‘1883’: What Sam Elliott’s Character Shares With Tim McGraw’s

by Liz Holland

1883 premieres on Paramount+ today. The series serves as a prequel to the popular modern western show Yellowstone. The prequel dives into the Dutton family history, and how they got to where they are in Yellowstone. James Dutton, portrayed by Tim McGraw, takes on the patriarchal role in the family. His mission in ‘1883’ is to get his family out west in order to provide them with a better life. To do this, Dutton must head out on the infamous Oregon Trail. Dutton doesn’t take on this mission alone, though. Joining him is a man named Shea, portrayed by Sam Elliott, and Thomas, portrayed by LaMonica Garrett.

In an interview with Screenrant, Elliott shares his thoughts on the dynamic between characters Shea and James in the series. On the show, Shea has just dealt with the loss of his own family. Additionally, he now is dealing with the Dutton family. When asked what Shea’s impression of the whole situation was, Elliot said, “I think that he thinks on some level that the farmer – which is what he calls Dutton in the beginning – is a bit [similar to him]. I don’t know, that’s another thing that Shea and James share character-wise: that they’re both veterans of the war, albeit on both sides. Shea was in the North and Dutton was fighting for the South. The fact that Dutton has this huge contingent of women that travel with him in his family is kind of a mystery to Shea.”

Sam Elliott Explains Parallels with Tim McGraw

Elliot continues, explaining the complexity of it all.  “But at the same time, Shea sees James as a potential ally on this journey, because he’s a hand. He can drive a wagon. He can drive a wagon fast, and he can shoot people and he’s an asset – or he would be an asset, but what James wants is just for his family to get there. He doesn’t care about anybody else; it’s all about him and his family. There’s a bit of a rub there, which continues throughout until it changes. And it does change down the road,” Elliott adds. 

‘1883’ Has it All

Elliott also shared what it was like to work with LaMonica Garrett on set– both on-screen and off. Elliott says of his fellow actor, “Certainly, the relationship just continues to get richer and richer the more we get to work together and spend time together off-camera. It’s an interesting relationship when you think about a black man and a white man together in that period of time. Particularly the fact that they’re both veterans of the Civil War, which gives them a common bond off the top.

But I think that one of the things that keeps Shea going is that relationship, particularly after his family died in the beginning. I think he’s not only a loose cannon, but he’s just kind of floating out there at that point. I think the reason that he sticks with this wagon train is because it gives him something solid to hang on to. And Thomas is always there for him. It’s an incredible relationship, and I love LaMonica on a personal level as well. He’s an incredible human being.”

You can watch ‘1883’ now on Paramount+!