Actor, Jen Landon, had a life-changing realization when she saw co-star Ryan Bingham’s Capri Camper. She had to have her own Capri, immediately. And like many good stories begin, it was a dark and stormy night…
Prior to joining season three of Yellowstone in 2020, Jen Landon, daughter of Michael Landon, already had a successful film and television career. From movie roles including Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner to 500 television episodes in As the World Turns, 28 episodes of The Young and the Restless, and recurring roles in Animal Kingdom and FBI: Most Wanted, Jen was on top of her game.
And yet, the higher Jen’s acting obligations would stack, the stronger the pull of solo adventure would become. The open road, ever-itchy feet, and a relentless longing for solitude kept calling. Between film and television commitments, she would set out, sometimes with little planning, to reclaim her nomadic nature.
This is not the tale of an actress dabbling with a truck camper. It’s the personal narrative of someone who’s deeply passionate about cross-country travel discovering what a truck and camper represents; absolute freedom. With her Capri Camper, she can finally be home on Yellowstone, or the open road.
Above: Jen Landon on the set of Yellowstone, photo courtesy of Paramount
I want to start where your interest in the outdoors begins. Were you into the outdoors or camping when you were growing up?
I was definitely outdoorsy. We were not a family that camped, but we were a family that traveled – a lot. I always say that my mom has itchy feet, so she has to be on the move a lot.
That sort of got into my blood for better and for worse. It means that I have great adventures, but I have a really hard time at home. I always think of myself as deeply nomadic. I sometimes wonder if it’s in your DNA to be nomadic. That your more recent ancestors were hunter-gatherers for a blush longer. So I was always an avid traveler.
I even lived alone in high school. That isn’t traveling, but I kind of wanted to live alone during the last two years of high school. So there’s something about solitude and moving at my own pace that I love. I left for New York at seventeen and was there for eight years, and then went to college for a bit in the Netherlands. Once my career started going at 21, that took away a lot from my travel time.
Working, unless you can figure it out as you guys have, can tie you to a place. It was a soap opera, so we worked 49 weeks a year and I had a three-year contract. Soon after that finished, I was with a traveling theater company. I just wanted to feel like a nomad again. In my late 20s, I had this burning desire that I had to just leave and not know when I was coming back. I ended a relationship. I leased out my home. And I left for about six months.
I had my two bulldogs with me and my car. I stayed in Airbnbs. I traveled to the Northwest because it was the summer and I didn’t want to be hot. Ironically, I ended up living on a cattle ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana. And then when I got the job on Yellowstone I couldn’t believe I was on a cattle ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana.
That is ironic. Do you feel you are more pulled by the road, or repelled by being in one place for too long?
I don’t know if I can answer that directly. I can tell you that I feel the most at home when I am on the move; when I’m on the road. I sometimes feel the most at home in places I’ve never been and with people I’ve never met.
I sometimes wonder if it’s a trait that’s developed more in people where home didn’t feel particularly good when they were young. I had a varied childhood, but there were definitely factors that made home feel not so good sometimes. I often wonder if that’s a part of it.
We can certainly relate to the call of the road, and how worked up we can get if we’re home too long. How did you find yourself getting a truck and camper?
I can’t move forward without saying that my great-grandmother, who I am the most similar to, had a truck camper up until she was 80. I wasn’t thinking of that throughout this process.
There was a lightning storm one night on the set of Yellowstone. It might have been midnight. We were tired. You can’t shoot when there’s lightning. Any time there’s another bolt within six miles you have to wait for another half-hour, and you’re also not allowed to be outside.
I was in the back of Ryan Bingham’s truck with a couple of other folks because we had commuted to our new location. So I’m in this truck, not stuck because it was a lovely place to be, but tired. Ryan said, “Why don’t you go take a nap in the camper?” And I said, “No, I’m good right here. I’d probably get claustrophobic in there.” And he said, “You should look at it.”
So I opened the door and stepped inside and my first thought is, “I don’t know how in the heck I’m going to afford this, but I need one of these. Immediately.”
Ryan was so encouraging about it and told me that I could get a version with a shower and toilet, and that I should reach out to Pete at Capri and just talk to him. And I said, “Maybe I’ll hit him on Instagram.” And Ryan said, “No, you should really call him. He’s a really nice guy.”
I called him, and I’m so glad I did because he is a really nice guy! And he held my hand every step of the way. He had to deal with me trying to pick out the wood and seat color for about three months, poor guy. But I eventually made a decision.
“And I love just how beautiful the Capri Camper is on the inside. I felt like I was in a tree house. I felt safe and it felt manageable.”
Okay, so it was a dark and stormy night.
Yes, a dark and stormy night (laughs).
And you’re sitting alone in Ryan Bingham’s Capri Camper and having something of a moment. What did you see that was so compelling?
I can’t go on before talking about Ryan a little more. Ryan has a lot of qualities that I know are in me and, despite my total nomadic solo travel self, there’s a lot I don’t know how to do. Like, I’d never really camped. I didn’t know how to start a fire. There’s a part of me that has a deep desire to have survival skills. I don’t have them. Ryan has them. So much of what he represents in terms of self-reliance is so intriguing to me because it gives him access to a kind of aloneness that I crave. In between shooting days, he was in his camper up in the deep wilderness somewhere, doing God knows what, but it sounded like heaven.
The thing about the camper that made me go, “I have to have one of these right away” was that I don’t have to tow, which is sort of an overwhelming thought to me. I don’t like to be bogged down by a ton of gear or stuff, and that applies to my home life as well.
And I love just how beautiful the Capri Camper is on the inside. I felt like I was in a tree house. I felt safe and it felt manageable. And I needed one so badly that I made the largest financial investment of my life which was to purchase a vehicle. I spent a lot of money on a truck so I could get that camper.
Yes, we know exactly what you mean.
And I spent a lot of money on fuel.
Yes, that too. What did you envision yourself doing with the camper?
One of my restrictions with traveling is that I’m a dog mom. And since then, I lost one of my dogs, who was the great love of my life. But both of them at the time were in their later years, and being away from them started to mean something different. So I wanted to be able to travel with them.
Traveling with dogs, going in and out of Airbnbs and finding Airbnbs – and the cost of Airbnbs – is a lot and requires a lot of planning. I didn’t have to plan anymore when I thought about being in a camper. I could take my dogs and just go. And that was the most exciting thing. I could just go. And I didn’t have to know where necessarily.
I was recently at the Junior World Finals in Vegas and had one of my pooches with me. I was totally comfortable leaving my pooch in my camper knowing that it stayed cool. I could go watch events and come back out and check on him. He would just chill out in the camper. He was in heaven. Totally safe.
Getting a truck camper, if you’ve never had one, can be a comedy. I know our first days of camper ownership weren’t exactly intuitive. What was your experience like?
That trip was a great story. For someone who knows absolutely nothing, I thought I was going to have a hard time. I got it on a Thursday and left Weatherford, Texas and was on my way back to Los Angeles, California on Saturday.
Funny you used the word intuitive. While I had to take a little time to do things, the camper was so unbelievably intuitive. And I have no experience. I have a short bed. Because of the way it’s assembled, I feel like I have more than enough room.
We tell folks who are trying to decide between a long or short bed, or a slide-out or non-slide, that whatever camper size they choose quickly becomes home.
It does feel like home. It feels almost like a turtle shell. I found that I didn’t want to leave it, even when I had the option to. When I was in Vegas, for example, I didn’t want to stay in a hotel. I wanted to sleep in the camper. I had already slept in the camper for four nights on my way from Texas to Nevada, and I slept like a baby in that thing. I didn’t want to sleep anywhere else.
It turns out that I don’t love RV parks, which is where I stayed in Vegas. It feels crowded to me, especially in Vegas. The amenities were awesome but, when I got there, I was longing for where I’d been the night before. Somewhere in Arizona, I found this app called HipCamp. And this couple had 800 acres that they owned and I rented a spot on those 800 acres. I felt like I was miles from the only other camper, who was also a woman who had been there about a month. I did find on the HipCamp that many of the travelers were solo women.
The further down the trail you go, the more interesting the people you meet become. Someone told us that years ago and it’s proven itself true time and time again.
Did you guys see the movie Nomadland?
A lot of people watch that movie and they’re like, “Oh my gosh. The house-less migrant workforce.” I watched that movie and thought, “That’s it. That looks like heaven to me.” (laughs) I was like, “I’m in!”
We have camped in Quartzsite where a good portion of that movie happens. You should try camping there. It’s another world.
I’ve driven by it, obviously. The first time I opened the notes on my phone and wrote, “Develop a show that is set in Quartzsite.”
You could find more than enough material with some of the characters. Now that you have a camper of your own, what do your friends and family think of it?
I’ve been home for three days, so I haven’t seen anyone. Since you know me now, you know that I don’t mind that. I kind of love it. People I texted about my camper, the reactions ran from, “That’s amazing. You’re doing it. You’re living,” to “Are you joking? You’re joking. That’s crazy.”
I’ve made quite a few choices in my life that people are like, “What? Why? How?” A lot of choices I can change, but the fact that I’ve decided at some point in the past couple of years that having kids is probably not going to be the route for me. Because I love to move around so much. Or I don’t want to settle down in a traditional way. Or even though I don’t need to have housemates, I have friends who are my housemates. I’m kind of their city house and they come and go. There’s this kind of communal aspect to my home.
All those kinds of things people balk against when they first hear about them, I usually find that about five or ten years later, they sort of come around and say, “That looks pretty good.”
By the way, I love kids. I know a lot of kids who I call friends. I think they’re interesting. I want them to feel heard. I’m super sensitive to kids not feeling seen. And I think they’re wise and I wish that adults would get out of their way. Because I think they know better. I really do. At the same time, I never want to think about what to feed them. I don’t want to go to a PTA meeting. I don’t want to go to a choral concert. I’ve sat through some of those. And I’m more bored than the kids are.
In the 80s there was some movie where this girl was riding around in trains; like train hopping. I used to fantasize that I could just go do that. And I love my family very much, but I always fantasized about being somewhere else.
Do you travel with a specific hobby or interest in mind?
I read a lot. I wander a lot. And I like wandering on foot. I like to journal and read and walk.
My first time not staying in an Airbnb was my drive from Texas to California. I wanted to play it safe because I am aware that I am a female on the road. And I’m a big fan of women traveling on their own and feeling safe.
So the first two nights I stopped in Marfa, Texas and stayed somewhere with people nearby. I felt safe. I didn’t want to prove anyone right; “It’s not safe doing that”. And then the third night was the first time I slept with no human around for miles.
Embarrassingly, that was the first time I built a fire. And it turns out that I’m a hell of a fire starter. It’s an innate talent, mixed with Google. I was in heaven. My mind felt quiet. I was not afraid it was dark. I’m not afraid in the desert, ever. I felt at home. And in the morning, I felt like I could hear myself so differently without the noise of civilization nearby.
I think a lot of our readers will understand that. We certainly do. What about when you return to civilization? For example, will you be using your camper on the Yellowstone set?
Yeah. That camper is 100-percent coming to work. It’s sitting in my parking area in the city, and I have a mind to go nap in it often; even though I have many wonderful napping places in my home.
I did not think about the fact that I would have it at base camp, which is where all the trailers are on set. I imagine I will probably be in my camper more than my work trailer. One hundred percent, because it feels so much like a home. And it’s so cozy.
One of the things I will definitely use it for – and one of the things I thought about with Ryan – is some of our locations are really far away. Sometimes over an hour away. You finish at night and it’s dark. I don’t love driving at night, for a myriad of reasons. And some of these places we shoot at are so unbelievably beautiful. I don’t have to drive back to the housing that I’m put up in. I can stay in Wisdom, Montana for the night, for example. Or I can sleep in any one of these gorgeous locations and not have to get back if I’m not working the next day.
Kudos to the Yellowstone location scout for a whole different reason.
Exactly. Thank you for reserving my camper spot for the night. Oh my God, it’s so beautiful.
That was a big one for me. There were many nights where we’d finish really late and we were up really early. I don’t like to be driven to set. I could request that, but I don’t like it. I like to self-drive and the freedom of that. With the camper, I don’t have to get back anywhere. I can wrap up, get in my camper, shower – and the camper shower is amazing – and go to sleep on the mattress, which is in competition with my mattress at home.
If I take a road trip, to a city let’s say, I don’t plan on getting any other kind of housing because I have the camper. It’s so freeing.
“There’s something very freeing about knowing that I can have my truck and my camper, and nothing else, and I will be totally fine.”
When we’re out in our camper, we often say, “Why do we need anything more than this?”
One of the pitfalls of humans in general – and I’ll make all the same mistakes – is that the more money we make, the more we expand and grow our assets. And then you need to make even more money to maintain those assets and you become a slave to the dollar in a way that can take you off track. So there’s something very freeing about knowing that I can have my truck and my camper, and nothing else, and I will be totally fine.
With your Hollywood perspective, you probably see the result of taking that way too far.
You see both extremes; you see so much luxury, so much money, and so much spending. And on the flip side, because it’s the entertainment industry, almost everyone I know thinks this will be my last job. That I’ll never work again. That I’ll never be able to make another dollar doing this.
That’s what almost every actor I know thinks, “Well, that’s it.” Even really famous and successful actors think they’re going to get found out to be a fraud. “This will be it.” Almost every actor or writer I know thinks this will be my last gig. It’s not a confidence thing. Sometimes people become so famous that they don’t work anymore. There is a little of the ‘chew you up and spit you out’ feeling that can exist. And when you’re hot, you’re hot. And when you’re not, you’re not. And you’re going to have big lulls. You are. So there’s always that fear.
Above: Jen Landon as Teeter on Yellowstone, photo courtesy of Paramount
I think anyone who’s been successful at something in life can relate to that fear. We do have a few questions about Teeter. Teeter is something of a hurricane on Yellowstone; an unpredictable force of nature. Is Teeter a part of you that needed to come out? Or is she purely an invention of the show that you never previously imagined?
When I read the part for the audition, which was written phonetically and a little tricky to read, I thought, “This is the weirdest coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m totally not going to get it.” This isn’t me on any surface level. But, internally, I actually felt like we have a lot of similarities. I am somebody who’s a bit feral. I grew up on a lot of land with a lot of dogs. I’ve never gotten into any kind of physical fight but, in karate class as a kid with all my sparing equipment on, I’d go to town.
There’s something feral and solo and nomadic about Teeter that I totally identify with. I think that the Yellowstone Ranch and the bunkhouse boys have been the first time Teeter has felt at home since she lost home, I imagine in her teen years.
“There’s something feral and solo and nomadic about Teeter that I totally identify with. ”
If the fictional Yellowstone represents home found for Teeter, does the real-world Yellowstone show represent something to you?
I’m going to take that one step further. As an actor, I am totally nomadic. I’m a lunch box actor. I go from job to job. I love that freedom. And the Yellowstone show is the first time I’ve really been held to one show, for years. And so in a weird way, I’ve thought I have family and home in a very different way than I’ve had in almost twenty years.
Would Teeter and Jen Landon get along if you met?
My first impulse is to say, “Yes, absolutely!” And then I wanted to think about it.
Yes, I would probably try to be her friend. I think I’d get a kick out of her. Also while she’s not educated in any way, and we don’t get to see this much on the show, I’ve always felt like she’s incredibly smart. I think she’s got real solid horse sense. Plus, she doesn’t give a #&@%, and I really like that about her.
Have you ever brought Teeter out in your personal life, or does she only exist on set?
So some people over the years who have been near and dear to me have informed me that Teeter is coming out a little bit. It seems like there’s a period of time that it takes for my body to physically leave her behind. There was a moment recently when I felt myself go somewhere in a way that felt foreign to me. And I thought, “I have been playing this part for long enough for her to become a part of me.”
I don’t know how it wouldn’t. She is so wild and volatile. As an actor, where do you find the energy to become Teeter?
I don’t know. Honestly. It is exhausting, in a way. She’s on at least an 8, very often. I will try to do something physical before we shoot, just to get my heart rate up and my brain going. Almost like how athletes have to pump themselves up before an event. Watching young bull riders at the Junior World Finals before they get on the bull. It’s a little like that. I need to jolt myself awake.
Above: Meet Jen Landon’s Yellowstone character, Teeter
Yellowstone is clearly a phenomenon and it must be so gratifying and fun creatively, but where do you see yourself as an actor moving forward?
I have a few ideas but nothing solid. I’ve been working for almost twenty years now. I’ve never been a part of a phenomenon like this show, and I never will be again. Yellowstone is like a fever. It’s like you catch it. And it has changed my life. I don’t know how much it will change my professional life, but it’s given me access to people and worlds and generosity that I never would have come in contact with.
I got to learn how to ride a horse. I got to learn how to rope. I got to learn how to help at a branding. I’ve met ranchers and cowboys. Whatever extra graces I get because I’m on Yellowstone, I will take with so much gratitude because it gives me access to this world that I’ve really fallen in love with.
How do you enjoy something like that – in the moment – when you think it’s so fragile?
That’s a very good question. The relationships I have with these people feel very genuine. Only time will tell. If Yellowstone is done, will all those people go away? Maybe. But that’s okay! I’m a believer that some of the most meaningful connections of my life lasted 45 minutes sitting at a bar eating dinner – next to a stranger – on one of my road trips. And the connection is profound. And I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, it’s not real”. But it’s 100-percent real. It just isn’t supposed to be any longer than that.
“I’m a believer that some of the most meaningful connections of my life lasted 45 minutes sitting at a bar eating dinner – next to a stranger – on one of my road trips. And the connection is profound.”
So I don’t need these things to last forever. The older I get, the more I realize that you can’t take anything with you anyway. I can see the runway. If I’m lucky, I’m halfway. It went fast and the rest will go by a million times faster. I look back on the last 20 years and think about all the things that I didn’t do. On my last birthday, I kept writing, “20 in 1”. Could I make up for those 20 years in a single year?
Wow. We do a lot of reflecting and planning to put important things into action. Talking to Ryan Bingham about his Capri Camper last year was such a wonderful surprise for us. Now that we’re talking to you, is there anyone else in front or behind the Yellowstone cameras who might be catching this truck camper bug?
Yes! Absolutely. I got my camper after we wrapped, so I am not going to know all the ways that plays out. I can tell you that my really good friend, Abby, who is one of our camera operators, is a hop, skip, and jump away from getting a Capri. She will certainly be using mine.
I do think a lot of people are going to think it’s the way to go. Even from posting the little I’ve put on Instagram so far – people are reaching out saying, “Dude, what is that thing?” and, “Where do I get that thing?” and, “You’re living the dream.”
Again, it’s a lot of women. I’m really passionate about that. I think it’s important for women to feel like they can just go. They don’t need anybody else to do it. Even right now I thought about driving out to visit my mom. Just in LA traffic, my mom lives an hour and a half away. She has a really nice house with many bedrooms and I thought, “I’ll just sleep in the camper.”
Okay, this is going to happen. You’re going to visit people at their homes and they will have set up their guest room for you and invite you in and you’ll have to tell them – very nicely – that you’re more comfortable sleeping in your camper. And they’ll be a little offended.
I know! The people who are closest in my life know they could call me and I’d be there at 4:00 in the morning for them, but I also might disappear and not call them back for two months. That I tend to come and go. They tend to come and go as well.
My closest female friend in LA is an 80-year-old woman who still travels the globe all year round, she is a mother @#$%&. She’s who I went to Cuba with and on diving expeditions with. She and I drove Baja together. She needs a camper and someone else to drive because she’s a horrible driver.
Next to a picture of you and your Capri Camper you wrote, “This camper changed my freaking life.” What did you mean?
Yeah, it did. I can’t explain it. It’s sitting in my parking area right now. I can see it. As someone in Marfa said, “Do you have a diner on the back of your truck?” I said, “Sort of”.
Just the feeling of knowing, at 4:00pm today, I can decide, “I don’t want to be here.” Maybe I’ll just drive up over the Angeles Crest Mountains into the desert and stay there for the night. The fact that I can do that is one of the greatest things ever. The feeling of total independence and self-reliance. Of not needing anything but the shell on my back, is amazing.
My motivation for my line of work is mostly that I want to travel and live in other places and try on different lives. I’ve been really lucky because that’s sort of what I can get to do. I’ve never had an acting job in the last seventeen years where I had to go into a studio in the city where I live every day. I know that’s the dream for so many people, but that’s not my dream. I get itchy. I even get itchy being on shows for years on end. I think, “This is awesome, but what’s next?”
We find the road is the perfect answer to that question. There’s always something or someone new to discover. Thank you so much for our interview, Jen. It’s been a blast. Is there anything you’d like to add that we didn’t talk about?
When I was driving from Marfa to Arizona, I noticed people in trucks driving by and holding up a fist as an act of solidarity. I realized that feeling of being part of a tribe.
Mostly, I love that Pete of Capri Camper felt like we could be a good collaboration. I love this camper so much. It’s truly one of the greatest gifts in my life and I’m so darn happy with it.