‘1883’: Tim McGraw Talks Watching ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Bonanza,’ and ‘All the Clint Eastwood Movies’ Before Filming

by Lauren Boisvert
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“1883” was a tough show to film, and the cast has frequently spoken about the rough working conditions, the extreme heat and cold, and how often there were dust storms on location, which Tim McGraw has mentioned. But, what about how the cast prepared for those challenging roles? What did they do to get into character before the cameras started rolling?

Tim McGraw recently shared a bit of his process for preparing after taking the role of James Dutton. In conversation with the Hollywood Reporter, McGraw and his wife, country star Faith Hill, spoke about the challenges of “1883,” how they decided to join the series, and how they prepared for their roles. For Tim McGraw, it involved watching a lot of Westerns.

When asked about the most exciting aspect of starring in a Western, McGraw replied, “For me, certainly [it was] the story that Taylor created. We’re seeing it through the eyes of a young woman, which is something I don’t think that we’ve seen much before in the Western genre.”

One Western film that comes to mind is “Cat Ballou,” which starred Jane Fonda as the titular Cat. Additionally, there have actually been many fierce women in Westerns, such as Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty in “Gunsmoke,” Hailey Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in 2010’s “True Grit,” and Raquel Welch in “100 Rifles.” Though, true, most of these women are supporting characters; “1883” was notably told from Elsa Dutton’s point of view.

Tim McGraw On Preparing for Western Role on ‘1883’

McGraw continued, sharing that he’s a big fan of Westerns. “I went back and watched all the Clint Eastwood movies before we started shooting, and then knowing that we’re going to work with Sam Elliott — that was probably the most nerve-wracking. You walk on and you’re doing a scene with Sam Elliott, and he’s looking at you like, ‘All right, show me what you got.'”

Sam Elliott was notoriously gracious and kind during “1883” filming, of course, despite his long and storied career. Co-star LaMonica Garrett told stories of Elliott taking an extra aside and cheering her up when she made a mistake, assuring her that it was okay and she could try again. He seemed like a really chill guy, just there to hang out in the Wild West for a spell; his castmates only had good things to say about him after the fact.

McGraw continued, “I’m grateful and humbled to be able to do that and be a part of this production. It made me think about all the things I loved growing up: ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Bonanza.’ To be a part of that culture is a pretty, pretty cool thing.” Tim McGraw is a part of country music culture forever, true, but now he’ll be a part of Western film culture as well.

Outsider.com