1923 is shaking things up in a big way heading into Episode 4, and the actors behind Jack Dutton and Elizabeth Strafford are thrilled to play a major part in it all.
“The Duttons are such a fun family to play, you know? They ain’t no sheep,” begins Darren Mann with his signature wide, beaming smile. Audiences today know Mann as Jack Dutton, son of James Badge Dale’s John Dutton Sr., who was 1883‘s only legacy character to make the jump into 1923. The events of Season 1, Episode 3, however, saw Dale’s dutiful portrayal of John Sr. cut short as the Duttons enemies of the 1920s prove some of the most deadly in the family’s history.
But the fight is far from over. Mann’s Jack survives the debacle, as does his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Strafford, played by the mesmerizingly energetic Michelle Randolph. Both are shot in Episode 3’s gunfight, and we’ll find out if they survive come Sunday’s Episode 4. What follows their survival, however, will end up shaping the Dutton legacy forever.
“They’re going to fight for their way of life and they’re going to be badass along the way,” Mann adds of what’s to come, though careful not to spoil anything in our chat ahead of the episode’s airing. “So becoming a Dutton is a dream come true.”
‘1923’s Jack & Elizabeth Seem Fated to Become Star-Crossed Lovers
Mann is the first actor to portray Jack Dutton, who belongs to a generation of television’s top family we’ve yet to explore outside 1923. “I think what’s cool about him is he’s not set in his ways yet. He’s a real fun, kind of off the cuff kind of guy and you just never know what you might get. So I think that keeps it entertaining for people because he’s unpredictable, and he’s really passionate,” he offers.
Jack proves this as he takes to a speakeasy dancefloor with his fiance in Episode 3 after spending most of the episode warding off the new-fangled happenings of the 20th century. Elizabeth, however, is here for all of it. Her eyes sparkle at the thought of electricity, appliances, and above all: the nightlife of the city. And this is exactly what provokes the sort of star-crossed lovers feeling foreshadowed for this couple.
“I do think she loves Jack with her whole heart,” Michelle Randolph says of Elizabeth. “Her father was a rancher, so she has a little bit of an idea of what that life looks like. But I think we’ll see throughout the series that she’s learning what that really looks like on a day-to-day basis.”
Hard, dirty work is what that life looks like for even the most average of ranching families. But Episode 3 proves to Elizabeth what becoming a Dutton really means. How long will Elizabeth (who went off to a big fancy school and learned to love that shiny city life) stick around after being shot in the abdomen by the enemies of Jack’s family?
‘I really tried to focus on where Elizabeth’s strengths come from’
By the looks of that gunshot, and taking into account the medical science of 1923‘s time, Elizabeth can survive her wounds, sure. But will she be able to carry or birth children? Add to this that patriarch Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) and matriarch Cara (Helen Mirren) are moving to finally bring their younger nephew, Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) home from Africa, and it’s looking far less likely that Jack and Elizabeth will be the ones to carry on the Dutton family legacy.
Whether Elizabeth becomes a Dutton mother or not, “She’s growing into this young woman. She looks up to Cara, Helen Mirren’s character, and she knows that’s the ultimate version of being a rancher’s wife in this time period,” Randolph cites. “The women are just as important to the functioning ranch as the men are. And so I think she has a lot to learn.”
Randolph had a lot to learn, too, as she jumped into the biggest franchise on television today. “Thankfully, I had these great characters to look up to,” she adds of the Dutton heroines that came before her. Whether pulling from Kelly Reilly‘s infamous Beth Dutton or Faith Hill‘s fiery Margaret Dutton of 1883, “I love the strength that Taylor gave each of their characters,” the 25-year-old actor adds. “So I really tried to focus on where Elizabeth’s strengths come from.”
Regardless, “It’s been really surreal. It’s so cool to see how many people are such large fans of Yellowstone and 1883. To be a part of a show with such a large fanbase is really special,” Randolph says, who is one of those fans herself. “I loved 1883, so I was very excited just to watch 1923. But when I got the audition, I was really excited. Thankfully it worked out.”
‘So many great actors have been in this series, from 1883 to Yellowstone to 1923’
As for Mann, who’s Jack may or may not be the grandfather of Kevin Costner’s John Dutton, the sentiment is the same. “So many great actors have been in this series, from Yellowstone to 1883 to 1923. They all do such a great job, but it all stems from Taylor’s writing.”
The Taylor both Randolph and Mann cite is, of course, mastermind Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan’s turned his first television show, Yellowstone, into an entertainment empire, with 1883 and 1923 only the first two of a half-dozen planned spinoffs. “He writes us an amazing blueprint to work off of. It’s such great material that we get to read. I’m always so excited to get the next script and to dive into it. So he made it easy for us in that way, and the sets feel so authentic, and the other actors are so great that it helps you to really just sink into it and live and be these people,” Mann offers.
And whether or not we see Jack survive the events of 1923 and further the Dutton family tree, the show’s confirmed two-season run will be the ride of a lifetime for the young actor.
“I’m a massive Taylor Sheridan fan, so get to to join his universe is really a dream come true.”
We’ll find out how it all unfolds as 1923 continues exclusively on Paramount Plus.