1923 Star Shares Powerful Reason Why She Nearly Turned Down Audition To Play Teonna Rainwater

Spoilers below for the latest episode of 1923, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!

Following its month-and-change hiatus, Taylor Sheridan’s 1923 returned to Paramount+ in a big way, with funerals for previously killed characters, and new deaths to worry about in the meantime, with Spencer Dutton and Alexandra possibly lost at sea. But things were eventually looking up for Aminah Nieves’ beaten and bruised Teonna, despite now being hunted down by Father Renaud’s goons for vengefully murdering her abusers, Sisters Mary and Alice. She met the seemingly compassionate sheepherder Hank, as portrayed by the always great Michael Greyeyes, and at last revealed herself to be an ancestor of Yellowstone’s Thomas Rainwater. (Though, importantly, she noted it in its original form as Rain Water.)

1923’s first season — its Season 2 renewal was recently confirmed — has been a severely rough ride for Teonna, who also faced down a wolf in “Ghost of Zebrina.” And as seen above in CinemaBlend’s interview with Nieves and co-star Jennifer Ehle, the Indigenous actress revealed she initially didn’t aim to put herself in contention for the role. When I asked if she’d had any hesitations about joining the show, she said:

Yeah, there was huge hesitation. I wasn't even going to audition. I told my manager I didn't want to.

Which was as much news to Jennifer Ehle as it was to me. When the Sister Mary portrayer asked why she hadn’t wanted to audition, Aminah Nieves continued:

Because it was so heavy. I felt like I wasn't worthy to tell that. ... When it's something so heavy and so connected to you and your family, you're like, 'Me? I'm gonna be the one to do this for my mom? For my dad? For my grandma?' You know?

The Yellowstone universe is one of very few spots on TV boasting multiple Native cast members and characters bringing their talents on-screen, and 1923 is one of the only pop culture projects to ever put a meaningful focus on the controversial Catholic boarding schools forcing conversion onto the youths from local tribes. And the scenes that Nieves has anchored across the first five episodes have been masterfully intense, uncomfortable, and angering, and that’s just as a viewer. The pressure on the actress herself was far more substantial, no doubt.

It'd be one thing if Teonna was a background character without a whole lot of development to flesh her tale out, but she's as important to Fictional Montana's future as the Dutton family is. Beyond that, though, the truth sewn into the story that Nieves is anchoring is more important than the Duttons' journey, so I completely understand why the actress would be nervous to put that on her extremely capable shoulders. But audiences are definitely all the better for it, and I hope the character continues thriving as the season continues. 

While we know 1923 is locked down for another season, it seems as if Yellowstone itself may be having some behind-the-scenes issues over Kevin Costner's schedule gripes that could set up a truncated final stretch. 

As hard as it might be to watch Teonna's story play out early on in the day, 1923 fans with Paramount+ subscriptions may want to stream the next episode right after waking up, considering it'll be a day filled with hyper-expensive commercials, a massive Rihanna performance, and the biggest NFL game of the year. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.