Everything to Know About the 'Yellowstone' Prequel '1883'

The Paramount+ series starring Faith Hill and Tim McGraw tells the origin story of Yellowstone's prosperous Dutton family

Photo: Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Corralling all Yellowstone fans, because the beloved neo-Western has a prequel series titled 1883, which premiered Dec. 19, 2021, on Paramount+.

Telling the origin story of the Dutton family, 1883 follows their 19th-century ancestors James and Margaret Dutton as they embark on their wild journey from Texas to Montana through the Great Plains. You can see lawless lands, bloody gunfights, danger and dust (lots of it) in the trailer alone.

"My family's meeting me here tonight and we're heading north, and we'll keep heading north till I find a country that's worth the journey," James says in the clip.

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

James and Margaret Dutton may be a fictional couple on the series, but they're played by real-life couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, respectively. The Grammy award-winning artists are no strangers to the country scene, and now they've taken their talents from the stage to the screen.

Hill and McGraw have been married for over two decades, but 1883 marked the first time they appeared on-screen as husband and wife. McGraw told PEOPLE, "It's been incredible to do scenes together and to watch [Hill] work."

Although they made a point to keep their real marriage separate from their characters on the show, McGraw joked that there is some crossover.

Tim McGraw as James and Faith Hill as Margaret of the Paramount+ original series 1883
Sarah Coulter/Paramount+

"We had this scene where she has to slap me," he explained to PEOPLE. "I was expecting a finger slap but it was a paw to the jaw. There was 25 years of pent-up aggression going on!"

Taylor Sheridan is the creator of 1883 — but it wasn't his first rodeo! Sheridan was the co-creator of Yellowstone alongside John Linson. Similar to Yellowstone, in 1883, Sheridan strived to portray the authenticity of the settings. (He also works as a cattle ranch owner in Weatherford, Texas — so he's the real deal!)

1883 Paramount+

"I don't build a world with visual effects," Sheridan told Entertainment Weekly. "I go shoot these corners of the world that people haven't seen. ... It's incredibly expensive and very difficult. But we can do it as John Ford did it. When you need 50 wagons, you're going to see 50 [real] wagons."

We can't help but tip our hats to the cast and crew for enduring the conditions they were faced with while filming — something that McGraw described to EW as "super dusty and super hot."

"Although it looks amazing, it's terrible. I think I have a few ribs floating around in my body," Hill told the outlet. She added about the experience, "You learn how to pick a tree, squat down, and do your business."

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Here's everything you need to know about the Paramount+ series.

What is 1883 about?

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

1883 follows the Duttons' great-grandparents, James and Margaret Dutton, as they journey from Texas to Montana in search of a better life. It's a stark retelling of Western expansion as the family attempts to flee the poverty-stricken lives they once lived.

The series serves as a prequel to Yellowstone and sets the scene for the prosperous yet dysfunctional family, including Kevin Costner's tough patriarch John Dutton, at the heart of the show set in the present day.

Who's in the cast of 1883?

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

In addition to McGraw and Hill, the series is stacked with a star-studded cast. Sam Elliot plays tough cowboy Shea Brennan, and four-time Emmy winner Eric Nelsen plays cowboy Ennis.

The cast also includes Isabel May, LaMonica Garrett, Audie Rick, Emma Malouff, Dawn Olivieri, Marc Rissmann, Anna Fiamora, James Landry Hébert, Alex Fine, Gratiela Brancusi, Nichole Galicia, Stephanie Nur, Amanda Jaros, Noah Le Gros and Martin Sensmeier.

The cast members grew close to one other during production, and have even learned a few things along the way. For example, Garrett revealed that his castmate McGraw was always singing on set — and came up with songs based on his surroundings.

"He'll sing, 'the horse is angry today' in a jingle," Garrett explained to PEOPLE at the 1883 premiere. "You know, he's a singer and that's what singers do, they sing about their own stuff and everything else."

How did the cast prepare for 1883?

Eric Nelson as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series 1883
Sarah Coulter/Paramount+

The cast was required to attend Cowboy Camp ahead of production, which taught them everything there is to know about cowboy culture.

Nelsen told PEOPLE, "I thought I had skills and I got there and [1883 creator Taylor Sheridan] told me what I didn't have. There was still so much to learn. So I kind of just kept to myself and just learned from the best."

The actor grew up around horses and felt confident about the portrayal of his character prior to camp, but he explained that the experience humbled him.

"I had never ridden at the capacity and the intensity that I have on this show," he added. "So I think it brought my level of cowboy from five to about a 20."

Are there guest stars on 1883?

Billy Bob Thornton attends the world premiere of "1883" at the Encore Beach Club at Encore Las Vegas on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty

Billy Bob Thornton played Marshal Jim Courtright, a strict officer who "isn't afraid to get his hands dirty," per the network's official description.

The actor, who doubles as a musician, told PEOPLE that he tries to find a balance between TV, movies and music.

"I think I'll probably try to strike a balance," he said. "I mean, you know, if you can do one each, each year, if I can make a record and go on tour, if I can make one movie and one TV thing, that that seems pretty good, you know? ... And I've got kids to take care of, so you know, why not?"

Tom Hanks also made an appearance on the show. In episode two, the two-time Oscar winner played "a sympathetic, three-star general, inspired by General George Meade," according to Deadline.

Where can you watch 1883?

Isabel May as Elsa of the Paramount+ original series 1883
Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Unlike Yellowstone, the entirety of 1883 did not air on the Paramount Network. Only the first two episodes aired on the channel, following the Dec. 19 and Dec. 26 episodes of Yellowstone. That way, fans got a taste of the show before committing to the network's streaming platform, Paramount+ (where the rest of the series ran).

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