Throughout Season 1 of “1883,” we’ve come to know James Dutton, the character Tim McGraw plays with vulnerability and ruthlessness.
We know that James started out as a captain in the Civil War, fighting for the South. After the war, he decided to follow a dream to pursue a new life out west. James brought his whole family along with him, including a wife (Faith Hill), daughter (Isabel May), and son (Audie Rick).
Eventually, the Duttons settled in Montana, building their new home near the grave of their daughter, Elsa. From that spot, a great ranching empire grew, morphing into the one owned by John Dutton (Kevin Costner) in the present day.
Several generations of Duttons protected and preserved the land that James carved out for them. Now, in the current day, John struggles to hold onto it. So let’s dive into how many generations, exactly, separate these two great Dutton men.
Tim McGraw Opens Up About His ‘1883’ Character and Their Connection to John Dutton
Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear answer to how the two Duttons are connected. Late last year, Tim McGraw sat down with Outsider to talk about his “1883” character and the show. During that conversation, McGraw explicitly said that James is John’s great-grandfather.
This tracks, based on what we know from the show. In “1883,” James has a five-year-old son also named John Sr. (Audie Rick). John Sr. could one day be the father of John II, who we see played by Dabney Coleman in “Yellowstone” Season 2. Then John III, aka modern-day John, is born. Three generations between Kevin Costner and Tim McGraw’s characters. This led Outsider to create the graphic below, depicting the different Dutton generations.
Disclaimer: This family tree was built using information presented in both shows. Any birthdays we don’t know (which is pretty much every single character outside of Elsa Dutton) are calculated with actor birthdays and ages to give estimated dates.
But earlier this month, Tim McGraw said something different about his character. “Yellowstone” Season 4 came out on Blu-Ray, and McGraw talked about James in an exclusive featurette called “Bloodline: Yellowstone Origins.”
According to CinemaBlend, McGraw kicks off the featurette by saying, “I play John Dutton’s great-great-grandfather. Our family is the first to discover Yellowstone and settle it. And in doing that, we are the first to really defend it and fight people off, and try to establish it and then survive.”
So now, McGraw says he’s the great-great-grandfather of John Dutton. Well, which one is it? Until Taylor Sheridan confirms, it’ll really be impossible to know.
But we assume that since McGraw said this on the record for an exclusive featurette, it must be true. The showrunners would not have used this clip of McGraw if he misspoke. They would’ve asked him to record it again, saying the proper title. So, if the showrunners let McGraw say great-great-grandfather, we have to assume that’s the legit connection.
What Does This Mean For ‘1932?’
The generations between John Dutton III and James Dutton become more relevant when we consider “1932,” Sheridan’s upcoming prequel series. “1883” wrapped up fairly nicely for all the characters. So now, instead of writing a second season of that prequel show, Sheridan has decided to pursue a brand new one about a different generation of Duttons.
At first, we believed “1932” would cover John Sr. as an adult and John II as a young man. But given the fact that there’s another generation in between those two, it’s more believable that we’ll see all three play out on screen. John Sr. will likely be an older man, closer to John’s age, with another John in between as a young adult. And finally, John II will be a younger child, closer to Tate’s age.
Hopefully, “1932” confirms that this is the proper order of Duttons so we can put our minds to rest. While Sheridan’s in the process of writing the series, it could come out as early as this fall. So stay tuned for more updates, “Yellowstone” and “1883” fans.