'1883' Star Isabel May Says Elsa Dutton Lives a 'Whole Life in Six Months': 'It's a Girl Becoming a Woman'

Isabel May had the opportunity of a lifetime when Taylor Sheridan personally wrote a character for her. At only 22 years old, May had already made a name for herself with credits in shows like Alexa & Katie and Young Sheldon. It all started when she auditioned for a role in Sheridan's other show, Mayor of Kingstown, but unfortunately didn't get the part. However, Sheridan was so impressed by her talent that he called her two weeks later and offered her the lead role in his Yellowstone prequel series, 1883.

May plays Elsa Dutton, the 18-year-old daughter who embarks on a dangerous journey with her parents, James Dutton (played by Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (played by Faith Hill), across the Great Plains to Montana.

May recalls Sheridan's offer, saying, "'I want you to be this character in this show called 1883 that I haven't written yet. But I want to nail you down so you don't go do something, and I can't have you anymore.' And I was thinking to myself, 'Well, that's not an issue, for sure.'" Being a part of a Taylor Sheridan drama requires dedication and perseverance, as May soon discovered. She underwent gun training, took horseback riding lessons in the scorching summer heat of Santa Clarita, and spent hours practicing the piano in a chapel. Long shooting days and the freezing cold of Montana added to the challenges she faced.

However, May loved every moment of the experience. As an avid reader, she appreciated the opportunity to have some of the best dialogue on the show as the protagonist and narrator. She also formed a strong bond with McGraw and Hill, who provided unwavering support. May's portrayal of Elsa is mesmerizing, as she evolves from a naive teenager to a resilient young woman in the harsh conditions of nineteenth-century America. She experiences more in six months than most people do in a lifetime. May describes her character as someone who finds beauty in the world despite facing hardship and loss. She becomes a symbol of resilience and growth.

Sheridan has high praise for May, comparing her to Jennifer Lawrence earlier in her career. He believes she is a "generational talent" who didn't require formal acting training. May humbly accepts the compliment but acknowledges the talented actors she had the opportunity to learn from on the set of 1883. With multiple projects in the works, including a leading role in the upcoming film The Smack, May's career is on the rise. She is also working towards getting her pilot's license and plans to log 33 more hours of flight time. May expresses her admiration for birds and the freedom they have to fly alone and enjoy the view from above. 1883 premieres on the Paramount Network on June 18th and can currently be streamed on Paramount+.

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