‘1883’ Star Isabel May Explains How Elsa Experiencing ‘Raw Emotions’ Is Interesting

by Courtney Blackann
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Lucky for actress Isabel May, she did not have to go through the same kinds of heartbreak or troubles her “1883” character Elsa Dutton does. And she’s grateful for that. Yet the young actress appreciates Elsa Dutton’s plight. And she says it’s really fun to bring those raw emotions to Elsa’s life.

If you’re a fan of the show, then you know Elsa Dutton is central to the story. She also serves as “1883’s” narrator. A young woman who’s maturing daily, Elsa learns about love, death, hard work, and heartbreak. Not only does she not fit in with other women (Elsa’s as tough as the cowboys) but she’s also stubborn and naive.

This becomes clear when she finds love in cow wrangler Ennis. The adorable cowboy is sweet, stoic and loves Elsa just as much as she loves him. But that’s short-lived. Ennis is tragically shot to death by a group of bandits. This leaves Elsa in utter despair. The last scene we see in episode five, “Fangs of Freedom,” Elsa clings to Ennis’ dead body as her parents cry for her. This is also the moment that Elsa realizes the world is not as pure and innocent as she once thought.

On speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Isabel May shared her thoughts about playing the role – and how it’s such a visceral experience.

“I may sound like a masochist but I like stuff like that. And I have a very nice, wonderful, happy life — I’m so fortunate to live that life — and therefore it’s really interesting to me to have to put yourself in that kind of situation where you’re experiencing such raw emotions,” the actress said. “I certainly hope I never find myself in that position personally, selfishly, but it is very fun to dip your toes into that. But grief is a challenging emotion for sure, especially experiencing so many different types of grief at the same time and then ultimately revenge, which is the most satisfying.”

When Taylor Sheridan Knew Isabel May Was Right for “1883”

And May does a phenomenal job portraying Elsa Dutton. In fact, she’s someone that Taylor Sheridan once described as the “personification of ‘1883’.”

May embodied what Sheridan said was “pure of heart.” Originally auditioning for Sheridan’s other project “Mayor of Kingstown,” May possessed qualities that would make her more attuned with Elsa Dutton, Sheridan said.

“What made her wrong for Iris made her, I felt, the personification of this world of 1883,” he stated. “I called Paramount and said, ‘I got good news, and then, I got some you need to trust me news.’ At this point I had not figured out how to tell this story and I had Sam Elliott over here and I had Tim McGraw here and Faith Hill and I had not found the bridge between them all. When I met Isabel, the whole story, all 10 episodes, went right through my head,” he explained.

He also went on to add that:

“The good news is she’s going to be the star of this thing with me,’” he said. “She said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘Well, give me three weeks, but make the deal now. Please trust me.’ And she did the deal. I spoke with Isabel and said, ‘You’re going to do this. You don’t know what it is yet but trust me, you’ll be great. Please say yes.’ She said yes and I sat down and wrote it.”

And we’re glad she accepted! May brings Elsa to life in a way that no one else can. The newest episode of “1883” premieres this Sunday on Paramount+.

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