“1883” actor Sam Elliot has starred in his fair share of Westerns. I don’t want to say he’s typecast, but he’s just so good at playing cowboys. (Contrary to that, my favorite film of his is “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot”, which is not a Western.)
Elliot admits that he’s played a lot of cowboys. But, there’s something about Shea Brennan that hit a little different. Elliot spoke with Bleeding Cool recently about his “1883” character; specifically, how he’s different from any other Western role he’s played.
When asked if there were any aspects of the character that challenged Elliot, he replied, “I played these kinds of characters before, but there’s a lot more going on in Shea’s head than there have been in other cowboys that I’ve played.”
He continued by listing some of Shea’s main characteristics and drives. He said, “Number one, he’s a veteran of the Civil War. Number two, he loses his family right off the top in the first episode, and number three, he’s got this contingent of immigrants that he’s taken care of showing them the way guarding along the way, and he’s sensitive to those losses.”
‘1883’: Sam Elliot Discusses Shea Brennan
Elliot seems to be deeply in touch with his character. He said of Shea, “He has great compassion for these people. That said, at the same time he’ll shoot a guy for stealing something. He’s a complex character.”
He also compared Shea to his other Western roles. “I think other Western characters that I’ve played seem to be a little one-dimensional in some ways,” he admitted. “Maybe not Virgil in “Tombstone,” but some of the other ones, maybe not so interesting as Shea is.”
He continued, “That’s been the fun of it, and that’s been the challenge of it. To do justice to Taylor’s script. That’s really the challenge for all of us. You get a piece of brilliant material like Taylor Sheridan gives you, you want to do justice to it.”
Sam Elliot is transcending his previous roles with this role in “1883”. He’s a cowboy like no other; not that Taylor Sheridan’s created a character that’s never existed before. But, he took the cowboy character blueprint and embellished it a bit, and came out with Shea Brennan.
Elliot also discussed with Fox why Westerns have longevity, and why they still appeal to a wide audience. “I just think that there’s something about that kind of a classic struggle depicted in a lot of westerns that appeals to a massive audience,” he said. “It speaks of where we all came from. The peaks of that journey from the east to the West, what we did along the way, both the good and the evil, most of the evil. Taylor Sheridan writes about all the history and I think that’s what’s going to be most appealing about [“1883″].”