‘1883’ Stars Reveal What Really Goes on at ‘Cowboy Camp’

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Before any of the stars of 1883 ever set foot on the set of the hit show, they all had to undergo an intensive crash course called cowboy camp, which taught the inexperienced actors how to deal with horses, wagons, guns and all of the other various authentic period equipment that’s used on the show. In a series of interviews prior to the show’s launch in December of 2021, the cast of 1883 opened up about exactly what goes into cowboy camp and the hard work they put into creating their characters.

1883 is a prequel to the hit Paramount Network show Yellowstone, and it follows the journey of James Dutton and Margaret Dutton — played by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill — as they travel West by wagon train with their children in search of a better life. Their characters are the great-great-grandparents of Dutton patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) on Yellowstone, and they will eventually found the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch that serves as the setting for the show.

Portraying that period authentically involved a steep learning curve for the actors.

Hill had ridden horses before, but she found out that “I rode improperly,” she admitted to Taste of Country and other media during a roundtable in advance of the season. “I found out quickly on the first day of cowboy camp.”

Hill shares that she hadn’t been on a horse in years due to a scare that happened at her farm in Tennessee after her third daughter, Audrey, was born.

“Most people who ride know this, but never run your horse when they see the barn,” she shares. “Well, I didn’t know that, and I just let my horse Bandit just like — for almost half a mile — fly to the barn. It was terrifying … after that moment I said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna stay off horses for awhile.'”

Cowboy camp taught her not only how to ride properly, but how to handle a wagon team.

“I spend a lot of time on the wagon, which I love,” Hill enthuses. “I love leading … that’s really hard, and for some reason, I’m kinda good at it. I can’t believe it.”

Isabel May plays James and Margaret’s daughter Elsa Dutton on the show, and she had never ridden a horse before she was cast in the part. She spent part of the summer after she was cast and before production began riding whenever she could, but still came into the project green.

“And then cowboy camp certainly was intensive, and that helped a great deal,” she states, “But it was really just observing, as best I could, how the wranglers rode, and their posture … I mean, they’re the real deal.”

May also learned to herd cattle, which she admits was intimidating due to their size. “But now it’s the most comfortable … I can casually do it with a cup of coffee in my hand,” she jokes.

McGraw grew up riding horses, but his riding experience in more recent years was infrequent.

“I could probably ride before I could walk … however, over the last 20 years, I haven’t spent that much time on a horse,” McGraw confesses. “So the first couple of weeks of cowboy camp was just getting my seat back in the saddle, but it all came back pretty quickly.”

“We have great wranglers, great guys who are teaching everybody,” McGraw continues. “That’s one of the best things about this show, for me, is to be on horseback every day, and just kinda haul ass across this rough terrain and shoot bad guys. I mean, it’s every kid’s dream to be able to do that.”

LaMonica Garrett plays the role of Thomas on 1883, and he says cowboy camp was much more immersive than just riding horses and learning to use period pieces.

“[1883 creator] Taylor [Sheridan] had us eating beans, rice, cornbread, beef … I’ve never had more red meat than I’ve had working on this show,” he relates. “The stuff that we would eat on the trail is the stuff that they were preparing for us to eat here. So it wasn’t like we were getting burgers and fish and all kinds of … it was red meat.”

“If you’re a vegetarian on this set, I don’t know what you did,” he adds with a laugh. “Or in Texas, period. But he was preparing us for what life would be like on the trail, and everything we did … we’re surrounded by cowboys, we’re surrounded by wranglers. All throughout the day, we’re just, we’re doing horseback riding in the morning, we’re doing wagon training in the afternoon, we’re doing precision shooting with guns in the evening, we’re herding cattle. Every minute was reserved for something cowboy behind the scenes, and that brought us all closer together by default.”

Stay tuned to Taste of Country as we provide ongoing coverage of both Yellowstone and 1883, including episode analysis, news on the shows, cast interviews and more. As part of our comprehensive coverage, check out the Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Subscribe to the Paramount+ streaming service to make sure you don’t miss out on future episodes of 1883.

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A historic estate in rural Tennessee that previously belonged to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill is on the market again. Online listing are asking $9,995,000 for the Samual S. Morton house, which dates back to 1850, as well as the surrounding 135 acres of land.

The 3-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom, 3,298-square-foot main residence has been fully updated, featuring hardwood floors, multiple fireplaces, a long screened-in porch on the back of the house, two sweeping staircases and a kitchen with a farm sink. The listing also boasts a long stretch of frontage on Murfree’s Fork Creek, a spring-fed, 4.3-acre stocked pond and a historic 13-stall barn.

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