‘1883’: Filming Ennis’ Death Scene ‘Incredibly Difficult’ for Eric Nelsen

by Jim Casey

Actor Eric Nelsen brought the bright-eyed cowboy Ennis to life over the first five episodes of 1883, Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone origin story on Paramount+.

Initially, the young cowboy—with his pard Wade (James Landry Hébert)—acts as a hired hand to help Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott), Thomas (LaMonica Garrett), and James Dutton (Tim McGraw) wrangle wild cattle in Episode 2. However, James’ daughter Elsa (Isabell May) catches Ennis’ eye, and he decides to stay with the wrangled herd as Shea’s wagon train of German immigrants departs Fort Worth, Texas, for Oregon.

Episode 3 finds a flirtatious relationship developing between Ennis and Elsa, before the smitten youngsters share a kiss—or two—during Episode 4.

Of course, Episode 5 on January 16 brought Ennis’ character arc to an end. As series creator Taylor Sheridan is wont to do—at least based on his projects Yellowstone and Mayor of Kingstown—another of his major characters met their demise.

The End of Ennis

1883 Episode 5, titled “The Fangs of Freedom,” was certainly Ennis’ episode.

During the episode, Ennis and Elsa consummate their newfound love for one another. And when James Dutton finds out and proceeds to deliver a beat-down, Ennis stands up to him, declaring: “I’ll take your licks if you’ve got more to give. I’m a man and I’ll take em. I’ll take [Elsa] too.”

Unfortunately, Ennis had to endure more than James Dutton’s paternal retribution. During a shootout with a group of bandits, Ennis takes a bullet to the chest. With his last words, he tells James, “I loved her.” After Elsa shoots the final apprehended bandit at point-blank range, she lays her head on Ennis’ chest.

Eric Nelsen’s ‘Incredibly Difficult’ Final Scene

A dramatic aerial camera shot of the two lovers caps the powerful 1883 episode. As Eric Nelsen told Outsider, the final scene was “incredibly difficult” for a number of reasons.

“It’s incredibly difficult [to act dead], actually,” said Eric Nelsen to Outsider. “You’d think you’re just laying there with your eyes closed, but there is so much emotion happening. It honestly took everything I had not to cry each take. I mean, I’m supposed to be laying there, passed away. So obviously I can’t be crying and feeling the emotions that Elsa’s giving, but when she’s screaming and holding onto me and laying on my chest and I’m thinking through what just happened, it took every ounce for me not to lose it every single time we shot it.

“So it was very difficult. And there’s a heaviness on set at times like that and everybody feels it. I mean, camera operators are crying, directors are crying. So nobody there is feeling peachy. And so that hangs and everybody feels that. And as a group, I think we all were on the page. So it’s difficult, but it’s emotional and provokes a lot of feelings within one’s self. So the more powerful moments you get to experience on set are very special times.”