Iconic actor Sam Elliott is perfectly cast as Capt. Shea Brennan in “1883.” Not only is he an experienced cowboy with a history of filming westerns, but he also brings a gritty edge to his character. However, the actor says his character is somewhat unhinged. He even calls him “a bit of a psycho.” But we’ll explain why.
There are so many layers to Shea. He’s not someone that is callous, yet he’s had a tumultuous life. He fought in the Civil War. He lost his entire family to smallpox – and now he is dealing with an entire group of people who have no business pioneering their way through the vast west. However, he accepts the challenge and he’s willing to lead them.
There are a plethora of obstacles along the way of course. Shea, alongside his good friend Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) must do their best to get the group of immigrants and gypsies out to Oregon. And it’s a treacherous journey as we’ve seen. Not only is sickness, survival and death at the forefront. There are also bandits to deal with.
Sam Elliott however makes Shea human. Sure, he will not tolerate deception or theft. And he certainly won’t be challenged by people who know less than him. But he finds empathy within their plight. And empathy is something that Elliott says makes his character human.
Sam Elliott’s Take on “1883” Character
“I think empathy is, you’re either empathetic or you’re not. I think Shea Brennan is empathetic. It’s one of the things that makes his character so complex for me as an actor. He’s willing to shoot somebody in the head for stealing food. At the same time, he cries over the immigrants that he loses, as he cried over his family that he lost. It’s part of his nature,” he says, per a roundtable discussion with CBR.
But Elliott also recognizes that Shea is somewhat unpredictable as well. And this might make him a bit dangerous and unstable.
“I think he does, certainly his compassionate side. I think Shea’s a bit of a psycho on some level… I’ve thought about that, I’m not sure that that’s fair to say. But he’s deeply troubled and he goes off on people and Thomas brings him back, Thomas takes care of him and brings him back.”
He further adds:
“So I love that relationship. I love that relationship and Thomas and his love are the only two, well, I shouldn’t… I can’t go there for the viewers. But Thomas makes it to Oregon.”
Although “1883” took a two-week break following episode five, “Fangs of Freedom,” the show is back with an all-new episode this Sunday. You can catch all the cowboy goodness on Paramount+.