As it expands once more, the “Yellowstone” franchise is looking to the past … again.
The new show’s title offers sufficient proof. “1923” starts its run Sunday, Dec. 18, on Paramount+, with Harrison Ford (in his first continuing series part) and Oscar, Primetime Emmy and Tony winner Helen Mirren as Jacob and Cara Dutton, who head another division of the family that also is central to “Yellowstone” and its first prequel show, “1883.” The relatives face such plights as illness and drought as they try to edge into then-modern times. The Taylor Sheridan-created series has a second season of eight episodes, the same length as Season 1, already ordered.
Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren) speaks with Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) in the Paramount+ series “1923.” – Courtesy of Paramount+
Being filmed principally in Montana, “1923” is “a wonderful adventure” in Mirren’s view.
“I’d never been to Montana before, so that’s been a revelation,” the actress says. “I knew it was impossibly beautiful, but the size and the variety of it is extraordinary. Doing this kind of story in this kind of landscape, where they are intrinsically tied together, is an amazing experience. The geography of America has always fascinated me, and these (characters) are dealing with all the glories and difficulties inherent in that.”
Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) leads John Dutton Sr. (James Badge Dale) and the family in the new Paramount+ series “1923.” – Courtesy of Paramount+
The large cast of “1923” also includes James Badge Dale (“24”) as John Dutton Sr., plus Timothy Dalton, Robert Patrick, Jennifer Ehle, Darren Mann (“Animal Kingdom”), Brandon Sklenar (“Mapplethorpe”), Marley Shelton, Brian Geraghty (“Big Sky”) and Jerome Flynn (“Game of Thrones”).
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Mirren reports that rather than being detailed about her role at the outset, creator-producer Sheridan gave her “a sense of, ‘Do you want to come on this ride?’ We don’t know where the ride’s going to take us, and I found that really interesting and exciting.”
Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) faces down Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) in the Paramount+ original series “1923.” – Courtesy of Paramount+
Mirren first worked with Ford in the 1986 movie “The Mosquito Coast.” She recalls that as “a great time, then we went off and did other things and lived a whole life, really. There’s been a connection that has never been lost, though … so when we came together again, there was an incredible sense of familiarity and affection and history. That’s invaluable if you’re playing husband and wife.”
Though Mirren won two of her Emmys for “Prime Suspect” mysteries, she doesn’t consider those as series in the same way “1923” is.
Helen Mirren stars as Cara Dutton in the new “Yellowstone” prequel series “1923” on Paramount+. – Courtesy of Paramount+
“I’ve never done something like this before,” she maintains. “With ‘Prime Suspect,’ we would do one four-hour story about every two years, so it was more like a miniseries. It wasn’t something ongoing like this is, though how far we’ll go is a mystery to me. I have to say that Taylor is an extraordinary writer; this springs with such complexity, but at the same time, it’s incredibly accessible. It’s not highfalutin’, but very playable, great writing.”