‘1883’ Star Isabel May on Her ‘Painfully Real’ Relationship with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1883 star Isabel May recently opened up about her onscreen parents Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
  • She says the country music legends have the “ideal marriage.”
  • But after 10 episodes, she also says that she has a “painfully real” relationship with Hill and McGraw.
1883 stars Isabel May as Elsa, Faith Hill as Margaret, Tim McGraw as James and Audie Rick as John of the Paramount+ Yellowstone prequel
Isabel May, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Audie Rick | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

1883 star Isabel May plays Elsa Dutton in the Yellowstone prequel. She’s the 17-year-old daughter of James and Margaret Dutton, played by country music superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. May admits that she wasn’t familiar with her co-stars or their music before she stepped onto the 1883 set. After filming 10 episodes, she says her relationship with the country music superstars is almost “painfully real.”

The ‘1883’ star loves Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s relationship

May says that she learned a lot about McGraw and Hill’s relationship while playing their daughter over the past few months. The 21-year-old actor told The Wrap that what she loves about their relationship is “how much they respect each other.”

“When one of them would wrap for the day, they would sit and wait for the other to finish, no matter how late it got,” May revealed.

She added that McGraw and Hill were “unbelievably supportive of one another, but also respectful.” May says that neither was domineering about the other’s performance, which made it a “really enlightening experience.”

Isabel May says Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are #couplegoals

May claims that she’s not a romantic. However, she “certainly hopes” that she will have something like what McGraw and Hill have in the future.

“That is the ideal marriage for sure,” May said.

In addition to learning a lot about her co-stars’ 25-year marriage, May says she bonded with Hill. That real-life bond was the key to their on-screen mother-daughter relationship. And May says that Margaret and Elsa’s dynamic on 1883 is one of her favorite parts of the show.

“That dynamic between mother and daughter is complicated, it’s beautiful, it’s challenging, you see all of those layers… the way Faith and I always talked about it was Elsa is a version of Margaret, and it’s something that Margaret was and could no longer be at that time,” May explained.

The ‘1883’ star says her relationship with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill got ‘painfully real’

May believes that it’s been advantageous having a real-life husband and wife play her parents because it’s helped them create the Dutton family. It also helps that McGraw and Hill are the parents of three daughters.

The young actor admits that she does have a bit of a physical resemblance to her on-screen parents. And Hill has told May that her personality “melds well” with her and McGraw’s real children.

“So when you see some of the emotion that plays out, especially between Faith and Tim, it feels so real because how they feel about Elsa became so real. It became almost painfully real,” May said. “She became like a real daughter to them, I think, and they kind of became real parents to me as well. So I love them dearly, and the stars aligned perfectly.”

Isabel May’s failed audition for ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ led to the role of Elsa

1883 creator Taylor Sheridan had been working on the prequel for almost as long as he’d been working on Yellowstone. But, he says he hadn’t “found the hook.” That all changed when he met May during her audition for Mayor of Kingstown.

“I saw she could represent innocence and hope, and I called Paramount and said, ‘I got good news, and then, I got some you-need-to-trust-me news,'” Sheridan told Wide Open Country.

“At this point I had not figured out how to tell this story and I had Sam Elliott over here and I had Tim McGraw here and Faith Hill and I had not found the bridge between them all. When I met Isabel, the whole story, all 10 episodes, went right through my head”

‘1883’ wouldn’t work without Isabel May

Sheridan says that he knew immediately that May was Elsa, and no one else auditioned for the role.

“I called Paramount and said, ‘I’m going to sit down and start writing…but I need to hire the lead, the female lead, who’s a complete unknown, right now, before I start writing. Because it won’t work if we don’t get her,'” Sheridan recalled.

May says that she never expected to hear from Sheridan again after her failed audition, but he wrote her a “lovely little letter” and promised he would find something for her. She thought that would take years, if it ever happened at all. But two weeks later, May got a call.

“He said, ‘I haven’t written it yet but you’re Elsa and I want you to be Elsa, do you want to be Elsa?’ I said, of course, I want to be Elsa. Then he outlined what it would entail and what story he wanted to tell, and yeah, I just was swept away,” May said.

New episodes of 1883 arrive Sundays on Paramount+.

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