‘1883’ Creator Taylor Sheridan Explains Why People’s Notion of the Journey West Is ‘Inaccurate’

by Courtney Blackann
Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

During the beginning of Taylor Sheridan’s “1883,” we learn that a group of immigrants are gathering together to head west. While it may have confused some fans as to why or where these people come from, Sheridan explains that the idea of heading west wasn’t necessarily an American dream – it was an international escape.

When we first meet the wagon party, led by a man named Josef, it’s pretty apparent that they’re in over their heads. They don’t know the language and they don’t know the terrain. Few of them know how to swim or drive a covered wagon. Yet, Captain Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott) agrees to take charge of them and bring them as far west as Oregon.

Though many people don’t realize it, this is actually how many immigrant families planted roots along the western edge of the United States.

And of course, with Sheridan being so detail-oriented, he did his research when it came to this fact.

Speaking in a behind-the-scenes look at “1883,” Sheridan spoke to this.

“The notion of people going west that most have is inaccurate. Most people who went west saw ads in newspapers in Poland and in Croatia and in Germany and answered those ads. America was unique in the fact that wherever you were that you failed, you could simply move west to reinvent yourself and reinvent your life,” Sheridan says.

Taylor Sheridan’s Importance of Showing Harshness of Journey During “1883”

And soon after the group embark on their journey, not many of them safely make it to their destination, despite dreaming of a better life. Between illness, snake bites, crossing rivers or bandits, the immigrants learn the harsh realities that exist where they once thought only their dreams loomed.

However, these realities are something that Sheridan felt was important to highlight for “1883” in order not to romanticize the journey.

And speaking of getting things right, actress Isabel May says that Taylor Sheridan went to great lengths to make sure everything with his characters and the set was perfect.

“That’s probably the greatest thing about this project. It’s Taylor’s baby, and I don’t think people understand how much it means to him,” May explained. “I certainly don’t want to speak on his behalf, but he’s expressed that. So he spent pretty much the entire time on this project.”

She also adds:

“He was on set almost every day. He was in constant communication. We were shooting at his house — not inside of his house, obviously — but in his backyard,” May reveals. “He owns all of the land that we were shooting on in Texas, and then we moved to Montana and all around.”

Though we likely won’t see anymore “1883” episodes, Taylor Sheridan opened the door to something incredibly special that will surely stand the test of time.