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Yellowstone Prequel 1883 Adds A Seriously Huge Name To Its Cast

The upcoming prequel to the hit Paramount Network series "Yellowstone" is continuing its quest to blend country and Western with its latest bit of casting news.

"1883" (previously known as "Y:1883") is already set to star real-life country music couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as James and Margaret Dutton, scions of the show's foremost family who set out across the country from Texas to seek their fortune in Montana. Now another famous Southerner has joined the cast for the journey north and west: actor, writer, director, and sometimes country-rock musician Billy Bob Thornton.

Thornton's role, which Deadline describes as a guest star part, will see him play Marshal Jim Courtright. The announcement doesn't say exactly where in their journey the Duttons will meet Courtright. If it's not in Montana, and if they don't end up waylaid for a while somewhere along the way, it could be that the actor is appearing in just a single episode.

It's tough to guess at how much Thornton is likely to feature, because so much of the structure of "1883" is currently unclear. We know the show also stars Sam Elliott as the Duttons' cowboy guide Shea Brennan, Isabel May as the Duttons' oldest daughter Elsa, and LaMonica Garrett as a Pinkerton who knows Brennan, but it's not yet clear how much of the show will take place along the traveling party's route vs. in Montana proper. (Or, indeed, even how many episodes it'll have to tell its story.)

How does Billy Bob Thornton fit into the story of the Dutton family?

Thornton's done Westerns before, though most of them have tended to be a little off-beat. After a small part in 1993's "Tombstone," Thornton appeared in Jim Jarmusch's surrealist Western "Dead Man" and 2004's "The Alamo." He also directed "All the Pretty Horses," based on a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Regardless of where they meet Marshal Courtright, it seems likely this older branch of the Dutton family is also going to find itself up to its eyeballs in drama and scandal, given the family name, and the involvement of original "Yellowstone" creator Taylor Sheridan. Much of the original "Yellowstone" series features John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his children defending the ranch from outside interests, so it will be interesting to see what a series looks like when the Duttons are playing offense, trying to amass the land that will one day bear the family name.

Montana in 1883 may be the frontier, but James and Margaret probably won't be handed a gigantic land grant. There will certainly be some Native Americans who have their own uses for and history with the land. How the series addresses that accumulation of resources will be fascinating, and perhaps a little bittersweet.

"1883" will premiere on Paramount+ December 19.