- “1923” has expanded the “Yellowstone” universe — quite literally.
- Unlike the Kevin Costner-led series and “1883,” its storylines are scattered across several continents.
- In a Paramount+ video and Insider exclusive, the cast and crew discuss the drama’s global scope.
Since it exploded onto screens back in 2018, the “Yellowstone” universe has revolved around the titular ranch which is inexorably tied to the Dutton family. However, as audiences who have been tuning into the latest origin story “1923,” already know, there’s more to the Duttons’ story than just Montana.
From the very first episode, this compelling new chapter set itself apart from earlier prequel “1883,” and the present-day set series led by Kevin Costner with its incredibly ambitious scope that features storylines scattered across several continents.
“The scale of what we’re doing is so vast,” Helen Mirren, who portrays the fearsome family matriarch Cara, says in an exclusive new Paramount+ video that takes viewers behind the scenes on the production.
Her costar Harrison Ford, who plays Cara’s husband Jacob Dutton, adds: “The epic quality of this is especially ambitious. I’m always amazed at the logistical challenges that we’re facing to make this as real as possible.”
Filming for the series took place on location in Montana, Tanzania, South Africa, and Malta.
It seems that no expense has been spared to bring the world of “1923” to life, with creator Taylor Sheridan previously divulging that the eight-episode odyssey had a higher budget than many blockbuster movies. The four installments viewers have seen so far, which each cost $22 million to make, were shot on location in Africa and Europe, as well as North America.
As Brandon Sklenar who plays the show’s prodigal son, Spencer Dutton, says: “If Taylor writes you are somewhere, you’re shooting there.”
His character’s storyline on the show so far has taken him on a journey across Africa’s very different environs, from the wilderness of its plains and jungles to its stunning white beaches, as Spencer seeks out work as a hunter-for-hire for settlements plagued by big cats and other predators.
In some of the show’s most breathtaking scenes, he and his character’s love interest Julia Schlaepfer have appeared alongside towering elephants, giraffes, and other wildlife.
“It is so authentic,” Schlaepfer says, adding that she shares in her character’s sense of wonderment when shooting these particular scenes.
“When we’re standing on a cliff in South Africa looking at the mountains and the animals and there are giraffes wandering onto our set and she’s talking about how she didn’t realize the world was so big and how small it makes her feel, that’s Julia feeling those things,” she says with a laugh. “That’s me feeling those things as well.”
There’s no doubt that the world that has been created around the characters is incredibly immersive, and that’s also thanks in part to costume designer Janie Bryant who was tasked with designing for a cast made up of thousands when you include the many background actors who she says “help set the world for the principal actors.”
Scenes filmed in Africa saw real wildlife wander on to set, the cast say.
“As an actor, it’s a blessing,” Sklenar says. “Putting on the wardrobe is great and shooting in actual port in Africa with 20 period boats and cars and 200 background. You don’t have to do much. Your imagination is free to be involved in the text and you get to show up and you’re fully immersed.”
The series is set to make its return on Sunday, February 5 with a new episode that will see Spencer and Alexandra leave their African idyll behind as they have now learned about the tragedy that has befallen the Duttons back home — but not before a “few little surprises,” set decorator Carla Curry teases.
Without giving too much away, stunt coordinator Jason Rodriguez says: “I’m really excited about the water sequence, the boat sequence. I think it’s gonna look great. Anytime you can put your actors in these spots, it’s the icing on the cake. It’s just the best.”
As the mid-season trailer has shown, it won’t be smooth sailing back to America for the pair as it looks like Spencer might have to face off against another man-eating animal while at sea: a shark.
Before viewers get too worried, though, it’s worth remembering, as Mirren says in the video, “the journey is far from over.”
Check out the cast and crew discussing the global journey of “1923” in the video below:
“1923” is streaming on Paramount+. New episodes will drop on Sundays beginning February 5.