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How Mayor Of Kingstown Landed Isabel May The Role Of Elsa Dutton On 1883

The Paramount series "Yellowstone" has grown in stature to become one of the biggest shows currently on air, per The Guardian. Co-created by Taylor Sheridan, who previously penned movies such as "Sicario" and "Wind River," the series revolves around the Dutton family and the ranch they own in Montana, as well as the troubles various members of the family face.

Fans of the series were thus excited to learn that a prequel series was in development. Titled "1883," the series would follow ancestors of the Dutton family, some of whom were briefly glimpsed in "Yellowstone." Airing on Paramount+, the prequel series revolves around James and Margaret Dutton, played by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and their daughter Elsa, played by Isabel May.

Elsa is the audience's gateway into the show, as the narrator of the series, making May's role particularly crucial to the series. However, May herself wouldn't have landed the role if it weren't for another series altogether, a prison town drama named "Mayor of Kingstown." Here's how the latter show landed May the role of Elsa Dutton on "1883."

May's audition for Mayor of Kingstown caught Sheridan's eye

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Isabel May noted that it was an audition for "Mayor of Kingstown" that first landed her on Taylor Sheridan's radar. Sheridan was a co-creator on "Mayor of Kingstown" as well, and May recounted that she, along with two other performers, were brought out to Texas in March 2021 to audition for a role on the show. It was at that audition that May met Sheridan.

She recounted that the audition itself went poorly, to the point that May assumed she wouldn't be hearing back about the role. But two weeks later, Sheridan called her and offered her the role of Elsa Dutton without auditioning any other performers for the role. May concluded that she accepted the role on the spot because she dreamed of working with Sheridan.

While May didn't specify the role she went in to audition for in the interview itself, an article on Deadline specifies that it was for the part of Iris, an escort who finds herself in Kingstown early on in the series' run. Emma Laird ended up winning the role.

The idea of Elsa was also nebulous in Sheridan's mind before May's audition, and only really took shape after her casting. May herself didn't discover that Elsa was the narrator until she received the script for the pilot episode.

Sheridan signed May without a clear idea of the character of Elsa

In another interview with Deadline, Taylor Sheridan spoke about the pressure he was under to deliver with "1883." Sheridan recounted that he had written a pilot episode script for "1883," and passed it on to executives at ViacomCBS, the parent company of Paramount, in mid-April. The executives got back to Sheridan on May 2, telling him that they were impressed enough with the pilot that they intended to have the show be a flagship series on their new streaming service, in what would eventually become Paramount+.

Sheridan recounted that executives told him they wanted the season by that year as a result, which Sheridan initially misunderstood as meaning that they wanted the series to begin production that year. The executive clarified that they wanted the completed first season ready for the streaming service's launch later that year, a daunting task for Sheridan.

Thus, "1883" was on Sheridan's mind while he was working on "Mayor of Kingstown," and he declared that, while seeing Isabel May's audition, "What made her wrong for Iris made her, I felt, the personification of this world of '1883.' "While Sheridan had yet to write the role of Elsa Dutton, he knew that he wanted May for the role, and convinced ViacomCBS to sign her before she committed to another project.