A Publication of WTVP

Making the hard work of acting look easy

by Phil Luciano | Photos by Mike Bailey |
The actor jokes with fundraiser hosts Sid Ruckriegel and Andrew Rand
The actor jokes with fundraiser hosts Sid Ruckriegel and Andrew Rand

Yellowstone star Cole Hauser didn’t arrive on horseback in Peoria, but he’s had lots of practice, at that and at showing up for good causes

To make things look easy, you’ve got to work hard.

Just ask Cole Hauser, the longtime actor known best these days as Rip Wheeler, the rough-and tumble ranch foreman in the series Yellowstone.

On screen, he rides and ropes like a legit horseman — and he is, thanks to endless hours of practice put in behind the scenes. He relies on horse-riding ethics he learned as a kid out West.

“I grew up that way, working hard,” said Hauser, 48.

He recently appeared in Peoria for a fundraiser for WTVP, Greater Peoria Honor Flight and OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The Moss Avenue event drew about 200 guests clad in cowboy boots and Western gear, in a nod to the Yellowstone star.

Yellowstone star Cole Hauser is welcomed by Mary DiSomma
Yellowstone star Cole Hauser is welcomed by Mary DiSomma
Party-goers enjoy the band and each other's company, all for some worthy charitable causes
Party-goers enjoy the band and each other’s company, all for some worthy charitable causes

But he almost lost the chance to do the series. As Hauser learned, acting (and horse riding) can be back-breaking work — literally.

Born in Santa Barbara, California, Hauser grew up riding horses on relatives’ ranches there and in Oregon and Montana. That experience helped him years later as an actor. Just before joining Yellowstone for its 2018 debut season, Hauser filmed the movie The Last Champion, for which he had to ride a horse.

During production, he tumbled from his mount, breaking his back.

“Well,” he quietly said in humble acknowledgement, “I just fractured it.”   

The painful accident left Hauser worried he might not be ready for Yellowstone, as Rip spends much of his ranch time atop a horse. Hauser patiently worked his body back into shape, gradually intensifying his time in the saddle, enough to be ready for the show.

Meantime, he  kept working on his horsemanship, to the point he can focus on acting without giving riding a second thought. He credits countless hours of off-camera training.

“The crew helps a lot,” Hauser said. “It’s a great crew.”

‘He is such a wonderful person. He was so sweet to us both’
— Maria DiMaso

He sounds as grateful as his devoted fans, including those who showed up for the Peoria fundraiser. The throng included two women — Linda DiMaso, 75, and daughter Maria DiMaso, 45 — whose efforts to attend caught Hauser’s attention.

The two live in the Chicago suburb of Elmwood Park, where they saw online advertisements about the event.

“My mom and I have been fans of Cole’s for many years,” Maria DiMaso said. “We aren’t just fans of his because of the character of Rip Wheeler. We have seen just about every movie he has made, and I have seen him in most of the TV series he has been in.”

They jumped at the chance to buy tickets to the fundraiser. But they faced a challenge in getting to Peoria. Maria DiMaso has a disability that prevents her from driving. Her mother drives locally but not on busy interstates. And they couldn’t find anyone willing to drive them on the 330-mile round trip.

“So,” Maria DiMaso said, “it was my idea to take a cab.”

The fare was $560 to Peoria, with the cabbie waiting while they attended the fundraiser. The total cost, with tip, ended up at about $1,200. Ultimately, fundraiser guests passed the hat to help take care of the bill.

“It was so worth it to see Cole,” Maria DiMaso said. “He is such a wonderful person. He was so sweet to us both.”

Upon noticing the pair upon arrival, Hauser greeted both warmly before getting swarmed by the crowd. A while later, he slipped away to spend some time with the DiMasos.

Much like Cole Hauser, they were glad to have worked hard to get where they wanted to be.

“We were so happy to support so many wonderful charities,” Maria DiMaso said. “We got tons of pictures with him. He was very generous with his hugs and kisses.

“He truly is a kind soul.”

Phil Luciano

Phil Luciano

is a senior writer/columnist for Peoria Magazine and content contributor to public television station WTVP. He can be reached at [email protected]