When it comes to being cast as a featured role in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone universe, actors can bet on one thing: ‘Cowboy Camp.’ Sheridan’s a stickler for authenticity. Even experienced equestrians must go through his rigorous course of riding, roping, and in 1883‘s case: wagoneering. But it’s far from a chore. Instead, it’s an Outsider’s dream and nearly always mentioned as the actor’s favorite part of the experience.
Which was exactly the case for Gratiela Brancusci. Her Noemi is of the same Roma heritage (or ‘Gypsy’ as the 19th century labeled) as the wildly talented actor, but the character is in the thick of it as much as any cowboy or cowgirl. So to ‘Cowboy Camp’ she went. And as she told me ahead of Episode 6’s premiere, it was an absolute blast.
“I did ‘Cowboy Camp,’ yes!” Brancusci offers brightly. “I went through two weeks of it and it was the most fun I’ve ever had.” But Sheridan’s infamous experience isn’t for the faint of heart. “It was truly, really hot, because this was August in Texas,” she adds.
Blistering heat nor thundering dust clouds could’ve stopped Gratiela from rising at the crack of dawn to master her 1883 skillset, though. And she did so right alongside close co-star LaMonica Garrett (Thomas).
“I would forget about the heat. It was just so fun,” the Noemi actor continues. “We would get up and out at 6 or 7 AM, and I would work out with LaMonica, then we’d go ride horses and learn roping and riding wagons.”
Even outside ‘Cowboy Camp,’ Brancusi brought her all to Noemi. Their shared heritage meant a deep sense of responsibility; one fueled by representing a horribly tragic history not often seen on-screen.
‘1883’s Gratiela Brancusi On the Remarkable Roma History Noemi Represents
“It’s really interesting,” Gratiela offers with a deep breath. “They were called ‘Gypsies’ because for a long time Europeans thought they were Egyptians. When really they were coming from the northwest part of India. Since then, and because of what was happening at the time, Roma people were enslaved for 500 years in Europe.”
In the case of 1883, “Slavery would’ve been abolished about 20 years before Noemi travelled to the U.S.,” Brancusi continues. But this was far from the end of plight for Roma people. Instead, it was the beginning of further horrors. “They were subject to ethnic cleansing for a very long time, and the term ‘Gypsy’ is associated with a lot of prejudice,” she cites.
In the present day, however, “Some people don’t mind it in the community, but others prefer to be called Roma or Romani,” she clarifies over the term ‘Gypsy.’ “But I don’t think Noemi really cared about that at the time. I think she cared about staying alive,” she laughs.
Isn’t that the truth. Of this, Gratiela and I both agreed on Noemi being the ultimate “survivor” simultaneously. She would’ve been through hell and back multiple times long before subjecting herself to the perils of the American Westward Expansion. Horrors the Dutton settlers that lead 1883 couldn’t conjure in their worst nightmares.
Every ounce of this remarkable yet tragic history comes through in her performance, too. 1883 may be Gratiela Brancusi’s first ever role on film, but you’d never know it. Her Noemi is a raw, open soul – but one as tough and relentless as the kindred soul she finds in LaMonica Garrett’s Thomas – a man who’s Black American history matches the unimaginable suffering of her own.
Through this, 1883‘s best love story blossoms; one we can only hope follows through into a happy ending for Noemi and Thomas. Gratiela Brancusi returns for 1883 Episode 6, “Boring the Devil,” this Sunday, Jan. 30 exclusively on Paramount Plus.