‘1883’: Taylor Sheridan Wanted the Cast to Look Completely Authentic — Until Makeup Took It 1 Step Too Far According to Eric Nelsen

The Yellowstone prequel 1883 takes place during a historical period of time. The 1883 cast and crew did their best to make the characters look like they belonged in the 19th century. The cast wore heavy costumes in the sweltering heat, attended “cowboy camp,” and even grew out their armpit hair. However, creator Taylor Sheridan said no to this idea from the makeup department.

Eric Nelsen as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Ennis rides a horse and looks back and smiles.
Eric Nelsen as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series ‘1883’ | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

The ‘1883’ cast endured swealtering heat and freezing temperatures

The cast of 1883 went to great lengths to transform into their 19th-century characters. The cast even attended an extensive three-week “cowboy camp” to learn all the skills they would need on set. “Cowboy camp was a challenge,” Thomas actor LaMonica Garrett told Wide Open Country and other media outlets. 

“This was [learning] how to ride a horse, [learning] how to steer wagons, roping cattle, herding cattle from one side of the ranch to the next in 100-degree weather…it really helped all of us develop this bond together.” Filming also began with the intense heat of Fort Worth, TX in the summer. By the end of it, the cast had transitioned to the freezing temperatures of Montana.

 “There’s something gratifying about it because you can leave saying, ‘I was fully in that. I was shaking the way that my character needed to be shaking for real,'” recalled Elsa Dutton actor Isabel May in an interview with Town & Country.

Taylor Sheridan wanted the ‘1883’ cast to look as authentic as possible

May and her fellow female cast members also had a bit of a different beauty routine than most actors. “This is my real hair. I’m very proud of it,” May joked to Town & Country, referencing her grown-out underarm hair that can be seen in several scenes.

“It’s not that bad. Everyone was freaking out about it because all the ladies on set had to grow their hair out as well. I think it’s rather nice. What’s not great is the smell, I’m not gonna lie. It’s a whole other beast in 106 degrees. I carry around deodorant everywhere I go.”

“Taylor said from the very beginning, ‘I want everything to be authentic.’ I mean, women didn’t start shaving until the 1920s,” May continued. “He really wanted that to be an aspect of the show, and so I was more than happy to oblige.”

Fans also wouldn’t catch May applying mascara and blush as she prepared to film 1883. “We don’t wear makeup. We wear dirt. It’s like a natural contour. I’m just going to start wearing dirt everywhere I go,” May told Town and Country. “I actually really like it. You don’t care what you look like. There’s none of that ridiculousness, you’re just fully invested.”

Taylor Sheridan said no to this idea from makeup

With all this dirt and sweat, it seems like Taylor Sheridan would agree with almost anything for the sake of authenticity. However, one idea from the makeup department didn’t sit right with him. In the late 19th century United States, dental care wasn’t exactly a common routine.

With this in mind, Ennis actor Eric Nelson’s perfectly straight pearly whites didn’t seem fitting for an 1883 cowboy. Makeup tried something out to correct this, but Sheridan wasn’t a fan. “Day one,” Nelsen told Taste of Country, “makeup threw some junk on there and I walked out and smiled at Taylor [creator Taylor Sheridan] and he goes, ‘Take that off, right now.'”

“He wasn’t having it,” the actor laughed. “It might be a little white for back then but you know, he had a vision and he knew what he wanted to see. That was discussed and that was put out there, but that’s not what he wanted, so here we are.”

It’s possible that Sheridan made this choice because of Ennis’ role as a love interest to Elsa. Despite all the dirt and sweat involved, it might have been a little off-putting to have Nelson flash a grimy-looking smile while trying to build an on-screen romance.

New episodes of 1883 release Sundays on Paramount+.

RELATED: ‘1883’ Costume Designer Says the Cast ‘Embraced What It Would Be Like to Live in 1883’