The Yellowstone prequel starred real-life couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
When Paramount+ announced that a Yellowstone prequel was in the works, fans of the Western drama were thrilled. As casting news for 1883 was released, it became clear that the limited series was going to be something special.
“Finally the day has come when I get to share some exciting news with you!” she wrote. “I will be playing Margaret Dutton, the original matriarch of the Dutton family in the Yellowstone prequel 1883. Just wait, you have never seen anything like this!”
1883 was unique as it offered Yellowstone fans a look at the Dutton family’s origin story. Creator Taylor Sheridan brought the show to the small screen as part of his multi-year deal with Paramount Network.
Real-life couple McGraw and Hill had fun filming together portraying James and Margaret Dutton. “It's been incredible to do scenes together and to watch [Hill] work," McGraw said.
Now that Sheridan has debuted another project, Lawmen: Bass Reeves (originally titled 1883: The Bass Reeves Story), viewers may be wondering if they'll see familiar faces on the Paramount+ show based on "the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi,” per a press release.
So, before diving into the new series, here is everything to know about the stars of 1883 and their experience filming the series.
Tim McGraw as James Dillard Dutton
Country singer Tim McGraw is one-half of a powerhouse music marriage. McGraw and his wife, fellow Grammy-winning artist Faith Hill, wed in 1996 and welcomed three kids together while also collaborating on joint tours.
After rising to fame with hits like "Something Like That," he began acting, most notably in Friday Night Lights and The Blind Side, but James Dutton on 1883 is his first significant role.
McGraw initially played James in season 4 of Yellowstone in flashback scenes, which led to the opportunity to expand the role in the prequel. He told The Hollywood Reporter that when Sheridan called him to offer the part, he was intrigued — though on his terms.
“Certainly I was interested in it, but I told him I didn’t want to be some singing cowboy that just comes to the bunkhouse and gets carried to the train station at the end of the episode," he said. "If he came up with something that was interesting, I’d be glad to do it."
Faith Hill as Margaret Dutton
Faith Hill joined the series at the same time as her husband, playing his character’s wife, Margaret Dutton. Hill is also a country music star with a legion of fans who were thrilled to see her in the series.
Born and raised in Mississippi, Hill moved to Nashville at the age of 19. In 2022, she told The Hollywood Reporter that filming 1883 was a rewarding experience.
“The authenticity was exciting for me,” she said. “I understood why learning how to do these things properly really mattered, when you’re actually in the midst of filming on a horse, on a wagon, shooting the guns, all the things that we had fun training to do.”
Isabel May as Elsa Dutton
Isabel May played Elsa Dutton, daughter of James and Margaret Dutton and the narrator of the follow-up Yellowstone series 1923. Her first role was as a recurring character on The Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon before becoming a lead on the Netflix drama series Alexa & Katie.
May began acting in 2018 and starred in a handful of independent films before crossing paths with the Western drama's showrunner. The actress told The Playlist podcast that she had originally auditioned for another role on 1883 — but things worked in her favor in a way that she couldn’t have predicted.
“I auditioned for a different project for Taylor [Sheridan], and found myself in the very, very lucky position in which he came to me after saying, ‘No, you’re not getting that other role,’ and said, ‘But I’ve written one for you,’ ” she recalled.
Sam Elliott as Shea Brennan
Sam Elliot was born in California and raised in Oregon before embarking on a long career in Hollywood, particularly in Westerns. His first credited work was a minor role in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, featuring Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
In the decades since Elliot earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work in A Star Is Born in 2019. The actor has also lent his voice to Fox's animated sitcom Family Guy since 2019, bringing to life Wild Wild West.
In 2023, Elliott told Variety that his role as Shea Brennan on 1883 was influenced by his history in Westerns, though he admits it was a different experience. As viewers know, his character was a Civil War veteran turned cowboy who helped the Duttons head north from Tennessee to Montana.
“It wasn’t a big stretch for me, because I was so familiar with the genre,” he said. “That said, I went places I had never gone before in that genre. And I think that’s probably because so much of the character was internalized.”
Eric Nelsen as Ennis
Eric Nelsen starred as Ennis, a cowboy who assisted the Dutton family's move alongside Shea Brennan. His character was also Elsa Dutton’s love interest, but he tragically dies from a shotgun wound sustained during an attack.
Nelsen brought a lengthy résumé, having begun his acting career on Sensing Murder as a teenager. His other credits include the soap opera All My Children and Showtime’s The Affair.
The actor told Newsweek that the character appealed to him right away.
“I saw Ennis as the outlet to kind of go against the grain of the show a little bit,” he said. “We live in this extremely dark, gritty world in 1883 and Ennis is that little beacon of light that can pop through and put a smile on audiences’ faces — but at the same time, he is also a badass cowboy.”
Martin Sensmeier as Sam
Martin Sensmeier charmed both audiences and Elsa Dutton as Sam, a Comanche warrior who helped out the Dutton family on their westward trip. After Ennis' death, James and Margaret's eldest child falls in love again.
Elsa and Sam later marry in an unofficial ceremony, but their relationship quickly starts experiencing struggles because of their different cultural backgrounds, something that Sensmeier addressed in a behind-the-scenes interview.
“Even though Sam is in love with this woman and wants to marry her, they’re also committed to their journeys,” he said. “These stories, they’re beautiful because they make you reflect on your own life, your own journey.”
Sensmeier previously worked with Sheridan in his 2017 neo-Western crime movie Wind River. The actor also appeared in HBO's Westworld, NBC's La Brea and ABC's Alaska Daily.
Dawn Olivieri as Claire Dutton
Dawn Olivieri joined the cast of 1883 as Claire Dutton, the widowed sister of James Dutton, who travels west with the rest of his family. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it to their final destination.
The actress is known for her roles in the Showtime series House of Lies and on the NBC show Heroes. Olivieri told The Hollywood Reporter that period pieces and Westerns were new to her, but she immediately embraced the role of Claire.
Olivieri revealed she coincidentally moved to rural Arkansas during the COVID-19 pandemic when the opportunity arose. “It’s a little bit woo-woo,” she said. “The second I moved here, I got all of this Western world work, which I had never gotten before. No period pieces, none of that. So, it’s pretty trippy.”
Viewers may also recognize her in Yellowstone as lawyer Sarah Atwood, who duels with Beth Dutton and gets romantically involved with Jamie Dutton.
Billy Bob Thornton as Jim Courtright
Billy Bob Thornton played real-life sheriff Jim Courtright in one episode of 1883. Since starting his acting career in 1986, he has been featured in over 60 movies, including Armageddon and A Simple Plan.
He admitted that starring in the limited series made his schedule incredibly busy, considering he was on tour with his band, The Boxmasters, when Sheridan reached out.
“I think I'll probably try to strike a balance between music, movies and TV,” he told PEOPLE. “If you can do one each, each year, if I can make a record and go on tour, if I can make one movie and one TV thing, that seems pretty good, you know?"
Sheridan created the role on the show specifically for Thornton, an honor he also bestowed on a few other cast members.
LaMonica Garrett as Thomas
LaMonica Garrett joined 1883 as Thomas, who was part of Shea Brennan's crew, helping lead the group as they traveled toward Montana. Most notably, his character was a formerly enslaved man who later became a U.S. Army sergeant in a Buffalo Soldier regiment.
Despite his harrowing experiences, Garrett shared that Thomas still saw the best in every situation. As he explained to Esquire in 2022: “I think that he's seen the worst in man. ... He left the plantation when he was 12 years old. But Thomas … he sees kindness in people that other people might not see."
Marc Rissmann as Josef
Marc Rissmann plays Josef, a German immigrant in a group that hired Shea Brennan and Thomas to take them to Oregon. Before becoming part of the Yellowstone franchise, Rissmann starred in Game of Thrones and The Man in the High Castle, among other German projects, as he is a native.
In a behind-the-scenes interview with Paramount Network, Rissmann spoke about Josef in greater detail. “I think the leadership role, he took it because I think he’s a natural leader and because he cares about his people," he said. "But it creates conflict for him.”
The conflict regarding balancing the expectations of the group of immigrants and the demands placed on him by Shea and Thomas.
Gratiela Brancusi as Noemi
Gratiela Brancusi played Noemi, a Romani widow with two young children traveling west with the group. While learning to care for her family independently, she falls for Thomas, and viewers witness the start of their new relationship amid the expedition.
Brancusi is originally from Romania, and 1883 was her first project in the U.S. She also appeared in Sheridan’s crime thriller Mayor of Kingstown alongside Jeremy Renner.
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