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1883 Star LaMonica Garrett On The Importance Of Black Cowboys' Stories, And What He Loves About Taylor Sheridan's Writing

Thomas in cowboy gear on 1883
(Image credit: Paramount+)

When Yellowstone’s prequel 1883 was first announced, it seemed like a great way for Paramount+ to build up the mythology of the flagship series’ Dutton family and all of its land-protecting justice-keeping glory. And while that’s certainly part of what the streaming western is doing, 1883 isn’t worried about exploiting such connections, as Taylor Sheridan has another universe of stories to tell with these specific characters, some of whom happen to share a name with others down the family tree. One of those non-Dutton stories belongs to the Pinkerton agent Thomas, as played with hard-jawed stoicism by Arrowverse and Sons of Anarchy vet LaMonica Garrett.

While not that much is known about Thomas by this point in 1883’s run, what we do know is that LaMonica Garrett is portraying the rare Black TV cowboy whose narrative isn’t largely driven by Civil War-related racial tension. As the right hand to Shea Brennan’s left, Thomas keeps an understated presence among the many going along on the epic cross-country journey, but he’s more than intelligent and badass enough for any given situation or conversation that comes up. When the actor spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of Season 1, I asked him how important it was to him to star in a high-profile western that handles race in such an atypical way. In his words:

Yeah, it's significant, because we weren't around if you let Hollywood tell it. In different television shows and films, like, Black cowboys weren't around, but they were. One in every four cowboys was a Black cowboy, and they're stories that need to be told. And the one thing I loved about these scripts and Taylor's writing for this Black cowboy, slavery was never mentioned. You know, the N-bomb was never dropped. It was just, what you think a Black cowboy would have to go through in this era, he was just a cowboy. And that's what these Black cowboys were back then. They were just cowboys, but they had stories. We just don't know those stories.

Which isn’t to say that Taylor Sheridan has sugarcoated 1883’s storyline to make Thomas’ story feel inauthentic in the slightest. It’s not as if he’s a Black cowboy treated like royalty or anything, and Thomas gets targeted and shot at the same as some of the others in the group. He’s just not a character that suffers many of the stereotypes that are so common in other genre efforts across the past century.

LaMonica Garrett is clearly pleased by what he’s experienced filming 1883 so far, giving Taylor Sheridan credit for understanding how important normalizing the Black cowboy experience is, particularly in non-sensational ways. The actor continued, saying: 

And every once in a while throughout the series, Thomas might reference his past, but he doesn't lean into it. It's not a woe is me thing. He's just a cowboy with a story being told, just like millions of others. And, you know, I hope [for more like it]. They're starting to be shown more now - The Harder They Fall came out. There's movies and projects featuring Black cowboys. Bass Reeves, I heard they're going to do a show about that. So hopefully it's the beginning of it. At the end of the day, they're all cowboys, and these cowboys just happened to be Black, but they did have stories, and they need to be told.

Three cheers for that sentiment! And the conversations about race that surrounded the popular and well-received Netflix Original truly speaks to the rarity of a Black cowboy flick like The Harder They Fall. It’s presumed that viewers will witness a flashback or two from Thomas’ past that leans into his war efforts for the military, with or without another cameo appearance from Tom Hanks. And if and when that happens, we can presume that Taylor Sheridan 

The upcoming Bass Reeves series had something of a mini-predecessor in the premiere episode of HBO’s Watchmen, which also provided a very unique racial spin on genre storytelling. It’s certainly worth a short fan fiction tale about LaMonica Garrett’s Monitor and Anti-Monitor being from the same DC-based universe as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Doctor Manhattan, no? Okay, okay, that’s for a different time, I get it. 

With its first two episodes having enjoyed a TV-fueled boost via post-Yellowstone airings, 1883 streams new episodes every Sunday on Paramount+, with much more to come from Thomas and Sam Elliott's Brennan. And be sure to keep an eye on all the new and returning shows hitting the small screen soon with our 2022 TV premiere schedule!

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.