1883 Star Sam Elliot Talks Yellowstone Prequel Series, Taylor Sheridan
We are currently three episodes into Paramount+'s latest Western drama, 1883, starring Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill, and fans are still being knocked out of their collective boots. Written and created by the man who can seemingly do no wrong these days, Taylor Sheridan (Mayor of Kingstown, Those Who Wish Me Dead), the Yellowstone prequel series finds the Dutton family, James and Margaret (McGraw & Hill respectively), embarking on a journey west through the last bastion of untamed America. Arriving in Texas, James and his family prepare to make their way through The Great Plains in search of a new home and the promise of opportunity. Eventually, the Duttons join Shea Brennan (Elliot), the tough-as-nails, handsome cowboy with immense sadness in his dark past, who has the herculean task of guiding a group of immigrants from Texas to Montana, and he does not suffer fools. Recently Elliot took some time off the dusty trail to speak with Bleeding Cool about his passion for Sheridan's 1883 script and how this former Civil War captain compares to other cowboys he has played in the past.
What was your reaction to the first time you read Taylor Sheridan's script for "1883"?
Sam Elliot: Well, it was the first few pages of that script, there was no dialog in them. It was just painting the picture. As you know, I assume you know Taylor's work or you wouldn't ask that question, he's quite the poet. It's a powerful beginning for this character of mine in which he loses his family right off the bat. I was pretty blown away just by that because I happen to have a family. Shea has a wife and daughter, and I have a wife and daughter as well, so it caught me right away. In the ensuing scripts that kept coming my way as Taylor wrote them, he sent them on to me. I knew right away that there was no way that I was not going to do this project. I had a lot of reservations for different reasons. Most of them physical, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to do this.
Shea Brennan is a character you're accustomed to playing: the grizzled, tough cowboy (dare I say handsome) who is in charge. While it seems like a pretty "comfortable suit" for you to put on, were there aspects of this character that were challenging for you to relate to?
Sam Elliot: I played these kinds of characters before, but there's a lot more going on in Shea's head than there have been in other cowboys that I've played. Number one, he's a veteran of the Civil War. Number two, he loses his family right off the top in the first episode, and number three, he's got this contingent of immigrants that he's taken care of showing them the way guarding along the way, and he's sensitive to those losses. He has great compassion for these people. That said, at the same time he'll shoot a guy for stealing something. He's a complex character. I think other Western characters that I've played seem to be a little one-dimensional in some ways. Maybe not Virgil in "Tombstone," but some of the other ones, maybe not so interesting as Shea is. That's been the fun of it, and that's been the challenge of it. To do justice to Taylor's script. That's really the challenge for all of us. You get a piece of brilliant material like Taylor Sheridan gives you, you want to do justice to it.
To get a taste of what Elliot is up against, you can check out the first episode of 1883 here: