‘1883’ Set Designers Reveal How They Brought Fort Worth Back to the 19th Century

by Courtney Blackann

It isn’t always easy taking a very modern city and turning back time more than 100 years. But if that’s what Taylor Sheridan needs, then the “1883” production team was prepared to do it. Before filming even began, the crew transformed Fort Worth back to the 19th century.

In a post on Instagram, the “1883” official series page posted some behind the scenes looks at how the production designers transformed the city of Fort Worth into an old western town. Each detail is carefully thought out, making sure there’s an authentic feel.

“Taylor is a stickler for authenticity and so we wanted everything to be as authentic as possible,” production designer Carry White said.

“When we started this project, it was written for Fort Worth in the 1880s. Taylor Sheridan, who wrote it, wanted it to be shot here,” adds Carla Curry, the set designer. “Our challenge on this one was to bring it back to the 1880s. And look – it’s a western town. And a lot went into it just to bring it to this level,” she adds as the camera pans over the dusty streets lined with old shops and restaurants.

Further, the crew removed all modern features from the setting. They painted buildings appropriate colors for the time period.

“I think it turned out quite nicely on this one,” Curry says.

“1883” Star Shares Perspective on Taylor Sheridan’s Need for the Setting to Feel Real

For every scene in the series, there’s something beautiful and true in the entire picture. The cinematography is to die for – with glowing landscapes, genuine wardrobes and small details everywhere. Taylor Sheridan often speaks about wanting everything to feel and look as real as possible. This is so when the actors step on set, they already feel like they’ve stepped back in time.

Tim McGraw echoed what designer Carry White said.

“Taylor is a stickler for authenticity. Even to the way you ride – he would come up and say, “you know, a cowboy wouldn’t have his feet in that position or wouldn’t have his hands in that position.” He says, “I’m just trying to make you look good. Everybody rides a little differently, and it’s fine to ride a little differently but there are a few things you need to be authentic to and true to.” And he’s always good about that. And down to the set design and the costumes,” McGraw says.

He also adds:

“When you walk on that set, for me, I like to get there early, get my costume on, and be on set an hour or so before we start shooting. And it’s usually still dark. Always still dark. But, walk around in that world and live in that world for a while and try to feel what James would have felt – try to feel what the immigrants and the pioneers would have felt – try to feel what Margaret [Dutton, played by Faith Hill] would have felt – try to get into the spirit of my daughter [Elsa, played by Isabel May] and what she would have felt. I really try and spend a lot of time doing that and try to get inside Taylor’s head a little bit [in terms of] what he felt when he was writing it.”