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How Yellowstone's 1883 Prequel Will Be Even Bigger Than Kevin Costner Flagship Series

Yellowstone's massive success on Paramount Network is the result of many, many talented people's efforts, without a doubt, but it can basically be pinned down to the vision and dedication of co-creator Taylor Sheridan. The Sons of Anarchy vet knew how he wanted to tell the Dutton family's story, and he found the means to make it happen, and with Yellowstone now serving as a springboard for an over-arching universe, Sheridan has the means and the motive to go even bigger with his next franchise effort, which will be the 1883 prequel spinoff, starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

In telling the story of how the Dutton's Montana ranch legacy began, Taylor Sheridan and his producer partners at Paramount Network will reportedly have a bigger budget for 1883 than the one that Yellowstone is working with, according to Deadline, and it can already be easily assumed that the mothership series costs a pretty penny itself. But as evidenced by Sheridan's modestly budgeted feature work over the years, he knows how to make Western narratives look expensive no matter what. Which is a great thing, considering everything that the 1883 creative team has planned for the historical spinoff, which will get a promotional boost by debuting both on TV and streaming.

1883's executive producer David Glasser, who is also the CEO behind the franchise's production company 101 Studios, told Deadline just how committed Taylor Sheridan is to making the prequel as authentic as possible with a practical and fully realized production tailored (not a pun) specifically to the needs of the show. In his words:

Taylor is shooting this with 30 wagon trains, going across America. The Duttons travel with other families, and pick up other groups along the way. It’s like a moving city. Taylor didn’t want to do it CGI, where you could have built 10 wagon trains and with the world we’re living in today, you could have added 20. We’re taking 30 wagon trains across America, and he’s re-created everything. We are shooting in Dallas/Forth Worth. We’ve built an entire 1800s town in the stockyards of Forth Worth. We’re shooting in Palestine and Guthrie, Texas, and then eventually we get to Montana, to the Dutton ranch by the end of Season 1. There’s nothing that exists we could use for this. There are no buildings. We’re building an entire city of downtown Fort Worth, with all the hustle and bustle. Every piece of wardrobe, guns, even saddles weren’t what they are today. Everything had to be built, top to bottom.

Yep, that sounds about as epic as a western expansion TV series can get these days. And considering the production team managed to build an entire city, so to speak, then it's understandable why its budget might stand a little higher than that of Yellowstone itself, where modern living doesn't require everything being crafted from scratch. Granted the move from Utah to Montana for Season 4 was expensive, especially on top of costs for added COVID-related protocols, but 1883's costs even beat out all that.

With Yellowstone boasting such a top-notch ensemble, Taylor Sheridan & Co. had their work cut out for them in casting the 1883 prequel, and nailed down some interesting choices with the earliest actors, including Grammy-winning country music super-couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, western icon Sam Elliott, Arrowverse vet LaMonica Garrett, and Young Sheldon star Isabel May. McGraw and Hill will play the possible sharp-shooter James Dutton and Margaret Dutton, John's great-grandparents, while May will play their eldest daughter Elsa. We can almost definitely expect a few more familiar faces to be hired on as well.

Considering Taylor Sheridan signed what is reportedly a nine-figure deal with ViacomCBS earlier this year to expand their partnership, it's certainly no surprise that he's getting more money and leeway to do what he wants creatively. Historically set TV series aren't the most common kind of output these days, so I can't wait to see if Yellowstone's crossover appeal, as well as that of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, will carry over to the new series.

1883 will make its mega-debut on Sunday, December 19, and will be simulcast both on the Paramount+ streaming service and on Paramount Network, following that week's episode of Yellowstone proper. And don't forget about Jeremy Renner's pre-Hawkeye drama Mayor Of Kingstown also arriving a month prior.

Nick Venable

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.