‘1883’ Star Isabel May Didn’t Realize How Crucial Her Character Would Be

by Liz Holland

For Outsiders that watch “1883,” you know how crucial Isabel May’s character, Elsa Dutton is to the series. However, the actress behind it says Elsa’s importance took some time to fully dawn on her. 

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Isabel May opened up about all things “1883,” from landing the role to wrapping the first season. For the 21 year old actress, she initially had no idea how vital her character really was. 

“Well, I knew that she would be narrating the story because that’s the first thing that Taylor told me,” she shared. “I was receiving scripts as he was writing them and once I got the first episode, I thought, ‘Oh, my character really is narrating the story.’” 

Despite the fact that Elsa Dutton’s voice takes us through the story of Season One, May says her role as narrator didn’t fully sink in until the last episode. “Personally, I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t trust something until it’s solid, until I can hold it in my hands and trust that it’s there.” the actress explained. “So it was a strange, surreal experience and it still is. I haven’t fully wrapped my head around it. It takes a while for me to realize things are happening. They have to have happened before I can trust that they occurred. I still feel like I’m daydreaming.”

Isabel May Got Sick On Set For ‘1883’

She also shared that she unfortunately caught bronchitis in the final week of filming, which put a delay on some final narrating clips. Thankfully, she at least stayed healthy for the majority of the five months the cast spent filming on location.

“It would’ve been terrible, guttural coughs in between lines, but man, that would’ve been really amusing,” May shared when asked if she recorded the final voiceover while sick. “I’m actually going back to Texas today to record some of the last bits of voiceover,” she added. “So I’m not quite done yet, but I don’t have to be on camera at least.”

May Originally Auditioned For a Different Role

Perhaps one of the craziest things about Isabel May as Elsa Dutton is the fact that she didn’t even audition for the role. In an interview with Town and Country, she shared that she auditioned for a completely different role in a separate Taylor Sheridan project. Ultimately, she wasn’t a good fit. However, the show’s creator kept bringing her in, and eventually sent her a letter that said he would find a role for her. “I thought, okay, well, that’s nice, but that’s probably six years from now or something. I didn’t have any expectations whatsoever,” she said. “And then two weeks later, he called and said, I haven’t written it yet, but you are Elsa and I want you to be Elsa.”

Isabel May has shared that working with Sheridan in any capacity is one of her dreams, so she of course took him up on the offer. Thanks to his eye for starpower, May put on a killer performance as Elsa. You can see her in action in the newest “1883” episode airing Sunday January 30th on Paramount+.