‘1883’: Taylor Sheridan Praises Isabel May for Bringing His ‘Imagination To Life’

by Leanne Stahulak

“Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan couldn’t be happier with how star Isabel May portrayed Elsa Dutton in “1883.”

WARNING! Major spoilers ahead for the season finale of “1883,” which dropped on Paramount Plus on Sunday, Feb. 27.

Funnily enough, the two didn’t meet during an “1883” audition. Sheridan actually saw May perform for the first time at an audition for “Mayor of Kingstown,” his other Paramount show. May wasn’t quite the right fit for that role, but Sheridan saw a kernel of Elsa Dutton in her. He admitted in previous interviews that he essentially wrote that character around May.

And now, after 10 incredible episodes, Elsa Dutton is buried near her family’s new home. May delivered a heartbreaking and emotional performance of Elsa’s death, carrying it over from Episode 9 when she was shot in the gut with an arrow.

After the “1883” season finale aired on Sunday, Sheridan sat down with Deadline to talk about how May brought his vision to life. Not just in her death scene, but across the whole series.

The greatest compliment you can pay an actor is to say they brought your imagination to life. That’s what she did,” Sheridan revealed. “To me, she represents the innocence and hope that is unique to Americans and it has to do with the fact we’re such a young country.”

He continued, “I wanted her to be that one vibrant thing, and never lose that as she became wiser through the journey. Even at the very end, she clings to it, she sees the world in color, through these dreamer eyes and they never quit dreaming. I wanted that beacon, whereas everyone else in the entire thing has experienced extreme hardship.”

Hardship related to the Civil War, disease, the social pressures of the time period, and several other factors.

“At that period of time, you’re coming out of one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history. And that’s still so ingrained in everyone,” Sheridan explained.

‘1883’ Star Tim McGraw Shares What Isabel May Said to Him Before Shooting Death Scene

One of the most emotionally charged moments of the “1883” season finale came at the end. As James Dutton (Tim McGraw) held his dying daughter in his arms, he couldn’t stop the tears from coming. It’s one of the best performances we see from McGraw and Isabel May.

But according to McGraw, May helped make that scene happen. He told TVLine something she said right before the camera started rolling to get him in the headspace.

“We’re laying there. And right before we’re getting ready to roll, she sort of leans her head back on my chest and looks up at me. She goes, ‘What’s your favorite things about your daughters?’ Then we shot the scene, and that’s the scene they ended up using,” McGraw explained.

“She put the knife right in my heart, boy. She knew exactly what she was doing,” he continued. “[May] was a joy to work with. I loved doing scenes with her.”

Now, it’s likely that we won’t ever see scenes between the two again. Even though Paramount ordered more “1883” episodes, they’ll likely focus on Margaret and James, plus John and their new child on the way.