Exclusive: Gratiela Brancusi, one of 1883‘s brightest and most promising stars, talks the remarkable heritage she shares with Noemi.
Gratiela Brancusi brings her all to Noemi. Her breakout performance gives life to a diamond in the rough; one of countless European pioneers pursuing a better life through America’s Westward Expansion. Hundreds of thousands would make a similar journey, but few carried the immense, wildly misunderstood history she represents – and the strength it provides.
Amidst river crossings and bandit raids, Taylor Sheridan’s celebrated Yellowstone prequel isn’t able to devote time to this life Noemi was escaping. Which is why it was such a pleasure to discuss her heritage with 1883‘s wildly talented Gratiela Brancusi. Where does Noemi come from? Why is she risking everything to cross North America?
Amidst the show’s diverse travelers, European immigrants throw the term “gypsy” around her with a seething connotation. Which begs another question:
What is a ‘Gypsy’?
For Brancusi, the heritage she shares with Noemi brings a sense of responsibility; one fueled by a remarkable yet horrific history not often seen on-screen.
“I am of Roma background on my dad’s side. I was raised in a big community, but not in the tradition,” Gratiela offers from her warm West Coast apartment. “Luckily my dad still has friends who are very much still in traditional communities, so I could talk to many of them and sort of harvest from their brains,” she smiles.
But researching her 1883 role didn’t come without its challenges. Like so many populations oppressed throughout history, people of Roma descent weren’t able to represent their own stories in historical texts. “There’s not a lot of literature that speaks to the Roma experience,” she cites. “Or not in a way that does it justice, because it wasn’t written by people of Roma background.”
One example comes from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which breaks down the term Roma as describing a group of people speaking “dialects of a common language called Romani, based on Sanskrit (the classical language of India).”
In modern times, “Roma” includes both the Sinti and Roma groupings, their encyclopedia continues. Some Roma do prefer the term ‘Gypsy,’ however; something Brancusi would later confirm.
The amount of non-native information that remains pervasive today made it difficult for the actor to pull authentic accounts, “but I was able to find enough to give me context for the character,” she adds.
‘1883’s Gratiela Brancusi On the Remarkable Roma History Noemi Represents
Noemi is an actor’s dream, too. She’s a true survivor, but one that 1883 does not define by her “tragic history,” much like LaMonica Garrett’s stellar Thomas. Instead, Taylor Sheridan’s script places focus on the power of Noemi and Thomas as human beings. Their strengths, love, and resilience shine above all else. This forms an unspoken kinship between the two, something that both actors convey masterfully with every scene they share. And while most eyes are on Elsa Dutton’s budding romances, for this viewer’s money, there’s no love story on television as engaging as Noemi and Thomas’.
As their eyes meet, Brancusi and Garrett convey everything we need to know about their characters in that moment. But when it comes to their backgrounds, audiences will need to do a bit of reading.
“It’s interesting,” Gratiela offers after a deep breath. “They were called ‘gypsies’ because for a long time Europeans thought they were Egyptians. When really they were coming from the northwest part of India.”
In the world Noemi came from, “Roma people were enslaved for 500 years in Europe. Slavery would’ve been abolished about 20 years before Noemi travelled to the U.S.,” she adds of 1883‘s setting, but this was far from the end of plight for Roma people. Instead, it was the beginning of further atrocities.
“They were subject to ethnic cleansing for a very long time. The term ‘Gypsy’ is associated with a lot of prejudice,” Brancusi continues. In present day, however, “Some people don’t mind [the term ‘Gypsy’] in the community, but others prefer to be called Roma or Romani,” she clarifies. “But I don’t think Noemi really cared about that at the time. I think she cared about staying alive,” she laughs.
‘1883’s Noemi: ‘There’s a resilience in her spirit that she’s inherited from her ancestors’
Of this, Gratiela and I simultaneously agreed on Noemi being the ultimate “survivor.” She would’ve been through hell and back (multiple times) long before subjecting herself to the trials of the American Westward Expansion.
1883 brilliantly portrays this pivotal time in America. But it’s impossible to convey the unrivaled resilience it took for pioneers of all backgrounds to make this journey. But if anyone has proven up to the task, it’s Noemi and Thomas’ Gratiela Brancusi and LaMonica Garrett. Even compared to the tragedy we see through Sam Elliott’s remarkable, pain-fueled performance as Shea Brennan, Brancusi and Garrett hold the heavy task of bringing the histories of persecuted minorities to light; something each actor does with unrivaled dignity and talent.
“Shea and Thomas have this scene in Episode 4 where Shea says he’s ‘shocked’ that these people aren’t afraid of the unknown, and Thomas replies ‘You ain’t never had a whip to your back.’ And she was raised in that,” Gratiela offers of Noemi. “But it is a different kind of hell, you know? And that doesn’t make it any easier. But I think there’s a resilience in her spirit that she inherits from her ancestors, as well.”