But it was, and she’s been blowing audiences away ever since.
“I think I was trying really hard not to faint,” Brancusi laughs from her warm West Coast apartment. “It was so overwhelming because it was my first day on camera,” she reiterates; a fact she did not indulge Sam Elliott – one of the most respected actors ever to grace the screen – with. The only person she told was close co-star LaMonica Garrett, the equally brilliant actor behind her love interest, Thomas.
In the scene (courtesy of Episode 3, “River”) Noemi approaches Shea in an attempt to coerce her Western guide into a rather physical marriage. The stalwart captain shuts it down, but it provides our first glimpse of a woman who’s willing to do anything to survive.
But Elliott “could not have been more generous,” Brancusi says. “I forgot that it was Sam. He was just this really kind and supportive artist who made sure the environment was warm enough for me to get there.”
It was a demanding scene to film, to be sure, regardless of experience. “It’s such a challenging time that Noemi is going through. But I really love that I have this story,” the 1883 star smiles. “My first scene on camera was with Sam Elliott!”
‘1883’s Gratiela Brancusi: Sam Elliott ‘Lives In and With His Heart’
Regardless of stature or status, Gratiela Brancusi says her scenes with Elliott couldn’t have felt more natural.
“He lives in and with his heart,” she offers of her co-star. “He is so present. So again, he and LaMonica both just make it so easy to be present with them. And you forget about the 400 people that are surrounding you along with six cameras.”
“He’s done this for what, 40 or 50 years? I really love that about Sam. Every time we had a scene together, I felt he was very conscious of the other people around him who maybe needed some support,” she adds. “I couldn’t have been luckier. I really could not.”
Every ounce of Brancusi’s love for her co-stars, alongside her own radiant self, comes through as Noemi. Which is exactly why I did everything I could to get Gratiela to tell us Noemi is safe. After losing another of 1883‘s best characters, Eric Nelsen’s Ennis, losing her simply wouldn’t be fair.
“I can’t tell you that!” Brancusi beams. “But I promise, no matter what happens, everything will be okay,” she reassures.