Understatement: Episode 5’s shock death shook audiences to their cores. Eric Nelsen’s wily young cowboy galloped his way into all of our hearts. We fell in love with him through Elsa Dutton’s eyes. And then he was gone; a victim of the Westward Expansion’s grueling cruelty. Losing Ennis hurt, plain and simple. But watching Elsa lose Ennis was like pouring salt in the wound. Which is, come to find out, exactly how Eric Nelsen felt when learning his character’s fate for the first time.
Speaking to Decider post-Ennis’ death, Nelsen answers the question: “Were you privy to Ennis’ death from the start?”
“No, actually I wasn’t. When I got cast, I had no idea. Once I was sent all the scripts, I finally started to read them. When I came to the end of Episode 5, I lost it,” the 1883 star reveals. “I was emotional and crying and just in disbelief. I ran to Taylor’s house and I said, ‘Taylor, why? Can’t we change this, please?’” Nelsen laughs.
But series creator Taylor Sheridan knew Nelsen would be on board once finishing the episode’s script. “‘Keep reading. You’ll get it, keep reading,'” he told Nelsen.
“It all makes sense in the scheme of things. Although Ennis’s death is incredibly heart wrenching and sad, it is a turning point for the series and for Elsa,” the actor continues. “It had to happen this way, unfortunately for me!”
‘1883’s Eric Nelsen: ‘It took every ounce of my being not to completely lose it every single time’
Of that fateful scene (in which Ennis is gunned down by outlaws causing serious trouble for 1883‘s wagon train), Nelsen says it was “an incredibly hard scene to shoot. I know I was just lying there dead,” he laughs, “but hearing Isabel’s emotion as Elsa through each take… It was so hard for me not to be bawling. I’m like, ‘Eric, he’s dead. You can’t be crying. This is not good. Keep it together.’”
Acting alongside a performer of Isabel May’s caliber makes such emotional scenes all the easier to pour some truth into, too. Her career is still beginning with 1883, but as 30-year-old Nelsen points out, “Isabel’s performance is so raw and real; she allows the audience to feel every single emotion her character is going through. It took every ounce of my being not to completely lose it every single time.”
1883 is surely the launching point for an incredible career for May, something Eric Nelsen fully agrees with.
“At just 21, she’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever talked to in my entire life. She’s such a special individual and a real intellect,” he raves of May. ” I’m so privileged to have worked with her, and God, is she talented. I’m so excited to see her career take off from here.”
Us, too, Eric. Us, too. 1883 returns for Episode 6 this Sunday, Jan. 30 only on Paramount Plus.