How Tom Hanks Ended Up On Yellowstone's 1883 Prequel, According To Tim McGraw

Tom Hanks' Civil War Captain on a horse in 1883
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Spoilers below for the second episode of Paramount+’s 1883, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!

One of the most highly anticipated streaming premieres of 2021 has finally arrived, with Paramount+’s 1883 offering a star-studded standalone origin story for the cable-topping drama Yellowstone. Taylor Sheridan’s second new series in two months, 1883 dropped its dark and deadly first two episodes on December 19, with the second installment ushering in a whopper of an A-list cameo in the form of Tom Hanks sharing the screen with star Tim McGraw. Despite already knowing it would happen, I was still fairly awed by his limited-yet-stoic presence within the Civil War flashback, so I had to ask the country superstar how it came about.

As viewers witnessed, 1883’s second episode kicked off with a largely dialogue-free look back at the Battle of Antietam’s aftermath in 1862, with a worn-out James Dutton trying to make sense of the corpse-strewn field surrounding him. And who better to lend a sympathetic hand to John’s shoulder than an Army Captain portrayed by Tom Hanks? When Tim McGraw spoke with CinemaBlend and other press ahead of 1883’s premiere, I inquired about how Hanks came to join this rather epic side of the Yellowstone universe, and jokingly asked McGraw if he intentionally botched scenes just to keep the Oscar winner on the set longer. In his words: 

You never want to botch a scene when you got Tom Hanks in there with you. But yeah, he's a great guy. We've been friends for a long time. Rita, his wife, and Faith are best friends, and Tom and I've been friends for 25 years, 24 years. I knew that there was this part in there, and I gave him a call said, 'Hey, would you be interested in showing up doing a cameo in this show that we're doing?' And he goes, 'Tell me when to be there,' and he just showed up.

If only we all had the power and ability to call up Tom Hanks to ask him to help out with a new project, especially one that involves riding horses and dressing up in historically accurate Civil War garb. (Not the kind of project I’d ever be capable of starting myself, mind you.) Though one might think Hanks wouldn’t have signed on for such a minor role without some hefty and memorable dialogue to deliver, his time on-screen was spent largely in contemplative silence, which made complete sense in the moment. 

Tim McGraw also revealed the interesting choice he and Tom Hanks made before shooting the sequence, saying: 

We didn't see each other that whole morning, because I didn't want to see what he looked like. He didn't want to see what I looked like, because we know each other so well. So when he walked on set, it was pretty magical. And when he puts his hand on my shoulder in that scene, you could feel the weight of the world between both of them with what had gone on. It was a pretty heavy scene.

While there’s always going to be a level of suspended disbelief for TV actors in a scene like this, considering the cameras and crew members everywhere, but there had to be some surreal feelings happening when filming such a death-heavy scene and having Tom Hanks in a new military role riding up with the rest of the cavalry. If nothing else, it was one hell of a standout way for 1883 to kick off its second episode ever. 

More surprise cameos are confirmed to be on the way elsewhere in 1883’s first season, so dare we hope for Sam Elliott’s war flashback as Shea Brennan to feature a cameo from someone like Daniel Day Lewis or Brad Pitt? Will a future bathtub scene between James and Margaret be interrupted by Kelly Reilly’s time-traveling Beth? I’d say probably not to all of those, but I’m not putting anything beyond Taylor Sheridan and this wide-reaching cast. 

1883 released its first two episodes on Paramount+ (opens in new tab) for its big premiere, with new installments dropping one at a time every Sunday after. The first two episodes are also airing linearly on Paramount Network after the December 19 and December 26 episodes of Yellowstone, respectively. If you’re wondering what to get hooked on when the new year rolls around, head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

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.