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Sam Elliott Says Isabel May 'Suffered' More Than Anyone On 1883

"1883" definitely seems to be a series that demanded a lot out of its actors. Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, LaMonica Garrett, and other stars dished in an April 2022 interview held during Deadline's Contenders TV event about how tough conditions were on the set. They admitted that showers were infrequent, the weather was cold or roasting hot depending upon the day, and nights were frequently sleepless due to shooting conditions in the wilds of Montana and Texas. Add in the amount of physicality many of the show's roles required and pile the emotional strain of having to portray the script's many tough twists and turns on top of that, and you have one difficult — but apparently rewarding — television production.

Though all of the actors had to suffer equally through the miseries of the shoot, one performer in particular stood out to Sam Elliott. Elliott, who portrayed Pinkerton Agent Shea Brennan on the show, singled out this co-star in particular for their bravery and toughness throughout the show's production, especially considering what they had to put up with in terms of temperature from the shoot. And since Elliott's a veteran actor who's set foot on many a set before working on "1883," his comments are high praise indeed. 

Elliott expressed admiration for Isabel May's toughness

During an interview with Variety in February 2023, Sam Elliott expressed his admiration for the determination of Isabel May, who portrays the doomed Elsa Dutton on the show. 

"Meeting Isabel and having watched Isabel for months ... and seeing how committed she was as a young girl [..] she suffered it more than any of us because of the way she was dressed." Elliott was completely impressed by her ability to give such a strong performance while constantly battling the elements at her age. "I mean, they took her and put her in a stream and it was freezing outside, we're all bundled up, she's over there laying in a creek. And never complained about it. Then just continued to deliver these brilliant performances and the voiceover was equally brilliant, I thought."

When one takes into consideration the wild amount of change May has to portray as Elsa in a limited amount of episodes, it isn't surprising that Elliott has reached that assessment. Elsa is the character who changes the most during the show before meeting her tragic end, dying in her father James' (McGraw) arms in a scene some fans thought went too far. She grows from an innocent naïf to a strong, brave woman who tries to take control of her life, and that requires an astronomical amount of control as an actor — without even factoring in the physical requirements the role demands. May had the opportunity to portray first love, first heartbreak, and ultimately the end of a brief life all within a single 10-episode span. And now she has the veneration of an acclaimed veteran actor to add to her accomplishments.