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This story was created by The Hollywood Reporter’s marketing department in collaboration with our partners at 101 Studios.
This past weekend, 101 Studios hosted the world premiere and press junket of the Yellowstone prequel 1883, live at the Wynn Las Vegas. The series, created by Taylor Sheridan that will stream on Paramount+ starting Dec. 19, stars real-life husband and wife Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as the original settlers of the Dutton dynasty (the descendants of whom are portrayed in the present day in Yellowstone by Kevin Costner’s John Dutton and Kelly Reilly’s Beth Dutton and their extended brood).
At the Wynn Las Vegas prior to the premiere, McGraw talked about how he prepared to play his character, James Dutton, how the dramatic locations in Montana and the high plains of Texas added authenticity to the series, and how difficult it was to maintain his character’s taciturn sense of calm and control in the face of physical and adversarial hardship without getting emotional.
Taylor Sheridan is known for shooting in some of the most captivating locations. How did the locations play a role in the series?
The locations are a huge character in the show, without these locations I think – seeing real mountains in Montana, seeing real high plains in Texas, seeing all of the things you see, the backdrop is just as important as anything. I mean I’ve heard the camera guy say several times, “Gosh, we just point the camera in that direction and you guys say your lines and we got a great shot.” That’s just how beautiful it was.
Do any of the locations stand out specifically to you?
Well, Montana is beautiful. I love Montana. We had a handful of it after the cold and all of the wind we had up there. But, to me, Montana is just such a magical place and such a beautiful place — that’s probably my favorite.
Can you talk about how Mr. Sheridan was able to bring authenticity to the story and to the shoot?
Taylor is a stickler for authenticity. Even to the way you ride — he would come up and say, “You know, a cowboy wouldn’t have his feet in that position or wouldn’t have his hands in that position.” He says, “I’m just trying to make you look good. Everybody rides a little differently, and it’s fine to ride a little differently, but there are a few things you need to be authentic to and true to.” And he’s always good about that, down to the set design and the costumes. When you walk on that set, for me, I like to get there early, get my costume on, and be on set an hour or so before we start shooting. And it’s usually still dark. Always still dark. But, walk around in that world and live in that world for a while and try to feel what James would have felt, try to feel what the immigrants and the pioneers would have felt, try to feel what Margaret [Dutton, played by Faith Hill] would have felt, try to get into the spirit of my daughter [Elsa, played by Isabel May] and what she would have felt. I really try and spend a lot of time doing that and try to get inside Taylor’s head a little bit [in terms of] what he felt when he was writing it.
How did you prepare for the role of James Dutton?
I read some Western stuff, of course, watched some Westerns. More importantly, I read the script a lot and tried to dig through and put together what I thought James’ backstory was and why he was doing what he was doing. And why he was headed to where he was headed. What drove him to do that? A lot of it to me was his experience during the Civil War and his experience in prison during the Civil War and probably what went on in the South after reconstruction — probably a lot of that is what drove him out of there, and I think he was looking for an untainted place to take his family to.
What was the biggest challenge in playing that role?
The biggest challenge of playing James was honestly not crying. Because there are so many moments as a human and as a parent and as a real person that it was hard for me to hold back tears. And James just doesn’t do that.
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