Faith Hill and Tim McGraw called on their parental instincts for “1883,” a prequel to the modern TV drama “Yellowstone.”
The country music stars, long married and with children, play a couple heading westward with their youngsters through untamed wilderness in search of opportunity. The series debuts Sunday on the Paramount+ streaming service.
McGraw says it was hard not to think of his own family in portraying James Dutton.
“It’s certainly different circumstances, of course. But being the dad of three daughters really helped play and create this sort of relationship” with his screen daughter, Elsa, McGraw said.
Isabel May plays Elsa, with Audie Rick as her young brother.
McGraw appreciates his character’s devotion to family and admires his bravery.
“When you think about this guy (who) takes off and he’s going to go by himself in a wagon across uncharted territory with his wife, his daughter, a 5-year-old son and two other women, who thinks that they can do that?” McGraw said.
For Hill, it was natural for deep-seated maternal protectiveness to infuse the role of Margaret Dutton.
“I will protect my kids,” Hill said, an instinct that “kicked in in ‘1883’ as Margaret, as it does today. It’s just a natural thing that happens. And so don’t stand in my way or I will hurt you.”
Playing alongside her husband was a little trickier than playing a mom. The couple came up with a plan to not work on their scenes outside of the set, or even talk about it.
“After being married for 25 years, both of us felt that would be the most authentic way that we could portray Margaret and James. And we just didn’t want either one of us to have a preconceived notion of what they would be. We just wanted it to be real and as authentic as possible,” Hill said.
McGraw says he loved the idea that at this point in their lives, the couple had the opportunity to work together in “something this epic, this big and this strong.”
The Dutton family journey, which takes them through the Great Plains toward the then-territory of Montana, is part of the western expansion that reflected the nation’s belief that it was destined to settle all of North America.
The cast also includes Sam Elliott, Billy Bob Thornton and LaMonica Garrett.
“Yellowstone,” the story of the modern Dutton family and its ranching empire, stars Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes and Kelly Reilly and is in its fourth season. Its co-creator, Taylor Sheridan, created “1883.”