone did with actual cowboys in the ranches.
Another casting call by Legacy sought current and former TCU students to appear as extras in a “track and field scene” that is shot on the university grounds. While it is unclear what the scene is about, Tommy Norris’ children Ainsley and Cooper are of university-going age and any of them could be a student at TCU, but that remains to be seen.
While most of the filming takes place in Forth Worth, Landman focuses on the inner workings of the oil industry, which means that the oil fields will make up the bulk of the outdoor scenes. That means the vast desolate landscapes of West Texas with occasional wildlife, especially rattlesnakes, will dominate the visuals.
The daily duties of oil rig workers, such as connecting pipes on the rig, and working the backwash after pumping, cleaning up, and transporting crude will also be an important aspect of the show. The dotted rigs all over the desert landscape will boost the show’s dystopian mood because that is what life in the remote parts of the Permian feels like according to the podcast. As a crisis manager, Tommy Norris will interact with the workers in their workplaces, and being a local boy himself, he will likely be on a first-name basis with most of them.
Route 285 (Death Highway) which features prominently in the podcast, will also be a prominent landmark in Landman because it connects most of the cities covered in the show. The dangers posed by the route during an oil boom, including accidents caused by oil tankers and the crazy traffic of rushing oil field workers will also come to the fore. “I always assume that everyone on the road is trying to kill me,” says one interviewee in Boomtown, giving a clearer picture of Tommy Norris’s most frequent route in the show.
On the urban side of things, the man camps, where most workers in West Texas live, will be the show’s main focus. Most companies build man camps for their employees because there is little sense of permanency in drilling operations, so the desert doesn’t have many permanent dwellings. Night Life in the boomtowns will also be a center of the indoor action because most people spend their time in the strip clubs and other entertainment joints after the grueling 12-hour shifts at the rig, making them the perfect spots for Tommy Norris to meet the industry players and close deals.
Billy Bob Thornton was announced as the lead character, Tommy Norris, back in February 2022, a year after Paramount announced the Landman project. Thornton also executive produces the show alongside Taylor Sheridan and Christian Wallace. While most Yellowstone fans know Thornton for his gunslinging role in 1883, the version of him to expect in Landman is more closely related to Billy McBride, his character in the hit legal drama, Goliath.
Michelle Randolph is another character from the Yellowstone Universe who has joined the cast of Landman, playing Ainsley Norris. Michelle plays Elizabeth Strafford, young Jake Dutton’s wife, in the Yellowstone prequel, 1923, and Ainsley Norris, Tommy Norris’ eldest daughter in Landman. Strafford’s character is described as “the wild and strong-willed seventeen-year-old daughter of Tommy Norris,” according to Variety, which suggests that she shares a lot with her father, but could also be a hothead like Beth Dutton in Yellowstone.
The other revealed members of the Landman cast are Jacob Lofland (Mud, 2012) and Ali Larter (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter), both newcomers to Sheridanverse. Lofland plays Tommy’s son Cooper, described as “new to the demanding work in the oil and gas fields of west Texas.” Larter on the other hand plays Tommy’s ex-wife Angela, which is a first for Taylor Sheridan, who prefers his lead characters in “perfect” relationships. Other cast members are yet to be revealed at the date of publishing, but that will change as Landman draws closer to its release date which we speculate to be around Summer 2024.
Is Landman related to Yellowstone?
Landman is not related to the Yellowstone Universe in any way, but with Taylor Sheridan executive producing it, the show will have a lot in common with the hit franchise. Like Yellowstone, Landman looks at the lives of regular people grinding out a living in a precarious industry. However, unlike Yellowstone’s Cowboys, whom many people admire, Landman focuses on roughnecks and wildcatters who are not in the fantasies of many people.
Like the Duttons, who always have a problem to solve and whose lives are always in danger, Landman‘s Norrisses depend on the oil industry which is extremely unpredictable and just as dangerous. As a crisis manager, Norris often has to make tough calls as he chooses between what is right for humanity and the planet and what his company needs. Just like in Yellowstone where it is always the family against the world, the Norris family will have to fend off multiple threats to keep their family safe and protect what they have.
“Normally, when a sand line breaks, you don’t drive a man to the hospital…You pick up his pieces from around the drum,” reads a line from Death on the Rig, the fourth episode of Boomtown. According to the podcast working on the rig is akin to toying with death because a single mistake could be catastrophic. These are the people that Tommy Norris deals with daily, and just like John Dutton relates with his cowboys, Norris relates closely with rig workers, so we expect him to vouch for them even as he protects corporate interests. It is, therefore, fair to look at Landman‘s Tommy Norris as a more hands-on version of Yellowstone’s Beth Dutton.
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