‘1883’: Ennis Actor Eric Nelsen on Working With Tim McGraw — ‘He’s Pretty Good About Putting That Fear of God in Somebody’

1883 has a cast full of outstanding talent. The Yellowstone prequel features big names including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Sam Elliott. Eric Nelsen joined the cast as Ennis, a young cowboy who becomes smitten with Elsa Dutton. McGraw plays the part of Elsa’s intimidating father James, and according to Nelsen, he could be pretty intense on set.

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for 1883 Episode 5, “The Fangs of Freedom.”]

Tim McGraw as James and Eric Nelsen as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series 1883.
Tim McGraw as James and Eric Nelsen as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series ‘1883’ | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Eric Nelsen plays Ennis in ‘1883’

Nelsen’s character Ennis is a cowboy who joins Shea Brennan‘s group on their treacherous journey. Ennis immediately took notice of Elsa and she in turn was quick to flirt back. The pair eventually share a kiss in episode 4. James gives Ennis his reluctant blessing to court his daughter, though he warns her not to get “handsy” with her.

Despite this, the young couple ends up having sex in episode 5. James punches Ennis in the face, but Elsa stops her father in his attack. Ennis also confirms that he would help Elsa raise their child if she ended up pregnant. Things seemed headed in a great direction for the couple until Ennis was shot and killed in a conflict with bandits.

Isabel May as Elsa and Eric Nelsen as Ennis about to kiss while riding horses in '1883' episode 5
Isabel May as Elsa and Eric Nelsen as Ennis in ‘1883’ | Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios

Tim McGraw was an intimidating presence on the set of ‘1883’

McGraw was tasked with portraying an intimidating father, and according to Nelsen, he delivered. The actor sat down with Wide Open Country to discuss working with McGraw.

“He’s a lot more method than I was expecting him to be on certain days, which all lends itself to helping me stay in character,” Nelsen said. “But there would be times where I would just catch him just staring at me when we weren’t even filming. He would just be on the other side of the room, just like really giving me a glare, trying to intimidate me.”

“Of course, it worked every single time,” Nelsen continued. “So now I’m like, ‘oh gosh, what’s he about to say or do?’ And then he’s like, ‘all right, let’s go film this thing.’ And he’s, like, still really intense. Then at the end of the day, you know, he’ll drop the act and we’ll laugh about it and stuff. But he’s pretty good about putting that fear of God in somebody with those eyes.”

Although things got heated between Ennis and James, the characters had a heartbreaking moment of reconciliation. As Ennis lay dying of a gunshot wound he tells James, “I loved her” and James responds, “I don’t doubt it, son.”

Eric Nelsen talks Ennis standing up to James

Even after James punches Ennis in the face, the young cowboy stands his ground. He tells James he will steal Elsa away if he won’t let them be together. Nelsen discussed this scene in an interview with TV Guide. “It’s such a pivotal moment for Ennis’ storyline,” he told the outlet.

“And we finally see that, you know, he doesn’t care what James thinks because he found the love of his life and will do whatever it takes to keep it and to harvest it and explore it. So, though, you know, not the easiest thing to stand up to James Dutton it was imperative for us to do so. And I think it also changed James’s perspective on Ennis.”

New episodes of 1883 release Sundays on Paramount+.

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