Eric Nelsen had no idea what to expect when it came time to transform himself into a cowboy alongside a country music megastar.
The actor is starring in the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883,” which stars Tim McGraw and his real-life wife, fellow country crooner Faith Hill. The series tells the story of James and Margaret Dutton, played by the couple, as they travel through the Great Plains in hopes of seeking a better future in Montana, known as “America’s promised land.” The series, which originally became available for streaming on Paramount+, is now airing on Paramount Network.
The 31-year-old plays Ennis, a young cowboy enamored with James’ daughter Elsa Dutton [Isabel May].
“[Tim’s] got three daughters – three awesome daughters – who were always on set visiting and hanging out with us,” Nelsen told Fox News Digital.
While McGraw acted more like a big brother at times with Nelsen, even pulling the occasional prank, he also wasn’t afraid to stay in character as an intimidating patriarch – something that came easy to him.
Eric Nelsen plays Ennis, who becomes smitten with Tim McGraw’s on-screen daughter. (Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios)
“He became a great friend, and I really looked up to him,” said Nelsen. “But as the season goes on, and the viewers will see, our characters aren’t always on the best of terms, and he liked to throw that around on and off set.”
“[I was surprised at] how easy he was to work with and how warm he was,” Garrett explained… “We became brothers like immediately after meeting, and it just built on that. We didn’t have any chemistry reads or anything [before filming]. From the first time we were on camera together, Taylor’s like, ‘You guys got it. I’m not going to bother you guys.’ He went back behind the camera and me and Sam just did what we did.”
But bringing the show to life wasn’t exactly a smooth ride for Garrett or Nelsen. The cast was required to take on a strenuous, no-nonsense cowboy camp. Sheridan, a native Texan, is also a cattle ranch owner in his home state.
Faith Hill, Tim McGraw’s wife and fellow country crooner, also stars in the series. (Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios)
“It was learning how to ride… and it was also a bonding experience for the cast to get together,” Garrett chimed in. “So we have a month before we start shooting… We’re all in our little bubble on Taylor’s ranch. We would have dinners together, we would wake up together. If someone’s going into town for food, I’d get a headcount like, ‘Hey Sam, you need anything? Tim? What do you guys need? Oh, I’m coming with you, wait for me.’ It was like herd mentality with us for a month. So once the cameras started rolling, we were so comfortable with each other already that it was a seamless transition.”
For Garrett, saddling up was no easy feat.
Isabel May plays Elsa, Eric Nelsen’s on-screen love interest. (Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios.)
“Taylor builds these tough people that have to survive this world, that have to stick through it,” Garrett continued. “Technology has made it easier for us. But a byproduct of that is a society that has gotten a little lazier. The stories that Taylor tells, there’s no laziness there. Everyone’s fighting. It’s survival. It’s man versus man, man versus nature and man versus himself. We could all see something in that. That’s why we gravitate toward those kinds of stories.”
Tim McGraw as James, Sam Elliott as Shea and Billy Bob Thornton as Marshal Jim Courtright. (Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios)
For Nelsen, revisiting the past has made him feel even more hopeful about his future.