’1883’ Star Sam Elliott Describes Process of How He Got in Character on Set

by Leanne Stahulak

Now that “1883” has officially wrapped, stars like Sam Elliott can sit back and reflect on their process throughout filming and production.

Sam Elliott sat down with Cowboys & Indians Magazine earlier this week to talk about his “1883” role. Elliott starred as Shea Brennan, a former Civil War captain and Pinkerton Agent. Within the first episode of the series, nearly the first scene, we watch Elliott in a heartbreaking moment.

After sitting on his front porch for a while, Elliott’s character Shea gets up and goes into his house. He grabs the body of his daughter and brings it upstairs to rest next to the body of his wife. Then Shea sets the whole house aflame, burning the small-pox-ridden bodies of his family.

Sam Elliott doesn’t say a word during this entire “1883” scene. But his expression and actions were still extremely emotional and evocative. So, C&I asked Elliott how he got into character for a scene like that specifically.

“We were a couple of weeks into production when we did that,” he told the outlet. “Maybe three weeks. But it probably wouldn’t have been any different if it was on the first day. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that hard either.”

Elliott added, “I’m an actor. I’ve got a wife and daughter at home. It’s just a matter of getting into the scene and trying to bring some truth to it. I’m one of those who goes off and gets away from the noise before they get ready for me. I come back in and do it. It was that way that day, and everybody was supportive of it. Everybody was walking around and not making a lot of racket, so it allowed me to stay in that space.”

Tim McGraw Talks Working With Sam Elliott on ‘1883’

Aside from making an impression on audiences, “1883” star Sam Elliott also made a big impression on his co-stars. Especially Tim McGraw.

McGraw took to Twitter to share a story from the “1883” set. He posted it on the day of the season finale, thanking fans for watching and talking about some of his favorite moments from filming. Aside from working with his wife, Faith Hill, McGraw said he also appreciated working with the legend himself, Sam Elliott. Apparently, though, Elliott didn’t quite reciprocate the feeling.

“One particular day, I told Sam, I said, ‘Thanks for doing this and being a part of this. And I just want to let you know that I’ve learned so much from watching you.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘Oh yeah? Well, I haven’t learned a f—ing thing from you.’ So, thanks, Sam. Enjoyed it.”

McGraw softened this hilarious story by adding, “Everything you’d ever think he was, he lived up to. He was one of the nicest, sweetest guys in the world.”