Why Isabel May Feels So Supported In Her Role As Elsa Dutton On 1883


The drama series “1883,” a prequel spinoff to “Yellowstone,” premiered in December of 2021 and wrapped its one and only season in February 2022. Created by Taylor Sheridan (“Wind River,” “Hell or High Water”), “1883” follows the Dutton family, including patriarch James (Tim McGraw) and his wife Margaret (Faith Hill) (who are the great-grandparents to “Yellowstone” protagonist John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner), as they journey from Tennessee to Fort Worth, Texas, where they join a wagon train of European immigrants in order to travel to Oregon. The family, of course, ends up in Montana, where they establish the family ranch Yellowstone.

Another key member of the Dutton family — and the narrator of the series — is Elsa, the 17-year-old daughter of James and Margaret, played by Isabel May. Elsa ends up having quite the harrowing journey throughout the series, culminating in her getting shot by an arrow in the second to last episode. After developing an infection, Elsa dies of the wound in the final episode — but not before she insists on choosing her own burial site.

It’s an intense role for a young actor to take on, to say the least, but May has spoken about how supported she felt while portraying Elsa — here’s what the actress has to say about the nurturing environment on set.

May felt supported by Taylor’s Sheridan’s attentiveness

In a January 2022 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Isabel May discussed her time playing Elsa Dutton on “1883.” During the conversation, she explained how supportive she found the environment of “1883” to be — and all thanks to the series creator Taylor Sheridan.

May began by declaring that having direct access to Sheridan — and getting to pick his brain about the character and the world that he created — was the best part of the job. “He was on set almost every day. He was in constant communication. We were shooting at his house, in his backyard. He owns all of the land that we were shooting on in Texas, and then we moved to Montana and all around,” May continued. “He cares deeply for this project, Elsa in particular, so I got very, very lucky on that end.” May understood how unusual that kind of time with a director is. “His attention is a precious thing,” she joked, “because he’s the busiest man I’ve ever met in my life.”


Having that kind of support is important in any role, but especially when your character’s arc is anything like Elsa’s — that is, extremely intense and emotion-filled. May, however, is happy that her character was put through the wringer, because it allowed for a challenge. “I’ve had a very comforting, happy, loving life and existence,” the actor shared, “so I find challenging work really intriguing and interesting and gratifying. So if I wasn’t put through the wringer, I would’ve been disappointed, to be honest.”

May also loved working with the show’s cast

On “1883,” May was surrounded by quite a few big names within the show’s cast — namely, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Sam Elliot, who all played fellow leads. In a December 2021 interview with Town & Country, May had nothing but very high praise for her co-leads.

Beginning with her on-screen parents, McGraw and Hill (who are a real-life couple and have three kids together), May declared that, while she loves her own parents very much, she wants to become McGraw and Hill’s fourth child. As to how she looks up to them as actors, May said, “Faith’s one of the most compassionate individuals. She’s an incredible businesswoman, and an incredible actor. Both of them are. Tim cares so deeply about his character and this project.”

Additionally, she talked about what it was like to work with Elliot, who is a veteran of Westerns, on both television and in films. May said, “It is really hard not to fall in love with that, man. He’s quite literally the classiest, kindest, most considerate individual I’ve ever met.”


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