‘1883’: Tim McGraw Reveals What Isabel May Said That Was Like a ‘Knife Right in My Heart’

by Anna Dunn

1883 fans are absolutely reeling from that major tearjerker of a season finale. Here’s what Tim McGraw said about something Isabel May told him that was like a knife to the heart.

Of course, there are some major spoiler warnings ahead.

Fans of 1883 were devastated to see Elsa (Isabel May), the narrator of the series, die right as the journey is about to come to a close. The absolutely tragic loss made the entire ending bittersweet to say the least. And while executive producer David Glasser says the ending really brought everything to a close, it definitely doesn’t make it less sad.

Tim McGraw, who played James Dutton on the series, recounted what actress Isabel May told him while filming that helped get him into character to shoot something so tragic. He recounted her words to TV Line.

“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. She put the knife right in my heart, boy. She knew exactly what she was doing,” he said. But that’s part of what made her so great. “She was a joy to work with. I loved doing scenes with her.”

The First Take of the ‘1883’ Scene was Unusable

They didn’t actually shoot the tragic 1883 scene many times, but the first time they did it, Taylor Sheridan told McGraw and May that they definitely needed to make some changes. This is because the first time the two actors shot that scene, they can barely get through it.

“I don’t think we shot it [more than] four or five times. The very first time we shot it, the very first take of it, Isabel and I both were just completely falling apart, and we couldn’t help it. Through the whole scene we were both just sobbing,” McGraw said. Of course, that wouldn’t have really worked for the scene.

“Taylor [Sheridan, series creator] goes, “Cut!  All right, we got that one out of the way, now let’s cut that s–t out.” So, we did it a few more times and they were all pretty emotional,” McGraw said. But it appears it was when May mentioned McGraw’s own family that he truly found his way in that impossible scene.

With an ending like this, it’s hard to see how 1883 would continue for a “second season.” And you’d be right. Paramount + has technically ordered more episodes of 1883, but it’s not being considered a renewal for a second season. Fans don’t know what this means yet, but thankfully they can use the time between episodes to recover from that absolute tearjerker.