‘1883’ Star Eric Nelsen Says Tim McGraw Is Like a ‘Big Brother’ on Set

by Liz Holland
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The “Yellowstone” prequel, “1883” is already becoming a new fan favorite. The series, which premiered just last month in December 2021, gives viewers a look into how the Dutton family came to own their impressive Yellowstone ranch. A huge focal point of the show is Tim McGraw, who plays James Dutton on the show. James is an ancestor of John Dutton, who is the patriarch in “Yellowstone.” In “1883,” McGraw is playing opposite his real-life wife, Faith Hill, who plays matriarch Margaret Dutton on the show. The cast is also full of other impressive names including Sam Elliott and Eric Nelsen. 

Nelsen plays a young cowboy on the show, and recently gave some insight about what it was like to work with Tim McGraw on set. It sounds like the family dynamic extended way beyond power couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill! Nelsen tells Wide Open Country about how he and McGraw got along during filming. “Tim is an awesome guy,” Nelsen says. “He’s the big brother on set, you know, always messing around. He’s singing, he’s just goofing off. He’s just a really, really fun guy to be around. He’s always making people laugh and smile.”

On the show, Nelsen’s cowboy character has his eyes set on James Dutton’s (Tim McGraw) daughter, Elsa. Dutton is a pretty protective father, so Nelsen says McGraw likes to “riff even when the cameras aren’t rolling, which is kind of funny.” 

Eric Nelsen Says Tim McGraw Takes His ‘1883’ Role Seriously

McGraw definitely takes his role in “1883” seriously. Nelsen says of the country singer, “He’s a lot more method than I was expecting him to be on certain days, which all lends itself to helping me stay in character.”

He continues, “But there would be times where I would just catch him just staring at me when we weren’t even filming. He would just be on the other side of the room, just like really giving me a glare, trying to intimidate me. Of course, it worked every single time. So now I’m like, ‘oh gosh, what’s he about to say or do?’ And then he’s like, ‘all right, let’s go film this thing.’ And he’s, like, still really intense. Then at the end of the day, you know, he’ll drop the act and we’ll laugh about it and stuff. But he’s pretty good about putting that fear of God in somebody with those eyes.”

Tim McGraw’s approach was certainly effective, and in line with what the show’s creator intended. Eric Nelsen explained in his interview that Taylor Sheridan, the writer behind “1883” and “Yellowstone” prioritizes authenticity. The actor says, “Taylor Sheridan’s gift is to really [show] authenticity. In his mind, he doesn’t want actors playing. He doesn’t want actors pretending like they’re riding these horses or taking this journey. He wants actors who are actually immersed in it and doing it every step of the way.”

You can see “1883” for yourself on streaming service Paramount+.

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