‘1883’: Isabel May Didn’t Know Who Taylor Sheridan Was Before Auditioning for Him

Isabel May inspired 1883. May tells the story of auditioning for Taylor Sheridan for The Mayor of Kingstown. She didn’t get it, but he wrote the Yellowstone prequel around her. May made quite an impression on Sheridan, more than he made on her. May didn’t even know who he was the first time they met. 

'1883': Isabel May rides a horse, but didn't know who creator Taylor Sheridan was when they met
Isabel May | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

May was a guest on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast on April 14. When she talked about her audition for Sheridan, she admitted she hadn’t realized who he was. 

Isabel May was oblivious to Taylor Sheridan 

May auditioned for the role of Iris on The Mayor of Kingstown. She agreed she wasn’t right for that part, but she was a working actor and gave it her all. All the while, May didn’t realize how prolific Sheridan already was.

RELATED: ‘1883’: Isabel May Only Watched 1 Episode Because Taylor Sheridan Forced Her To

“I remember receiving the sides, material and everything and seeing that it was this woman named Iris,” May said on Awards Chatter. “It’s Taylor Sheridan’s show and I looked Taylor Sheridan up and I went, ‘Oh, he did Yellowstone, okay.’ I’d just had lunch with [Alexa & Katie creator] Heather Wordham actually who said, ‘I’m binging a show called Yellowstone right now, I just can’t stop.’ It just floated right past my head. I didn’t think to ask her more of it.”

Before ‘1883’, Isabel May realized she loved Taylor Sheridan’s work 

This was still during the Mayor of Kingstown auditions. After doing more research, May found she loved Sheridan’s work, even though she didn’t know him by name. 

RELATED: ‘1883’: Isabel May Avoided Set When Tom Hanks Filmed for a Reasonable Reason

“So I tested out the first episode and the second,” May said. “I went oh wow, it’s actually really, really good. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this and heard of Taylor. Then I looked at his body of work and went, ‘Oh my God, I definitely know this man. He made some films that I just revere. Hell or High Water being one of them. Man, is he an incredible writer. My goodness, I didn’t realize he was making television.’”

Taylor Sheridan was determined to find something for her

Sheridan committed himself to finding a role for May after The Mayor of Kingstown. He wrote the character of Elsa on 1883 for her. Even though Mayor didn’t work out, Sheridan was still hands-on with May.

So I sent in a tape. He called the next day, got on the phone with him, he talked me through the whole thing. He had written Mayor of Kingstown 15 years ago which is insane. And I was just thinking in the back of my head recently how crazy it is that it just so happened that they started the process of casting and developing this film, not five years ago or seven years ago or three years ago or even two. But just then. If that hadn’t happened, I never would have met him and 1883 wouldn’t have happened. Maybe a variation of it but Elsa didn’t exist before I met him.

Isabel May, Awards Chatter podcast, 4/14/22

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