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1883's LaMonica Garrett Tells Some Of His Favorite Behind-The-Scenes Tales - Exclusive Interview

This article contains spoilers for the finale of "1883."

It's been a wild ride on "1883," which just wrapped its initial order of episodes. As the "Yellowstone" origin story of the Dutton family, the Paramount+ series took viewers on an emotional journey alongside a group of pioneers traveling across the Wild West on the Oregon Trail in search of a better life.

Over the course of ten episodes, we got to know and love the "1883" characters, including Sam Elliott as wagon train leader Shea Brennan, Isabel May as wide-eyed Elsa Dutton, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as Elsa's exasperated parents, and LaMonica Garrett as Shea's right-hand man Thomas. Eeven though viewers were tipped off that Elsa got shot in the stomach with an arrow during the very first moments of Episode 1, it still was no less upsetting that the show killed off its vivacious narrator — along with Shea and a whole slew of marginal characters.

Two of the lone survivors to make it to the final destination were Thomas and his newfound love Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi), who stake claim to land in Oregon in the final scenes.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Garrett — who has previously starred on "Sons of Anarchy," "Designated Survivor," and the CW's Arrowverse — reflects on Thomas' journey and shares some of the best behind-the-scenes moments he experienced during the filming of "1883."

LaMonica Garrett doesn't rule out Thomas returning for Season 2

I watched the season finale and ... almost everybody is dead at the end, yet Thomas survives...

Yeah, I did not see that coming, because that Oregon Trail is treacherous.

I know! Despite a majority of the characters dying, the series got picked up for more episodes. Where does the show go from here? Do you think we'll see Thomas again, or do you think it'll just focus on the Duttons?

I'm not too sure. After the finale is over, my team is going to talk to Paramount. We're going to figure out what's going on when the dust settles. All I've been focused on is seeing how the finale goes and the reaction from the audience, then Monday morning, we'll gather ourselves up and see what's happening.

Let's say we don't see Thomas again. What do you think happens to him and Noemi, where does their story go?

I think he's there, watching the kids grow up. It's significant that [earlier in the season] it was Thomas telling Shea that one of these kids [on the journey] might have a kid and that kid grows up to be someone that changes the world. He ends up being the one that's in two of these kids' lives to see that happen. The way Thomas grew up, he didn't have that father figure. He didn't have a family. He didn't have someone to guide him and add structure or teach him the way things work. It's poetic that he's the one that does survive and he's the one that's helping shape these children's lives.

It was 'tough to say goodbye' to Sam Elliott

As for Sam Elliott's character, Shea, do you think it was a fitting ending for him? How hard was the last day of filming?

It was weird filming the last days because it was scattered around. We were shooting out of sequence. It wasn't in order of "this is what happens." Then, people leave. "Hey, it was great working with you." Certain people would shoot their scenes and then the next day, they're gone. It wasn't really ceremonious like, "Oh my God, this has been amazing" and we could all hug it out. We didn't have a wrap party or anything because of COVID. It felt really like being in the 1800s, like one day they're here and the next day they're not. 

It was sad ... you're putting on your Buffalo soldiers gear, which you've been doing for so long — six days a week for months — and to know this was the last day, it was bittersweet. I was ready to get home, but it was bittersweet. You don't work that close with people for that long and not become family, and everyone genuinely loved each other on set. It was tough to say goodbye, but that's the business we're in.

What's your biggest takeaway from working so closely with Sam? Anything learned from him?

There was so much [I] learned working with Sam. I think one of the main things I took away from him is, he's been in this business for so long and he's been doing it at a high level for so long and he still has passion and love for the art of filmmaking, the craft. Some people, they've been doing it a while and they call it in. They're like, "Yeah, give me the check. I'll go work three days. Doesn't matter what the project is, just give me my money and I'm gone." Sam, day in and day out, he was the first one there, while they're setting up cameras, talking about whatever shots we were doing that day.

He would have his apple box, sitting in the middle of the director and the camera people, and he was in it. When he was done shooting for the day, he would come back later to watch us do our scenes because he was a fan of watching actors work and watching all points of it. He loved being with the crew on set. He loved talking films and everything to do with filmmaking.

I don't ever want to get jaded. I haven't been doing this nearly as long as Sam or a lot of other people, but I want to keep that [spirit]. That's the reason why he's still making high level art, and the reason why he's still looked at how he is looked at — he's never lost that icon mystique status of Sam Elliott.

1883 creator Taylor Sheridan is incredibly hands on

I've only heard great stories about Sam Elliott, and somebody else that I've heard great things about is creator Taylor Sheridan. I've talked to several people from the "1883" cast and everyone gushes about him, without me even asking. What makes Taylor such a good guy to work with? Does anything make him tough to work with?

He was an actor, and he is an actor. So, he has that. When you're a writer, a producer, a director, a filmmaker, and you have that background in acting, there's a way to communicate with actors to get through to them. Taylor knows that language.

I've said this before, but Taylor will never ask you to do anything that he wouldn't do. Even during cowboy camp, he set the tone for work ethic. He was the first one out there, it's [100+] degrees. He wasn't sitting in a cooling tent yelling at us to do certain things and to go here and to go there. He was the first one on a horse and he was out there wrangling with us. He was out there bonding with us, getting it in together.

There was a scene from the first episode where Thomas and Shea had come up and they meet James [Tim McGraw] for the first time after his big shootout. Thomas tells James, "Don't take the horse." James lets the horse run off. When Taylor said "cut," there's dozens of wranglers that could have went and got that horse. That horse took off. He was like an armadillo when they said "cut." He hit the grass and he was gone. 

Taylor jumped on his horse and rode out as fast as I've seen anyone ride a horse, and he roped that horse and brought that horse back, and then started setting up the next shot. His hand's in everything. When you see the main guy in charge of all this have that kind of work ethic and care for what goes into everything, it bleeds off into everybody. It set the tone for a good work environment.

Sam Elliott helped settle his nerves on set

I interviewed Gratiela Brancusi a few weeks ago to coincide with Episode 6 when Thomas and Noemi solidify their relationship. While doing background research, I was surprised to learn that this was her very first onscreen acting gig. What was it like working with her? And, like her character, do you feel Gratiela herself grew more confident as filming went on?

What she lacks in front-of-screen presence, she gains in theater and stage. She's well versed, she knows her craft, so she's really, really good. It shows every week when you're watching, but working with her, it was great. She was a sponge on set.

Imagine being on your first day of filming anything in front of the screen and it's with Sam Elliott. I felt the same way working opposite Sam. It's like, okay, when you first meet Sam, you know you're going to work with Sam Elliott, you get that knot in your throat, like, "Oh, wow. All right, this is big." The moment you meet Sam and he gives you a hug and he looks at you, it's like, "We're going to have a great time." He gives you that wry kind of grin, and all the nerves go away.

Gratiela, the nerves she had, bonding throughout cowboy camp for three weeks and then going into filming and us living together — we were all living together pretty much at the same ranch, sometimes in the same house, sharing the same kitchen and living room and all that — the nerves were smaller in that aspect, it was showing up in front of the camera. She did that tremendously. I can't imagine working with anyone else in those scenes.

The main cast all shared a cabin and watched TV together

Across the whole season, whether it involves Gratiela or Sam or whoever, what's one of the greatest behind-the-scenes memories you'll carry with you forever?

When we were in Montana, we were out there for about a month. Me, Sam, Tim, Faith, Isabelle, Gratiela, and Audie [Rick, who plays John Dutton Sr.] and his mom, we were all staying in the same cabin, and it was a pretty big cabin. We all had our own rooms, but we shared the living room, dining room, kitchen, refrigerator, all that stuff. After we would get off work each day, we'd pretty much wrap around the same time, and we'd all come back to the cabin together. 

We'd eat dinner together. We'd go out and watch a movie or watch some kind of film or TV show. Me and Tim would watch reruns of "The Outlaw Josey Wales." We would watch Sunday Night and Monday Night Football. We all sat together when "The Harder They Fall" came out. We watched that, and it felt like a family. We're all sitting around the couches and the chairs watching that. Those moments were ... we knew they were special when it was happening.

There was one particular night where we're all sitting around, drinking whiskey and beer, and hanging out. We all had to work the next day, so it wasn't too late. Sam was talking about old Hollywood and how he got started, and how, back when you had a contract with the film company, you couldn't work on any other productions because they're paying you to just work with them. [He also talked about] the things he had to do to get jobs and be creative to separate himself from other actors, behind-the-scenes stuff on "Tombstone," and it was amazing. 

We're all sitting there like it was camp, like a campfire, listening. Sam's voice, you could listen to Sam read the newspaper and you'd be good. Him telling these actual stories of his life and his career, I wish I had a recorder to record some of that. That was one of the best nights of the whole production to me.

He dreams of playing Green Lantern one day

Of your roles on "Sons of Anarchy," "Designated Survivor," or the Arrowverse, which prepared you most for this role on "1883"?

I don't think any of them. Every job I do prepares me for the next job, because it seems like each job, the weight gets a little bigger. My roles get a little bigger, and I'm growing as an actor. Each project I do is a little bigger than the last, but this one was so unique — riding horses and cowboying, and you're in the 1800s. This is the first job I've ever had where I was away from home for so long. I've never been away from home for that long a period, and we were all living together under one roof or on one ranch. It was like when you got off work, you were still in it. I'd wake up in the morning and I'd hear horses communicating with each other on the ranch, on the farms that we were on. It's unique.

When we were at the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas — and the same thing in Montana — but here it was producers, and Taylor was with us, and all the people that lived in the house we were in, there was this long table with 20 chairs and after we'd get off work, we'd all sit and have dessert and dinner. They'd be talking about editing and showing us previous episodes, I've never had that kind of access with other jobs. It was unique in so many different ways. You're flying on private jets to Vegas and back for the premiere, which was the biggest premiere I've ever been a part of. I had my parents go for the first time to a premiere of anything that I've done. Everything about this job was pretty unique.

When Sam, during the first month of shooting, looks around and says, "I've never been a part of anything this big," when Sam's saying that, that's humbling. God willing, we'll see what happens, but this might be the biggest project you ever do and if so, I'm good with that because it was amazing, in front of and behind the camera. This was pretty big in all aspects. I don't know if any one thing prepared me for it. It was the culmination of a bunch of smaller experiences to get me ready for this.

You already dipped your toe in the DC Comics world via portraying The Monitor/Anti-Monitor in the Arrowverse, does playing an action-oriented superhero or villain in a larger sense interest you? Is there a dream role for you in DC or Marvel, or even, say, "Star Wars"?

My dream role in any setting would be to play John Stewart, Green Lantern. I'm this huge, huge John Stewart fan. Every Halloween I dress up as John Stewart, it seems like. Green Lantern would probably be the pinnacle for me. I could hang them up after that and drink a beer somewhere on the beach.

All 10 episodes of "1883" Season 1 are now streaming exclusively on Paramount+.