Actress Isabel May is the breakout star of “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” with a little help from series creator Taylor Sheridan.
On “1883,” May plays fan-favorite Elsa Dutton, the daughter of James and Evelyn Dutton and direct ancestor of John Dutton. The series follows the Dutton family and their journey across the country in hope of prosperity in the west. Through the series, we learn how the Dutton family came to settle in Montana and would go on to build one of the country’s biggest cattle ranches. As we know, the Dutton family lineage will eventually lead us to present day “Yellowstone” Ranch, where John Dutton makes his home.
May grew up in the big city life and without much outdoor experience. Taking on the role of Elsa Dutton on “1883,” she knew it would be a challenge. She put her trust in show creator Taylor Sheridan, who put May through his now-famous “cowboy school” activities. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, May says Sheridan put her through the “wringer” and it was a valuable learning tool.
“Oh yeah! I trusted that,” she says of the experience. “I’ve had a very comforting, happy, loving life and existence, so I find challenging work really intriguing and interesting and gratifying. So if I wasn’t put through the wringer, I would’ve been disappointed, to be honest. That’s what this is all about. I still get to walk away from it, but it’s fun to make yourself a little miserable.”
One thing May had to learn was how to ride a horse.
“I’d never ridden a horse before,” she continues. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles; I’ve spent most of my life in big cities like New York City and Los Angeles. So I didn’t have much experience with the outdoors.”
‘1883’ Star Isabel May Talks Preparing to Become Elsa Dutton
The path to the west is quite troubled for the Dutton family as the journey itself was a rough one. Elsa is gritty and tough and May knew that to become her “1883” character, she would need to fully invest herself. She spent a good deal of time training for the role.
I had the summer. I didn’t get to do it every day or every week, necessarily, but I would drive out to Agua Dulce in Northern California and ride with a woman named Deidre, who is actually the wife of our stunt coordinator [Jason Rodriguez]. I’m now a member of their family by the way. So I rode with her as much as I possibly could, and then Taylor brought me out to do his infamous “Cowboy Camp,” which consisted of riding with wranglers all day, basically being spoiled rotten and sweating like crazy. But waking up at 7 a.m. every day and riding through this beautiful countryside was fun and another daydream. So I did have time. I didn’t have an excessive amount of time, but I did have time to prepare.”