• Television

“1923” – What the Cast Dreams of for their Characters in Season 2

“I am sick of writing letters!” Dame Helen Mirren laughed when asked what changes she’d like for her character, Cara Dutton, in the surprise second season of the limited Series, 1923, the prequel to the hit Paramount+ show, Yellowstone and the sequel to 1923’s predecessor, 1883.

“Brandon, come home!” She pleaded with a quip reminiscent of Spielberg’s E.T.

“E.T. Go home.” Any fan of the show would recognize that she was referring to the endless letters her character writes to her nephew, Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar), urging him home and updating him on the challenges the Dutton family is facing on every front in Montana – prohibition, drought and the social changes that threaten a way of life. This being 1923, the lag between writing and receiving letters can be greatly delayed.

Brandon Sklenar chimed in during the Zoom interview that was part of THR’s Screening Series with the main cast, (Harrison Ford who portrays patriarch, Jacob Dutton, was absent.) “I don’t want any more letters.” Sklenar retorted to Mirren. “I wouldn’t read them anyway; they took six years to get to me.”


The actor known for Mapplethorpe (2018) and Midway (2019) went on to express surprise at the range of his character’s travels. “Traveling to all those locations, shooting on three continents, I didn’t know that was going to be the scope of it. But I’m eager to get back to Montana. I’d love to be back on a horse and shooting a gun. The little kid in me is dying to do that.”

The camaraderie that was fostered during almost three weeks of togetherness the cast shared before shooting the series was clearly evident during the cast interview. Notes Mirren, “We came from completely different communities and spaces in the world. (To be together) in Montana, in an incredibly seedy bar. It was a great moment of making a community; making an actor’s company if you like, even if we were in separate scenes (afterwards). We were always supporting and cheering people on. I think that was a very important time.”

The three-time Golden Globe winner continued, “Obviously, I’d read the scenes, but seeing it, and reading it, are two different things. The scenes with Aminah were so dramatic, heart in your mouth kind of stuff. It was so visceral and beautifully realized on the screen. The devastation and pain. Watching this story is so painful.”

Aminah Nieves (Blueberry 2021, V/H/S/99 2022), who portrays Teonna Rainwater, was anxious to get the role right. She felt the weight of undertaking a role that showcases the abuse of young indigenous women by the church. Of particular concern was the accuracy of the language.

“I was chocolate in my boots. I was so scared,” she explained, voicing her fear of offending the indigenous community from which her character hails, and her relief at their feedback. “Seeing their positive reaction and hearing them say that we all did really well with the language was beautiful. As a whole, the indigenous community is taking it really well.”

Her storyline is serving another purpose. Like the abuse that occurred in many religious institutions that had been buried and is only now coming to light, the trauma inflicted on indigenous girls was not something the community shared across generations. 1923 has changed that.

“It’s opening up a lot of conversations with the indigenous youth right now. It’s very hard to talk about it as an elder who went through it. There’s deep trauma. I’ve gotten feedback that 1923 has opened up a space (for the elders) to tell the children and speak on it more.” She gives a little shake of her head. “That’s all I wanna do. That’s why I’m here. To spark those kinds of conversations. It’s been good so far.”

Like all of the cast, Aminah dreams of a scene where she and her co-stars get to interact on the Dutton estate, although Darren Mann has a more specific dream for his character: revenge. “I hope I get to pop Timothy Dalton (who portrays bad guy Donald Whitfield) in the face to avenge Yellowstone. I want the good guys to win, and then ride out with my girl, and we all live happily ever after.”

But no one really knows what will happen to their characters, nor who will ultimately survive the season. Brandon Sklenar states confidently that the one thing they do know is that 1923 will conclude with this chapter. “It’s still book ended. It’s limited. I think of it as one piece, it’s just split in the middle, but it will conclude.” An idea Mirren celebrates, “I like things to have a beginning, middle, and an end. Much better than when it dribbles on and on.”

Adds Sklenar, “Taylor rides lightning when he writes. He could change things at the last minute. I think that’s how he rolls creatively.” So, no one knows which of the two young couples, Michelle Randolf and Darren Mann, or Brandon Sklenar and Julia Schlaepfer, are the direct ancestors of John Dutton on Yellowstone. A secret which keeps fans tuning in.