It’s hard to imagine Noemi not being everyone else’s favorite character on 1883. As endearing as she is resilient, Gratiela Brancusi’s Roma pioneer entered in Episode 3 and has brought boundless warmth to every episode since.
Speaking to the actor behind this performance, it’s immediately clear where Noemi’s natural wit, charm, and wisdom come from. But if you’re struggling to recall where you’ve seen Brancusi on-screen before, don’t fret. 1883 is, in fact, her first performance put to film. So how did Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone prequel find such a perfect fit?
“I was doing theatre before this,” Brancusi begins, an introduction that doesn’t do her justice (the 1883 star is as humble as she is talented). Gratiela wasn’t just doing theatre, but a rehabilitative theatre program in California’s state prisons, she later reveals.
As part of the non-profit theatre world, “I wasn’t even considering doing film… But then the pandemic came and theatres shut down and my soul was dying,” she laughs. “So I had to figure out how to play! I had to do something, and I started auditioning.”
Before long, Gratiela’s agent had submitted her for 1883‘s Noemi. At the time, she was in Romania visiting family and friends, something she hadn’t been able to do in three years. But from her shared heritage with Noemi to the prestige of Taylor Sheridan’s script, this was a part she had to go for. So she filmed her audition where she could and went for it.
“Oh man, at the time I said ‘This is my worst tape ever,'” Brancusi recalls with a smile. “Lighting wise and quality it was awful. I had to do it in this tiny hallway, shadows all over my face, there’s no background, this dark wall… I didn’t expect anything to come out of it.”
‘1883’s Gratiela Brancusi Enters the Taylor Sheridan Universe
We all know how that turned out. Gratiela’s casting as Noemi is one of 1883‘s masterstrokes. It’s her first performance put to film, something you’d never know by the ease with which she gives her Roma pioneer life.
With her audition in the can and sent off to Sheridan’s team, Gratiela traveled back home to LA five days later. “And they told me I booked it. I don’t know, I’m still registering it,” she smiles wide from her West Coast apartment. “It still hasn’t landed with me.”
Having your first film work come alongside Sam Elliott, LaMonica Garrett, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill will have that effect. Such are the perks of joining Paramount’s budding Taylor Sheridan Universe, an easy gamble by ViacomCBS to bring swaths of premiere content to audiences courtesy of the master storyteller. 1883’s runaway success on Paramount Plus joins his Yellowstone‘s record-smashing cable numbers alongside Mayor of Kingstown, also streaming on Paramount Plus and bringing in significant viewership.
For Gratiela Brancusi specifically, this meant beginning her Hollywood career with the role of a lifetime. And a featured role in one of Taylor Sheridan’s Westerns means further perks, too. The best of them all? ‘Cowboy Camp.’
‘I’m still registering it… I couldn’t have been luckier’
“I did two weeks of [Cowboy Camp] and it was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Gratiela grins. “We would get up and out at 6 or 7 AM, and I would work out with LaMonica in the morning. And then we’d go ride horses and learn roping and riding wagons.”
But Sheridan’s now-famous camp for his actors isn’t for the faint of heart. “It was truly, really hot, because this was August in Texas,” Brancusi adds. “But I would forget about the heat. It was just so fun.”
With filming wrapped on 1883‘s first season, all of the above culminates into an experience Gratiela still feels she “couldn’t have been luckier” with. With any luck on the audience’s side, we’ll have plenty more of Gratiela Brancusi as Noemi for a Season 2 of 1883.