The journey has only just begun for Thomas in Taylor Sheridan’s 1883. And his actor LaMonica Garret is grateful to portray the part—thanks to Sheridan’s writing.
In the series, Garrett plays one of the few on-screen 19th century African American cowboys who aren’t embroiled in the racial tensions of the Civil War. Instead, he’s just like every other cowboy who sets off to settle in America’s promised land.
And in an exclusive interview with Cinemablend, LaMonica Garrett explained why it’s so important to portray a character such as Thomas.
“It’s significant because we weren’t around if you let Hollywood tell it,” he shared. “In different television shows and films, like, Black cowboys weren’t around, but they were.”
Historically, one in four cowboys were black in the 1800s. So their stories “need to be told.”
And Garrett is more than pleased with the way that Taylor Sheridan is portraying his character.
“The one thing I loved about these scripts and Taylor’s writing for this Black cowboy, slavery was never mentioned. You know, the N-bomb was never dropped,” Garrett continued. “It was just what you think a Black cowboy would have to go through in this 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.”
LaMonica Garrett ‘Loves’ That His ‘1883’ Character is ‘Just a Person’
“I love how Taylor wrote these characters,” the actor said when asked about playing a black cowboy who lived through the Civil War. ” Not a lot is said throughout the series about Thomas’ race, about slavery, or about where he comes from. Thomas brings it up in conversations between him and Shea that come up here and there and conversations that he has with other characters like Noemi [played by Gratiela Brancusi]. But they’re not leaning into it.”
The 1883 star then stressed that he is happy to play a character who has the same life and problems as everyone else in the series.
“I love that. He’s just a person, and they were just people back then,” he said. “These stories need to be told about black cowboys – they were cowboys that happened to be black. They had lives. They had families. When they’re coming and leaving, or exiting the screen, where are they coming from and where are they going? Who are they going to talk to?”
Furthermore, Taylor Sheridan is adding a unique twist to the Western genre by highlighting the perspective of people other than the typical hero. As the wagon train heads to the future Dutton farm, they’ll meet different bands of travelers along the way, such as gypsies and Romani people, who “had a voice” that’s never been heard.
“Now you’re seeing it through their lens when you didn’t get to see that in television shows of this genre in the past. You’re seeing things through Thomas’ lens as well,” Garret said. “We’re not recreating the wheel here with the Western, but you’re just seeing it from different points of view. And it’s great how Taylor wrote that.”