Taylor Sheridan Calls Isabel May the ‘Personification of This World of ‘1883’

by Jacklyn Krol
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

How did Isabel May get her role in 1883?

In a new interview with Deadline, the Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan revealed how he learned of the actress.

Sheridan was actually reading actors for his other series, Mayor of Kingstown, when May auditioned. Emma Laird ended up getting the role, however, he still admired her.

“What made her wrong for Iris made her, I felt, the personification of this world of 1883,” he stated. She ended up getting the role of Elsa Dutton. The character is described as a “pure of heart narrator.” At the time of her audition, Sheridan had no idea how the series would take its shape. At the time, she had already completed two seasons in the Netflix series Alexa & Katie and did a stint on Young Sheldon. He revealed that he saw similarities in May to Jennifer Lawrence.

“I called Paramount and said, ‘I got good news, and then, I got some you need to trust me news.’ At this point I had not figured out how to tell this story and I had Sam Elliott over here and I had Tim McGraw here and Faith Hill and I had not found the bridge between them all. When I met Isabel, the whole story, all 10 episodes, went right through my head,” he explained.

He then called Paramount to tell them that he would begin writing the series. He had the first episode in three weeks but still needed the female lead. Sheridan decided to make a deal with May’s manager. He told them that he had good and bad news.

“The good news is she’s going to be the star of this thing with me,’” he said. “She said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘Well, give me three weeks, but make the deal now. Please trust me.’ And she did the deal. I spoke with Isabel and said, ‘You’re going to do this. You don’t know what it is yet but trust me, you’ll be great. Please say yes.’ She said yes and I sat down and wrote it.”

‘1883’ From Isabel’s Point of View

May admitted that she knew that she wasn’t perfect for the 1883 role. Sheridan wrote her a letter promising her that he would find a future role for her. She thought it would be years from that moment. It came just two weeks after the letter.

“And then, two weeks later, I got a phone call and he said, I haven’t written it yet but you’re Elsa and I want you to be Elsa, do you want to be Elsa? I said, of course I want to be Elsa. Then he outlined what it would entail and what story he wanted to tell, and yeah, I just was swept away,” she shared.

May said that this has been one of her favorite performances of all time.

“A character study where you’re taken on a journey and that was the first film that I thought of when I read this,” she said. “It is so rare for a young actor, actress in particular, to have this opportunity and it’s quite emotional to think about.”