‘Yellowstone’ Prequel ‘1923’Beth DuttonFaith Hill

Marley Shelton Shares How Beth and Margaret Dutton Shaped Her Emma Dutton in 1923

‘1923’s Marley Shelton Reveals How Beth & Margaret Dutton Informed Her Emma Dutton


“Emma’s a bit of a lone wolf,” Marley Shelton begins of her Emma Dutton, a pioneering member of the Yellowstone Ranch in 1923‘s time.

This is, no doubt, one of the traits that Emma’s great-great granddaughter, Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) would inherit from her. We only briefly meet Emma Dutton in 1923‘s premiere, but her introduction tells us heaps about her. Shelton’s Emma is a woman of the ranch. Not only is she working the land and animals, but feeding the family it supports, too. Even when the men are out on a cattle drive, Emma refuses to make simple sandwiches to serve those left behind. Instead, she fires up a soup to keep her kin warm. And she does it all because she wants to, not because she feels it necessary.

“She’s also got this stoicism that I think is necessary not only to her survival, but the survival of the ranch life and keeping that going and prospering,” Shelton continues in our exclusive chat.

These qualities have also made Beth Dutton into the domineering force she is in modern-day Yellowstone. But in a Montanan of 1923‘s time, they made the difference between life and death. Emma’s fortitude wasn’t about getting her ahead, it was about staying alive.

In the 1920s, ranching as a way of life was under threat as America fully turned to industrialization. And as this 100-year-old plot plays out, it sheds even more light on just how stubborn Beth’s father, John Dutton (Kevin Costner), truly is. In Yellowstone Season 5, John is hellbent on continuing his ancestor’s way of life. The patriarch would run his ranch, its cattle-calf pairs, and sell said cattle for another 100 years if he could. But he can’t, as this way of life was already dying, well, 100 years prior. And we see this unfurl throughout 1923.

She has a lot going on internally that I don’t think she shares often’

Also in Yellowstone Season 5, Beth is reaching a boiling point with her father. She’s giving her all to convince him to adapt to a changing world before he becomes a failed relic of it. But she’s also fighting a thousand wars internally; a hallmark of the most popular character on television’s top show.

“She has a lot going on internally that I don’t think she shares often,” Shelton adds of her Emma Dutton in kind. Yet Emma’s internalizing stems from a reality she has to face far more often than Beth. “It’s a lonely life, especially when they go on these long cattle drives and we don’t know if they’re going to come back,” she motions to her on-screen husband, John Dutton Sr.’s James Badge Dale.


In addition, “The sense of danger lurking around every corner was [ever-present],” Shelton adds. “Those immediate threats to your survival, we’re so far removed from that in today’s world.”

Multiple adversaries have come for Beth’s life, sure, and almost succeeded in two powerful instances. But those were exceptions, not the rule. In 1923‘s Montana, avoiding the constant threat of death was the rule of life, period.

Regardless, “It’s an honor to be pulled into this tapestry and entrusted to carry the mantle of being a Dutton,” Shelton lauds.

‘1883’s Margaret Dutton ‘Galvanized’ Marley Shelton to Embody Her Dutton

Looking into the future as Shelton gets to with Reilly’s Beth is a gift only fiction grants, however. We reality-dwelling beings only have the past to learn from. Which is exactly why it was Yellowstone‘s first prequel, 1883, and not Yellowstone itself, that proved most useful to the actors of 1923.

“I binge-watched 1883 pretty much immediately when I signed on,” Shelton reveals with a glowing smile. “And I was floored. I thought it was just incredible,” she cites of the cast, particularly Faith Hill’s matriarch, Margaret Dutton. “1883 got me so galvanized and excited to pick up with 1923 where they left off, to see what we could do and where we could take it.”

James Badge Dale recalled the same during our sit-down with both actors, although he was admittedly “late” to the 1883 party. For more from Dale on this and from Marley Shelton, head on over to our first exclusive interview with the 1923 stars here.

1923 continues exclusively on Paramount+.


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