SPOILER ALERT: This story contains some details from the fifth episode of 1923 on Paramount+.
Cara got her much-awaited cable: her beloved nephew Spencer is on his way home.
Here, 1923 star Brandon Sklenar, who plays soldier-turned-hunter-turned-overnight tugboat driver Spencer Dutton, talks about his character’s difficult sojourn to Yellowstone and whether fans will find out if he’s the man who will eventually give us Kevin Costner’s John Dutton.
DEADLINE Let’s start with where we first met Spencer — somewhere in the bush, hunting wild beasts that eat tourists. I’m assuming you didn’t shoot those Africa scenes in the Santa Clarita Valley?
BRANDON SKLENAR No. If Taylor Sheridan writes it in Africa, you’re going to Africa. We shot in Kenya for a while in September and October, and shot some stuff in Europe in November.
DEADLINE So how close did you get to those ferocious animals, or was that all the magic of Hollywood?
SKLENAR They were there. We had a leopard on set. We had a lion, lots of elephants. The animals were there. It’s a movie magic blend of real animals and CG animals and stuffies.
DEADLINE Your character shot that elephant in episode 3 Did you wonder how that would go over with today’s audiences?
SKLENAR It was a different time then. His entire purpose at that point was killing things that were trying to kill him and other people. It’s survival. He’s not a trophy hunter. That elephant would have kept ramming the car and would have killed them, so he had to shoot it. He doesn’t feel good about it, but it’s a point of survival.
DEADLINE From what we’ve gleaned so far, Spencer suffers from PTSD from the war. Or is there more to his woes?
SKLENAR The PTSD is definitely a big factor. He was recruited by the government, by the protectorate, to go overseas and hunt these things post-war. He chose to do that because by that point, having experienced what he experienced, it seemed like the best option for him, considering he was good at it. And, he wasn’t feeling to hot about any of it.
DEADLINE What’s the protectorate?
SKLENAR It’s like an organization that would hire hunters to go oversea at the time when they were expanding all of that building in Africa by going into the wild. The two lions that hunted all the workers on the railroads and who were building hotels. The lions killed an exorbitant number of workers over a six, seven month span. They would hire guys like Spencer to go in and hunt these things. And who better to find them than one of the most decorated WW1 veterans?
DEADLINE So what was the experience like shooting in Africa? Romantic? Hotter than hell? Dirty and itchy?
SKLENAR All of the above. Add a little e. coli in there. You’re in the bush for three weeks. You’re doing it. That’s what’s so great about Taylor. He just puts you in it. You’re not in Santa Clarita, going to your trailer.
DEADLINE Was Taylor out there with you?
SKLENAR No, he was in Texas, working on the other 18 shows that he is singlehandedly writing and show running.
DEADLINE What is Spencer’s relationship with his uncle and aunt up until he returns to Montana?
SKLENAR He loves them, especially Cara. We have a deep relationship. They raised Spencer and his brother.
DEADLINE Did Taylor talk to you about your lineage? Are we going to find out that you are John Dutton’s dad or grandpa?
SKLENAR You’ll find out in due time. It will all unfold.
DEADLINE So you’re headed back on the ranch, with a slight detour in the, ahem, ocean. It’s not going to be an easy time, is it?
SKLENAR I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think it gets easier for anybody. That’s as much as I can say as the journey unfolds.
DEADLINE Will Alex, played by Julia Schlaepfer, settle in well in Montana?
SKLENAR She’s definitely got it in her. Cara [Helen Mirren] and her will really get along.
DEADLINE And how are those horse riding skills going?
SKLENAR Better than they were when I first got to Montana. Night and day, actually. If you spend every day on a horse for two months with some of the best wranglers in the world, you’re gonna get pretty damn good on a horse.
DEADLINE Your character is a man of few words. Are you going to learn more about what’s going on inside?
SKLENAR The layers do come off, the walls come down. The audience and Alex will learn more about him.
DEADLINE Taylor is a man of few words, too. What’s it been like working with him?
SKLENAR I have so much respect for him and I’ve wanted to work with him for years. It’s kind of a pinch me kind of thing that I get to work with him. He’s very clear in his vision and he trusts you to fulfill that vision. He also knows you are going to bring in your own bits. There’s a lot of trust back and forth. It’s all you can ask for as an actor, really.
DEADLINE So I guess you can’t say whether you die at the end of the season?
SKLENAR Spencer is pretty resilient, but no one is off the table. If you know Taylor’s writing, anything can happen at this point.
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