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1883's LaMonica Garrett Reveals What It's Really Like Playing A Black Cowboy

When most people think of Westerns, they probably think of Matt Dillon (James Arness) and Chester (Dennis Weaver) from "Gunsmoke," or Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and Little Joe (Michael Landon) from "Bonanza." When asked to name their favorite Western film, often Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy" will come up. For others, "True Grit" or "Stagecoach" are the classic Westerns, and John Wayne is the epitome of what a cowboy should be. These are all great shows and films, prime examples of the Western era. They also all have one glaring omission in common: there were absolutely no cowboys of color, according to the Hollywood standard of the times.

Luckily, with the 1960s and '70s, audiences finally got to see more diversity in films — even with Westerns. "Lola Colt" (aka "Black Tigress") was a 1967 Italian Spaghetti Western starring the African American singer Lola Falana (via Spaghetti Western Database), and 1972's "Buck and the Preacher” brought us Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte as Black cowboys.

With the recently released "The Harder They Fall" debuting on Netflix telling the story of such real-life cowboys as Nat Love, one of the most famous Old West heroes (via Wide Open Country), viewers are hungry for diversity in history stories. Enter LaMonica Garrett playing a Black cowboy named Thomas on "1883."

Viewers want more diversity and realism in the Western genre

Taylor Sheridan showcases the talents of LaMonica Garrett in "1883," the prequel to "Yellowstone." The show follows the Dutton family a century before the events in "Yellowstone," in which John and Margaret Dutton head to Montana in search of a better life. Garrett plays the Thomas half of the duo Shea and Thomas, with legendary cowboy actor Sam Elliott playing his closest confidante, Shea.

In interviews, Garrett has been pretty vocal about what it meant to him to take on this role. "Being the one to tell this story of a strong black cowboy in this genre, in this time period, more importantly, is special to me," he said in a roundtable interview for the series. "That's one of the main reasons I jumped on this role."

He further explained that growing up, he watched Western television shows with his mom and loved them. But it wasn't until later in life that he realized: "You didn't really see people that looked like you on these shows, it just was what it was. So doing the research, and you realize the representation that wasn't there all throughout these years in a genre that I love, it's like, 'Wow, there's never been a... huh.' I never noticed, but now that you notice, it's huge. You see this gaping hole that we weren't a part of."

"1883" doesn't change the whitewashing of the Western genre, but here's hoping there are more new perspectives moving forward.