‘1883’s LaMonica Garrett on ‘Remarkable History’ of Western: ‘1 in Every 4 Cowboys Were Black’

by Jonathan Howard

During a roundtable discussion, Outsider’s own Jon D.B. got to talk with the cast of 1883, including LaMonica Garrett, about all aspects of the show.

Garrett, who plays Thomas, has a great perspective on things. His role is one that is filled with history and backstory. However, it isn’t the typical story of a Black man in late 19th century America. The writing and storytelling that Taylor Sheridan put into the script have made the character truly special.

For the actor himself, the role of Thomas means more. Garrett gladly talked about the role and the importance of Black cowboys. As a fan of Westerns growing up, he is very excited to be adding to the history of the genre and doing it in a different way in 1883.

“1-in-every-4 cowboys throughout the 1800s were Black,” Garrett said to Outsider. “[They] were Black cowboys. In every, every show I’ve seen… I haven’t seen any [Black cowboys] growing up. We were there, and if I just focus on that [bringing Thomas to life], the other stuff will fall into place.”

One of the stories of post-Civil War Americans that is often overlooked is the fact that migrations of Black people went West just as white settlers did. Following the end of slavery, there were a lot of former slaves that had worked with livestock and knew how to work the land. In the West, many found opportunities for work and new lives.

Thomas and his story are still playing out on the show. There have only been three episodes of 1883 so far. However, I have a feeling his story is one we will see fleshed out and made whole during the season. Fans will get to see the full story, although 1883 is not the story that many expect.

Why the Writing on ‘1883’ Makes Thomas Unique

While it is true that there were plenty of former slaves and other Black folks that made their way to the North and the West following the Civil War, that isn’t Thomas’ story in 1883. That is a big reason why LaMonica Garrett was drawn to the character like he was.

In another interview, the actor touched on the writing and the role that his character has in the show.

“The one thing I loved about these scripts and Taylor’s writing for this Black cowboy, slavery was never mentioned,” Garrett explained. “You know, the N-bomb was never dropped. It was just what you think a Black cowboy would have to go through in his era. He was just a cowboy. And that’s what these Black cowboys were back then. They were just cowboys, but they had stories. We just don’t know those stories.”

There tends to be a tendency to include that slavery story in these narratives. However, that isn’t something you will see in 1883.