‘1883’ Star Sam Elliott Reveals What Makes His Character ‘Human’


“1883” encapsulates the gritty nature of the American wild west in some of the most comprehensive ways. However, despite the onscreen violence, Taylor Sheridan still highlights the importance of humanity in the Paramount Plus series.

Over on “The Official Yellowstone Podcast,” Jimmy Hurdstrom actor Jefferson White sat down with “1883’s” Sam Elliott to explore the character. Their conversation sees Elliott speak about his character Shea and the small, yet incredibly impactful moments within the series’ storyline.

During his appearance on the podcast, Elliott spoke to the difficulties of navigating “1883’s” “macro and micro” scenes and plots.

More than anything, Elliott believes it’s the contrast between the bitterness and violence of the series’ massive set pieces versus small, gentle interactions that make his character human. One of those more “human” moments took place recently between himself and Isabel May’s Elsa Dutton.

Shea Feels Every ‘1883’ Death Personally

“Shea’s a troubled character,” the “1883” star began. He explored the loss Shea experienced during the Civil War sending young men into battle, knowing many would be killed. He then detailed the grief his character endured after losing his wife and daughter to smallpox. From the get-go, viewers can see something innately human about Shea. These traits forefront in the captain in ways we don’t see in characters like James, Elsa, or even, on occasion, Thomas.

Taylor Sheridan seemingly sculpted the Shea character to embody the most raw emotions, painful emotions imaginable. Because grief is such a universal feeling, in the late 19th century and contemporarily, fans frequently relate to Shea’s humanity.


As for the immigrant caravan, despite his anger and frustration with their ignorance, the Shea actor stated, “he suffers the losses of those characters along the way.”

Often, while “1883” fans frequently see Shea insisting on pushing the immigrants harder to beat the winter, we just as often see him mourning the loss of each immigrant along the way.

“Every time an immigrant dies,” the “1883” actor summed, “you see that it cuts him to the bone.”

In response, White highlights that the captain has “seen the devil” to a certain extent yet continues to press on. In that way, Shea demonstrates both the best and the worst of humanity, through his experiences and his actions.

Taylor Sheridan Himself Makes a Cameo Alongside Sam Elliott

“1883” saw some of the most intense Elsa plotlines yet in episode seven. In less than an hour, the character falls for a Comanche native, outruns a twister, and escapes death on horseback.

However, the seventh episode of “1883” is remarkable for another reason altogether.

Swooping in at the conclusion of episode seven, more eagle-eyed “1883” fans might have spotted series creator Taylor Sheridan on horseback. Appearing as Shea’s friend Charlie, the character finishes off the group of cattle robbers. Meanwhile, the other men collect themselves, inspecting each other’s injuries.