LaMonica Garrett talks shooting ‘1883,’ and the legacy of Black cowboys

Garrett speaks with theGrio about playing an ex-buffalo soldier and Pinkerton agent in the Paramount+ western series.

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The image of the American cowboy has been dominated by white faces over centuries of history books, films, and television shows from The Lone Ranger and Dances With Wolves to Lonesome Dove and True Grit. However, the history of the Black cowboy has been illuminated as of late with numerous projects.

Netflix films like The Harder They Come and Concrete Cowboys have helped introduce young audiences to the history of Black cowboys, past and present. In the new Paramount+ series, 1883, actor LaMonica Garrett brings another Black cowboy to life.

A prequel series to the very successful Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, 1883 stars Garrett as Thomas, a Pinkerton detective agent and former buffalo soldier. Thomas partners up with Shea Brennan, played by Sam Elliott.

The two help shepherd a group through the Great Plains to settle in the West. Garrett spoke with theGrio’s Jon Kelley to talk about the role and the importance of seeing Black cowboys on screen.

Garrett, like many, has been watching cowboy shows and movies since he was young.

“I watched all the westerns growing up, the Gunsmokes, the Bonanzas,” Garrett said. ” My mom loves them, so we sat there and watched.”

But as time went on, he noticed these shows that all had something in common.

“And then you get older and you start realizing, like, we existed before the 1960s,” Garrett said. “Like, Black cowboys were around and these stories haven’t been told.”

Actor LaMonica Garrett. (Provided by Persona PR)

Even though he understood the significance of playing someone whose story has barely been told in 1883, Garrett says his main focus was developing Thomas into the best character he could be.

“To me, he’s the humanity of the show. He’s the soul of the show,” Garrett said. “That was important to me to have this pride and bring [young viewers] this honor for this character, for people that look like me and kids coming up that, ‘yeah, you know, we existed.'”

Garrett said that one of the hardest parts of 1883 was filming on location most of the time. He cites the changing elements as one of the biggest challenges of shooting the show.

“Ninety-five percent of what we do is outside. So if it’s a hundred degrees out humid, you know, you’re in Texas, Fort Worth summertime, you’re going through it,” Garrett said.

“If you’re in Montana and it’s freezing, you’re going through it, you’re on a horse. Your horse doesn’t feel like doing what you say today. The cows don’t feel like being hurt today, like you. Just all the elements around you are against you.”

Despite the harsh conditions, Garrett says that it’s that realism that sets the series apart from so many other period pieces.

“So, that’s why shows like this haven’t been done in a while, because it’s extremely difficult to do, but is as difficult as it is to do, it is beautiful to watch when it unfolds, and it’s rewarding to me.”

The World Premiere Of "1883" - Reception
LaMonica Garrett attends the world premiere of “1883” at Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas on Dec. 11, 2021. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

He continued, “The main character on this show is nature. It’s the backdrops, the mountain caps, the Brazos River and we’re all a part of just being in that world. And it’s just when you see that, when you hear horses come running up, it does something to you as an audience watching that, it just feels real and you just feel like a fly on the wall.”

Also starring in 1883 are Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Hanks will make guest appearances as well.

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