In 2021, fans of the hit series Yellowstone saw the story of the Dutton family expand like never before when creator Taylor Sheridan premiered 1883 on the Paramount+ streaming service. The ten-episode miniseries tells the story of the great-great-grandparents of Yellowstone’s John Dutton (Kevin Costner) as they migrated west to Montana. Along the way, they fought bandits, the elements, and tribes that considered them a threat. The story is told through the eyes — and narration — of Elsa Dutton (Isabel May).
The series featured an all-star cast and an epic storyline based on America’s westward expansion. The story begins in Fort Worth, Texas, where the Dutton family intends to set out on the Oregon Trail and head west. There, they meet a Pinkerton Agent (Sam Elliott) organizing a group of settlers to take the Oregon Trail as well. After seeing how James Dutton (Tim McGraw) handles himself on Fort Worth’s violent streets, he convinces him to join his caravan to the West. The journey, however, is far worse than any of them expected.
The series was filmed in many of the same places where the story is set, including Montana and Texas. In the early episodes, set in Fort Worth, the 1883 production crew actually filmed in the city, covering the streets of the city’s famed Cowtown section with dirt, and using many of the historical buildings as backdrops and sets. Other scenes were filmed at Sheridan’s ranch in Bosque County, west of Fort Worth. The series premiere set a record for viewership on Paramount+, with nearly five million viewers.
Following are the major characters of 1883, and the actors who played them.
James Dutton (Tim McGraw)
James Dutton is a Civil War veteran from Tennessee who decided to take his family to the West for a fresh start. His gruff, no-nonsense style often rubs people the wrong way, and he literally tends to shoot first and ask questions later. His stubborn insistence to stick to his plan ultimately costs all of those around him.
Tim McGraw is best known as one of the most successful country music artists of all time. The winner of multiple Grammy and Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, McGraw began acting in 1997 in an episode of The Jeff Foxworthy Show, and later appeared in the films Friday Night Lights and The Blind Side.
Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill)
Margaret Dutton is James’ wife and the mother of Elsa and John. She traveled with James and her family from Tennessee to Texas, to take the Oregon Trail west. Though opinionated, Margaret is loving and compassionate, supportive of her husband, and protective of her children. She worries about her daughter Elsa and her stubborn streak, as she sees a lot of herself in her.
Faith Hill is a legendary country music singer who has sold over 40 million albums. Her first acting role was in a 1997 episode of Touched by an Angel. She has also appeared in The Stepford Wives and Dixieland.
Elsa Dutton (Isabel May)
Elsa, the daughter of James and Margaret, is headstrong and impulsive, a trait that seems to run in Dutton women, as Yellowstone’s Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) has proven. Elsa relishes the chance to go West and embraces the romanticism of the frontier. Eager to grow up, she falls in love easily and doesn’t listen to the advice of her parents, which causes trouble and heartbreak for her. Her thoughts serve as the narration for the series.
California native Isabel May has had a short but successful acting career, having appeared in the Netflix series Alexa & Katie, the CBS series Young Sheldon, and as the lead in the film Run Hide Fight. She also provides the narration for the series 1923.
John Dutton Sr. (Audie Rick)
John Dutton was only five years old when his family set out for Oregon from Texas. Although he faced many dangers on the journey, he eventually grew up to lead the Yellowstone/Dutton Ranch in Montana with his uncle Jacob (Harrison Ford), as seen in the series 1923. His great-grandson is John Dutton III (Kevin Costner).
1883 marks the professional acting debut of Audie Rick. He has since appeared in the Prime Video series Citadel.
Capt. Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott)
Shea Brennan is a Civil War veteran who now works for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, performing tasks including leading caravans of settlers west. He lost his wife and child to smallpox several years prior, and he has a generally grumpy disposition toward most people.
Legendary actor Sam Elliott is an Oscar nominee who has appeared in the films Tombstone, The Big Lebowski, Hulk, and We Were Soldiers. He has been the official voice of Smokey Bear for over a decade, and he is a member of the International Mustache Hall of Fame. His role in 1883 won him a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Thomas (LaMonica Garrett)
Thomas was a sergeant in the Buffalo Soldiers regiment during the Civil War and appears to have known Shea Brennan since that time, although we do not know the exact origins of their friendship. He is now Brennan’s closest friend and has stopped him from ending his life many times after Brennan lost his wife and child. Now a Pinkerton Agent, Thomas joins Brennan to lead the caravan along the Oregon Trail, and he is often the voice of reason and a calming presence during times of trouble.
LaMonica Garrett has appeared as Mike Ritter on ABC’s Designated Survivor, Deputy Sheriff Cane on Sons of Anarchy, and as The Monitor on the CW’s many DC Comics live-action series, including Arrow and The Flash. In an interview about his 1883 character, he said it was “such an iconic role for me…It was something that we haven’t seen before in Westerns and television.”
Claire Dutton (Dawn Oliveri)
Claire is James Dutton’s sister, a widow who is traveling west with them. She has a daughter, Mary Abel, but has lost six other children, giving her a cold, judgmental disposition. She resents having to move, as she prefers to stay in the city, but doesn’t have the means to do so.
Dawn Oliveri appeared in the series House of Lies and the NBC hit series Heroes as Lydia. Her 1883 performance impressed Taylor Sheridan so much, he cast her in the role of Sarah Atwood (an unrelated character) in the fifth season of Yellowstone.
Mary Abel Dutton (Emma Malouff)
Mary Abel is Claire’s daughter and is just as judgmental and condescending as her mother. She is Claire’s only surviving child, so Claire is especially protective of her and wants her to grow up in the safety of the city. Before they even leave Texas, however, her fortunes changed.
Emma Malouff, a trained ballerina, has appeared in a number of national commercials. She played Allison Tripp on the FX series American Crime Story.
Josef (Marc Rissmann)
Josef is one of a number of German settlers who hire Shea Brennan and Thomas to escort them to Oregon. The settlers, recent immigrants to America, are naive about the dangers and realities of the trip west, and Josef is one of the few settlers who speak English. He becomes their leader by default, as he works with Brennan to keep the settlers safe on the trail.
German actor Marc Rissmann has successfully crossed over to appear in many American productions, including Game of Thrones, Overlord, and The Man in the High Castle.
Ennis (Eric Nelsen)
Ennis is a cowboy with expertise in herding cattle and is hired by Shea Brennan to help the caravan on its travels to Oregon. Along the way, he and Elsa fall in love. Eric Nelsen has been acting for nearly 20 years. He is also known for roles in A Walk Among the Tombstones, All My Children, and The Bay.
Sam (Martin Sensmeier)
Sam is an English-speaking Comanche warrior who meets the caravan in Kansas and helps them fight bandits. He and Elsa fall in love, and he calls her “Lightning with the Yellow Hair.” Their relationship faces obstacles because of their conflicting cultures.
Martin Sensmeier is an Alaskan native that has appeared in some high-profile roles, including 2016’s The Magnificent Seven as Red Harvest, Westworld, the TV series La Brea, and Yellowstone, as Martin.
Wade (James Landry Hébert)
Wade is one of the cowboys hired by Shea Brennan in Fort Worth to join the caravan to Oregon. Easy-going and even-minded, Wade was fiercely loyal, protecting the group at all costs.
Lafayette, Louisiana native James Landry Hebert has had roles in a number of popular films and series including Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (as Clem), Stranger Things (as Axel in Season 2), and Westworld (as Slim Miller).
Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi)
Noemi, her husband, and their two children are among the settlers traveling in Capt. Brennan’s group to Oregon. When bandits kill her husband before they even leave Texas, she’s left to fend for herself. She offers herself to Brennan, saying she’ll be a good wife, but he refuses, as he’s still mourning his wife. Later, she grows closer to Thomas, who has taken a liking to her.
Gratiela Brancusi is a Romanian stage actress, and 1883 marked her American acting debut. She made such an impression on Taylor Sheridan, he cast her in a role for the second season of his series Mayor of Kingstown for Paramount+.
Marshal Jim Courtright (Billy Bob Thornton)
Jim Courtright was the real-life marshal of Fort Worth, Texas in the late 1800s. In 1883, he joins with Shea Brennan and James Dutton to bring a group of bandits that attacked the caravan to justice.
Billy Bob Thornton is an Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter. His film credits include Sling Blade, Armageddon, The Alamo, and Friday Night Lights. He will also appear in Taylor Sheridan’s new series Land Man.
Carolyn (Rita Wilson)
Carolyn is a shopkeeper at Doan’s Crossing in Oklahoma. When she meets Margaret Dutton, she realizes she needs a “pick me up” and shares a bottle of whiskey with her. James later finds Margaret and Carolyn drunk and in a much better mood.
Rita Wilson is a friend of Faith Hill, which led to her cameo in episode six of 1883. She is married to actor Tom Hanks, and her film credits include Sleepless in Seattle, Runaway Bride, and Jingle All The Way.
General George Meade (Tom Hanks)
Tom Hanks had a cameo in episode two as George Meade, seen in flashback at the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War. Meade is a Union general who encounters Tim McGraw’s James Dutton, who is serving in the Confederacy and wandering the battlefield in a stunned state, after the famously bloody battle. Meade spends some time with James, and although they are on opposite sides of the war, they share a moment of reflection as warriors among the fallen.
Tom Hanks is a two-time Oscar winner for Best Actor, best known for his roles in films including Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, and the Toy Story series.