Helen Mirren recently divulged that she added an ingredient to her portrayal of Cara Dutton in the Yellowstone prequel series, 1923. Set a century before the events of Yellowstone, Mirren is Cara – an unyielding Irish matriarch who holds the Dutton family together despite her husband Jacob (Harrison Ford) suffering serious injuries in a rancher-perpetrated attack. This situation necessitates that she takes on even more responsibility to keep the clan afloat.
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In an interview with Deadline, Mirren shared that she had a hand in developing her character Cara from 1923. Initially written as non-Irish, Mirren insisted on changing this to emphasize the presence and importance of immigrants during the early 1900s. By making slight alterations such as these, she hopes audiences can gain greater insight into our nation’s history and culture.
“I thought of making her Irish because America very much in those days was a country of immigrants,” she explained. “I wanted to heighten that fact.” Series creator and Yellowstone mastermind Taylor Sheridan was all for Mirren’s idea. “He said, “Absolutely. That’s fine.” And off we went,” Mirren recalled.
Helen Mirren’s Irish accent did all of the work without flashbacks
However, the show was never detailed just when Cara immigrated via flashbacks or dialogue. Sheridan let Mirren’s accent speak for itself. “We don’t go into the backstory,” Mirren explained. “The reality was America in the late 19th century, early 20th century was full of many different accents. When we were shooting in Butte, which was an old mining town, the miners came from Maldova, Scotland, Wales, Ireland. They came from Poland. So there would’ve been this absolute mishmash of different accents and different cultures and different foods. That was how America was born.”
As Mirren explains, Cara’s immigration status adds a deeper layer to her character. Even without knowing the specifics of her journey, her accent alone alludes to an arduous and challenging past leading up to 1923 when we first meet Cara. This minuscule yet crucial detail underpins Cara’s tenacity and self-assurance as she works tirelessly against rich businessman Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton) and sheepherder Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn), both actively trying to force the Duttons out of Yellowstone Valley lands.
In the same interview, Mirren also explained a key difference in her training for the show compared to other cast members. While she did go to the famous actor “Cowboy Camp”, she skipped one common lesson.
“I did go to Cowboy Camp. I said at the beginning that I don’t ride.” However, she explained that her aversion to riding didn’t phase Sheridan. “So Taylor had the great idea of putting me in a buggy, so I did have to learn how to drive a buggy, which was really great experience. That was my Cowboy Camp.”