Taylor Sheridan: ‘1923’ Created to Fix a Massive Miscommunication Around ‘1883’
Paramount executives didn't understand how Yellowstone prequel 1883 ends until it was much too late -- and they weren't real happy about it.
The fix is a second Yellowstone prequel called 1923, which just broke Paramount+ streaming records for a series debut (7.4 million, per Variety). Maybe it's a stretch to say creator Taylor Sheridan was scrambling before dreaming up the new, Harrison Ford-led show. He certainly didn't have the full vision prior to pitching the series.
Deadline nabbed Sheridan for a wide-ranging interview about his television empire, and what the future may hold for shows like Yellowstone (hint: they'll be spending a lot of time in Texas). If you've not seen 1883, what follows will spoil an ending that his bosses at P+ didn't see coming until it was finished.
How Does Yellowstone Prequel 1883 End?
"The story I heard is (Paramount President) Bob Bakish watched it and said, 'wait a minute, she dies! They all die? What do we do in season two?'" Sheridan recalls. "I said, there is no season two. They're like, there better be a f---ng season two because we already picked it up. I’m sitting here going, 'Guys, everyone is dead.'"
Almost everyone dies before the final credits role on 1883, which was at the time thought to be the most expensive show ever filmed for television. "This was much more expensive," he says of 1923, at first estimating a cost of $30-35 million an episode with Deadline later changing to $22 million. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's characters survive, as does LaMonica Garrett's. However memorable characters played by Isabel May and Sam Elliott don't make it.
One idea suggested to Sheridan was to have Elliott's Shea Brennan survive his suicide, but that was quickly pushed aside. "So, I said I’ll come up with another peek into the window and I sat there and tried to look at it. I studied Montana’s history and the history of the world," he says.
His research led to discoveries of range wars, how much worse the Spanish Flu was than COVID-19, how the great depression hit Montana long before the rest of the nation and how World War I affected all of it. At every step he was being pressured for a script, something he didn't even have when stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren signed on.
"I said, I don’t know. Everyone is dead. I don’t know how to write the next season of this damn thing (1883) but I kept hunting history, and I kept finding things," the actor turned writer and director shares. "It’s the one great thing about the Dutton family. You can skip generations and put them in all these unique situations, and it has nothing to do with Yellowstone, nothing to do with 1883 and yet it’s tethered completely to them, but they’re all stand-alones."
The schedule for 1923 is much more stop-and-start than 1883. New episodes will air on Paramount+ through Jan. 8, but then the show will take a winter break before returning on Feb. 5. Talking to Deadline, Sheridan indicated the story would be told in two, eight-episode blocks. If that proves true, the first block will wrap on Feb. 26.