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1883's Gratiela Brancusi Reveals Some Of Her Favorite Behind-The-Scenes Moments On The Show - Exclusive Interview

When it comes to "1883," the appeal of Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill may have drawn in viewers when it first premiered in December 2021, but it's the wide-ranging secondary cast that really helps bring the show about pioneers crossing the Wild West to life.

Take, for example, the charmingly comical cowboy Ennis, played by Eric Nelsen, who shook the show — and its audience — to the core with his shocking death midway through Season 1. The unlikely love story between Black cowboy Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) and Roma widow Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) has also quickly picked up in the episodes since.

Viewers first got to know Noemi after the death of her husband during the expedition, which left her to fend for herself and her children on the unforgiving journey. In desperation, she initially offers herself to wagon train leader Shea Brennan (Elliott) in return for her safety and security. He rejects the offer but makes her a better one — he and Thomas will teach her to support herself and her family. As the episodes unfold, she and Thomas soon find a real attraction.

It's a romance that could prove to be a very interesting narrative for "1883," touching on interracial relationships and a woman finding her independence in the 1800s. It's one of the many storylines that make the series, which is a prequel to the blockbuster "Yellowstone" and streams exclusively on Paramount+, must-see TV.

As the Thomas and Noemi courtship heats up, Looper got the chance to sit down with Brancusi for an exclusive interview to discuss the onscreen romance and peak behind the scenes at what it's like to work on "1883."

1883 is Gratiela Brancusi's very first onscreen acting gig

You and I met once before on the red carpet at the Las Vegas premiere of "1883," but what I didn't know then is that this is your very first acting gig. Is that correct?

Yeah, on film. I've done theater before, but this was [my first on camera].

And we're not talking a small part in a no-name show. You've got a pretty big part in a pretty big show. It must feel like you've gone from zero to 60 in 10 seconds. Tell me what that experience has been like. And what's been the best part of the journey so far?

I don't think I've been able to actually take it in. To this point, I'll go out and I hear people talk about the show and it's mad, because we were all there on the ranch, isolated, and it felt like we were all having a baby. All of a sudden, the baby was out in the world, and I was like, "I'm not ready." Everyone knows about it, but I have yet to understand how big it is, in a way. I can see that people watch, but it hasn't really landed with me yet. 

We all built a community, being there for almost six months, and it really felt like a family. I was thinking at some point, some of us are orphans because some of us are immigrants, so all of our families are back in Europe, and others are real orphans. It felt like we all came together, and it felt like we had known each other for so long. That's such a credit to [creator] Taylor Sheridan. The way he casts the whole ensemble is mind-boggling, because these are some of the most generous people I've ever met. I want to, I hope to grow old with them.

Sam Elliott and LaMonica Garrett have taken her under their wing in real life

Everybody that I have talked to so far on "1883" has had such nice things to say about each other. I'm curious, since this is your first big Hollywood gig, has anyone in the cast taken you under their wing and helped guide you or mentor you in any way?

Yes. I'm happy you asked this. LaMonica and I, we became friends really early on. We lived together in this bunk house, the two of us and James [Landry Hébert], who plays Wade. We all helped each other, but LaMonica was always so supportive in making sure that I know things that he didn't know on his first project. Sam also has been one of my biggest advocates, and Faith, and Isabel [May, who plays Elsa] too, man, and she's so young, and to see how she's ... Because she's done this for a minute, but she still has the awareness of, "I have more privilege and I can speak. And so I'm going to use that to speak for people who maybe don't have as much or who maybe don't feel empowered to do so." Everyone's been so, so generous, and I really hope to someday repay them for their generosity, and if not, at least take that further and share it.

Who's your favorite actor or character to be in a scene with and why?

I can't make a choice. I've loved my scenes with both Sam and LaMonica so much. It's such a blessing to work with Sam. I'm incredibly lucky, and then LaMonica's such a generous artist and it's so easy to drop in with him because he's so present. It's so easy to create that void and forget about everything else, and it's just us in the world that our characters live in. That only comes by ways of generosity and kindness. You look into both Sam and LaMonica's eyes and you see the whole world. It's like a sense of warmth.

Can you give us any hints as to where Noemi and Thomas' relationship might go?

You're going to have to stay tuned, but I can speak to Episode 6 a little bit. Their love is being taken a step further, and she's making that happen. It's also a big episode for her, because by consuming this love, she is becoming freer. As a Roma woman — Roma widows, once your husband dies, you're a widow for the rest of your life. You don't remarry or else you're excommunicated from the community. This is a very bold for her, and it's like she's shedding skin, really, to do this.

I so loved their love story and the way that it's like a slow burn, and he's been empowering her in a way that I don't even know if I've experienced. He's been helping her build herself up so that she doesn't rely on him, which is like this selfless kind of love. She sees that, and it's the first time she experiences this kind of love. That's part of why Episode 6 brings them closer.

Faith Hill is 'graceful' and 'generous' on set

You kind of touched on my next question ... personally, would you rather see Noemi in a full-blown relationship with Thomas, or would you prefer she found her independence and didn't need to rely on anyone?

Thomas is wonderful enough to bring both those two together, and that's the thing, he empowers her so that she doesn't need him to feel safe. She's coming from a very patriarchal culture where women rely almost entirely on men, and so this, it's quite the opposite and ... Even to this day, I don't know that I've met a lot of men who are as generous as Thomas is. He's not expecting anything back, which makes it even more beautiful, and that's why she decides to give him her heart, because he's not asking for it. He's there for her, and even the way they start in Episode 3 — he's not hobbling the horses for her. He's showing her how to do it and he's letting her do it so that she has that skill and she can protect herself, which, it's such a generous kind of love.

I'm looking forward to her becoming more independent, like Elsa or Margaret...

Yeah, I think we see some of that in Episode 6. She learns how to use that gun and hunts rattlesnake and rabbits, and she's never done that before.

I don't think you've had many scenes with them, as far as I remember, but what's it been like working with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill?

Faith's one of the most graceful women I've ever met, and also generous. As an artist, every time I worked with her on set, she always took care of everyone around her, which is, to me, insane because it has to be overwhelming for her. This is her first project, and the fact that she always found that time and energy to still take care of other people. And Tim, he's just a hoot. I love them and I love their family. We met their daughters, too. They came to visit a couple times and they're all so fun. They're a really lovely bunch.

She hopes to continue acting in the future

Now, I know COVID has made things kind of weird, but in terms of "Yellowstone," have you been able to get together with anyone from that cast and trade notes? I know at least Jefferson White, who plays Jimmy, was at the "1883" premiere...

I didn't meet him. The only person I met who's from Taylor Sheridan's universe is Emma Laird, who's on "Mayor of Kingstown." Met her for a brief minute. James and Eric, they know some of the people in the "Yellowstone" cast, but I don't. I hope to.

Do you watch the show? Who's your favorite character on "Yellowstone" and why?

I haven't watched it. When I booked "1883," I had heard of "Yellowstone," but I never watched it. Then we started this project and I isolated myself from everything modern, so I have to dive into that. James, who plays Wade, he's such a big fan, and he was yapping about it every day. I feel like I've watched it even though I haven't, but I can't really speak to it.

I have a few kinds of "get to know you as an actor" questions. What is your favorite movie of all time?

I really love "Kramer vs. Kramer." I also really love "Cold War," which is more recent. It's a Polish film. That's such a difficult question. There are so many movies I love. "Harold and Maude," too. "Harold and Maude" is one of my favorite films.

Outside of "1883," what's your dream role?

I really don't know.

Do you think you'll continue acting?

Yeah, this experience has been so wonderful that there's no reason not to want to continue; I'm really ready to explore more characters. It's such a gift to work with a character because you get to learn so much. You get to dive into the history of a people. Definitely, yes.

Where might we see you next? Do you have anything else in the pipeline aside from "1883"?

Not right now, no. Hopefully soon.

"1883" streams exclusively on Paramount+, where new episodes are available every Sunday.