Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Talk Old West Family Life in Yellowstone Prequel 1883

The real-life husband and wife and their co-stars Sam Elliott, LaMonica Garrett, and Isabel May tell Rotten Tomatoes what to expect from the "Yellowstone" prequel.

by | December 17, 2021 | Comments

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(Photo by CBS)

The Dutton family saga is so complex, co-creator Taylor Sheridan had to time-travel over 100 years into the past to show how Yellowstone really started. Real-life husband and wife Tim McGraw and Faith Hill play James and Margaret Dutton, who would be John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) great grandparents. In 1883, the Duttons, including their daughter Elsa (Isabel May), made the journey to Montana. Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott) and Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) guide the wagon train they’re on.

McGraw, Hill, May, Elliott, and Garrett spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about their new show. Here are seven things we learned from them about 1883.


1883 really capitalizes on McGraw and Hill’s real-life chemistry. The first episode shows them sharing a bath as they prepare for the long, arduous trek across the country.

“I was nervous to do it, I will be honest,” Hill said. “I’m a modest person. That kind of thing, I kind of like to keep in my own house, you know what I’m saying? But it was a beautiful bathtub, nice beautiful copper bathtub and it was done very tastefully. It actually turned out to be a beautiful scene.”

McGraw concurred that there were practical considerations to ensure the scene came out tastefully.

“It was a little tense at first to figure it out and to get comfortable with it because that’s something that’s pretty private for us no doubt,” McGraw said. “But after we got into the scene and really started falling into the character and stopped thinking about us, then it became better and better and better.”


Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in promotional image for series 1883

(Photo by Sarah Coulter/Paramount+)

McGraw appeared on an episode of Yellowstone but it remains unclear whether John ever met him. He would have been a small child if he even did. McGraw said 1883 viewers will see where John got his personality.

“Certainly there’s a lot of fire there,” McGraw said. “A lot of hot tempers there, but also a lot of adventure, wonder, dreaming, and a lot of steadiness — which I think that’s a big part of it with the Dutton family.”


Sam Elliott in 1883

(Photo by Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

1883 is not Elliott’s first rodeo, as it were. Having starred in The Shadow Riders, Rough Riders and many more, Elliott said Shea is a complicated character. Shea is leading a large group across the country after just losing his wife and daughter, and he won’t stand for any shenanigans.

“He’s a veteran of the Civil War,” Elliott said. “He has all of these people under his care that are on the wagon train, all the immigrants, and the fact that he’ll shoot a thief in the head and not really think that much about it, that, to me, makes him a very complicated character, certainly a fun one to play.”

Shea’s frustrations begin when the group tries to bring too much luggage on the trip, but doesn’t even have the right animals to lead the way. It only gets tougher once they’re out in the elements.

“He’s leading this pack of immigrants that come totally unprepared for the journey, which frustrates him right off the top,” Elliott said. “They have no weapons, they’re not prepared in any way to go on this trip to defend themselves or to survive. So it calls for some honest dialogue along the way with them.”


Sam Elliott and LaMonica Garrett in 1883

(Photo by Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

Shea’s partner in the journey, Thomas, was an old war buddy so he’s the yin to Shea’s yang.

“Thomas is the guy with the patience,” Garrett said. “He has a strong line in the dirt of right and wrong and when you cross his right and wrong, he has less patience than Shea ever had. When you cross his right and wrong, as nice and gentle and calming as he can be, you see his wrath and it happens like a rubber band just snapping. It’ll happen that fast and you’ll see it a few times.”


Pictured: Faith Hill in 1883. (Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

(Photo by Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

Not only did 1883 cast a real couple to play the Duttons. They also cast two of country music’s biggest performers. Hill teased how that might emerge in Margaret’s character.

“There’s something coming up, but you’ll just have to see,” Hill said. “It’s not what you would expect.”

Don’t hold your breath for James Dutton to sing, though. McGraw said that won’t happen.

“I don’t think you’ll hear James sing,” McGraw said. “I don’t think James is a singer. That doesn’t seem like anything James will do. Not sure about Margaret.”


Anna Fiamora and Faith Hill in 1883

(Photo by Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

The year 1883 was not a great time for gender equality. Margaret and Elsa are trailblazers for their independence in the era. Other women on the journey implore them to fill more traditional roles, but that just won’t work for the Dutton women.

“That was probably the only situation in which a woman could be independent to that degree,” May said. “In order to survive, men and women had to work with one another to make that kind of trek and journey. I know that because I read a lot of books about it; in particular, these two characters, I think, just naturally crave independence. That’s the way they’re written and I think it’s a great quality obviously in that kind of environment.”


Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in promotional image for series 1883

(Photo by Sarah Coulter/Paramount+)

The Duttons still have to be parents to their children on the journey, not only Elsa but John (Audie Rick), who would ultimately become John Sr. as an adult. Hill said she related to Margaret as a mother.

“Different time obviously, but no different in the fact that we love our family,” Hill said. “Our children are the most important thing in our lives. So there’s absolutely no separation at all whatsoever there.”

McGraw said he’s not as tough a dad as James is, but, he said, Hill really is as strong as Margaret.

“Margaret, she’s the steel and the backbone of the family anyway,” McGraw said. “So is Faith at home, so I think there’s a lot of similarities. I have three daughters, so I certainly could lean on that relationship with Elsa that I have with my daughters and find things that we have in common and magnify those things. Same with Faith.”

89% 1883: Season 1 (2021) premieres on Sunday, Dec. 19 and new episodes debut on Sundays on Paramount+.