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‘Yellowstone’ prequel ‘1883’, debuting Sunday, takes an honest look at the Old West

Paramount+

Rattlesnakes, extreme heat, thieves, disease, Indian attacks and random saloon shoot-outs. Just another day in 1883 -- the epic Yellowstone prequel debuting Sunday on Paramount+.

Sam Elliott plays Shea Brennan, a man who’s suffering unfathomable loss and bands together with James Dutton -- the grandfather of Yellowstone’s John Dutton, played by country star Tim McGraw -- on trek across the Great Plains in search of a better life during a time of westward expansion.

Elliot is no stranger to westerns, and at a roundtable event with McGraw and his co-star, Faith Hill, promoting the series, he said Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan's perspective on 1883 is a "fairly honest one."

"He knows about horses, he knows about that way of life. He knows about cattle, he knows about ranching," notes Elliott. "I think there’s just this fascination with that whole world that gives it legs."

Despite the challenges of the frontier, McGraw thinks there’s an undercurrent of optimism that James Dutton experiences.

"Several times throughout the show, you know, James is called a 'dreamer,' but I also think he was running from ghosts," the country star explains. "I think James really suffered from PTSD," Tim said. "Three years in prison during the Civil War. I think he was looking for an untainted part of America where he could raise his kids."

Hill, Tim's real-life wife and fellow country star, plays Dutton's wife Margaret, who's is not your typical damsel-in-distress of the time. Hill says Sheridan put together a difficult shoot that reflected the growing role of women facing the challenges of frontier life.

"There were certain things...they didn’t do...maybe the rules started to change. Whether it was proper or not to be honest, I really did not care!" Hill shared.

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