Country music superstar Tim McGraw may have grown accustomed to a life of luxury off-screen, but his starring role as James Dutton in the new Paramount+ drama 1883 has proven more of a challenge than he may have expected.
Just as his character must fight the conditions of the 19th century American frontier, so, too, must McGraw learn some very difficult and dangerous skills to lend realism to the popular Western epic.
According to McGraw, one of the most difficult pre-industrialization skills he and wife/co-star Faith Hill learned was driving an authentic covered wagon with horses through difficult terrain.
The Wagon Train is No Joke
“I mean, I grew up riding horses, but being on the wagon was something that was really intense and really took a lot of work,” McGraw said.
“And Faith spends the most time driving the wagon during the show, so she spent a lot of time doing that to where she’s pretty expert at it now,” the singer continued. “I mean, that’s a harder deal than people think it is, to drive a wagon. Those things can get really serious really quickly, especially when crossing the river. It’s just so treacherous and so dangerous. I mean, you never knew where the holes were in the river. You never knew how deep it was.”
McGraw’s anecdote is the latest in a series of stories detailing the authenticity and realism which the Taylor Sheridan-led drama attempts to achieve throughout filming. Sheridan reportedly insists on filming on location and in the elements as much as possible, a decision that can leave actors struggling to keep up and adapt to a world without modern comforts. Hill has made mention in previous interviews of the lack of bathrooms on set, and McGraw claims his horse tried to toss him in the water.
“Just about every scene I shot with my horse he was trying to throw me in the middle of the river,” McGraw remembered. “I had one scene where my horse is raring up. Its hooves are slashing in the air and my hat falls, I catch it and put it back on. It shows the chaos and the danger and the precarious situation that everybody was in.”
Tim McGraw Loved Starring on ‘1883’
Even with the immense challenges of learning largely long-forgotten skills, McGraw speaks highly of the experience, and even higher of his wife, whose character Margaret wasn’t spared any of the toils that the cowboys faced.
“To see my beautiful wife on horseback, firing guns, and having dirt all over her face, I just sit in awe,” McGraw also said. “She’s a strong woman, anyway.”
1883 airs on Paramount+ Sunday evenings at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT.