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Yellowstone Shared a Look at the Intense Training Actors Undergo at ‘Cowboy Camp’

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The frontier series 1883, which functions as both a spinoff and prequel for the hugely popular drama Yellowstone, takes viewers back in time to see how the Dutton family first settled in Montana. And it turns out, preparing for the show was almost as arduous for the cast as a real-life wagon trail.

“I don’t rehearse with my actors,” says showrunner Taylor Sheridan in a new featurette. “There’s no way to inform them what this way of life is, you just have to do it. I just take them out and put them to work.”

In order to ensure that the cattle-herding family looked as authentic as possible on a wagon trail, the cast of 1883 spent several weeks at “Cowboy Camp,” which helped them to overcome any nerves they might feel around the horses so that their performances look as natural as possible while riding, as well as learn the functional skills that their characters would have.

“Cowboy camp was probably the most helpful thing in the world. We all got to spend a couple of weeks together, just riding horses and roping and herding cattle,” says Tim McGraw, who plays James Dutton. “

“Most of us have learned how to drive wagons—which is dangerous, by the way,” says country singer Faith Hill, who plays James’ wife Margaret and is married to McGraw in real life. “Everything that we have done, we have learned how to do it properly, by the best of the best… You must know how to do it the right way, otherwise it’s just kind of watered down, and it just feels wrong.”

The cast soon began to test their skills amongst themselves, including carrying out an old-fashioned egg-and-spoon race on horseback, to see who could maintain the most control. (This friendly competition soon became a point of real contention among the cast, who jokingly accused Sheridan of “cheating.”)

“This training creates an authentic cowboy because the blisters are real, the cuts are real, I’m running into barbwire fences on my horse,” says Eric Nelsen, who plays Ennis. “Cowboy Camp is extremely important for teamwork. We’re all trying to build chemistry as actors, and there’s nothing more team-oriented than getting 28 cattle over hills and through alleyways for miles and miles. If you’re not communicating with your teammates, then it’s not going to work.”

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