‘1883’ Finale: Why Tim McGraw Says ‘There’s a lot of PTSD’ With Main Characters

by Amy Myers

Just like the actual pioneers that endured the conditions of the Oregon Trail, so too did the characters of 1883 experience their fair share of trauma. That’s why the actor behind James Dutton, Tim McGraw, believes that many of the main characters on the show suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Warning: Major 1883 spoilers ahead. Continue reading at your own risk.

Let’s start at the beginning. From the moment the Duttons embark on their journey westward, they faced tragedy. Both Margaret’s niece and sister lost their lives. Not too long after, we saw the montage of immigrants who died for myriad reasons, ranging from snake bites, wagon failures, run-ins with bandits, dysentery, and let’s not forget that harrowing river crossing.

Then comes the first major character death in 1883 – the loss of Elsa’s first love Ennis. In that scene, we can feel every ounce of sorrow, anger, and desperation seeping out of her heartwrenching sobs. Perhaps just as worse, her mother and father witness a piece of her innocence die as well.

This doesn’t even touch the latest events that transpired in the season finale, in which the Duttons suffer the worst loss of all – their very own child. Not to mention, James Dutton, Shea Brennan, and Thomas were all Civil War veterans. So, it’s not surprising why McGraw feels that in today’s world, each one of these travelers would likely be diagnosed with PTSD.

“I think there’s a lot of PTSD going on with James, Margaret, Shea, Thomas — everybody who experienced that war and then all that went on at Reconstruction,” the 1883 actor shared with TV Line.

‘1883’ Star Explains Motivation Behind James Dutton’s Journey

There’s no denying that the events that transpired on the Oregon Trail scarred every person that dared to walk its path. But even before James decided to take his family out west, he was dealing with his own demons. As we saw during some of the 1883 flashbacks, James was a member of the Confederate Army. He watched so many of his brothers in arms fall on the battlefield. And, once his unit lost the battle, he entered a Union prison camp for several months.

McGraw even theorized that his combat PTSD was the reason he wanted to leave Tennesee in the first place. James wanted a fresh start for him and his family away from the heartache.

“Part of the reason James wanted to get out of there, he was trying to run from it,” the 1883 actor explained. “I think he was constantly reminded of it. He was constantly shell-shocked from it. But it steeled them both in a way. It bonded their love and their characters in a way that nothing was going to shake it.”