Actor LaMonica Garrett talks about his new role in the popular Yellowstone prequel, 1883, as well as his friendship with fellow legends Sam Elliott and Taylor Sheridan.
LaMonica Garrett: No; the funny thing is, I never met Taylor on Sons. It’s just a weird coincidence that he was there — but right when he left is when me and Rockmond Dunbar came into the show. The first time I ever spoke to him was on my birthday in 2021, when he was telling me what he needed to see from me during the audition process for Thomas. That was the first time I ever spoke to him. The first time I ever met him was day one at Cowboy Camp.
C&I: That’s the training camp Taylor set up on his ranch to prepare cast members who’d spent little or no time previously on horseback, right?
LaMonica: Right. At first it was extremely fun. It was life-changing. It does something to you, being on a horse that much. But after about three, four days, it turned from being fun — “Hey! Cowboy Camp! Let’s all go to Cowboy Camp!” — to it being work. It was 100 degrees. We’re in Weatherford, Texas, and we’re up at the crack of dawn. We’re tending to our horses. Yeah, it turned into work. That’s when I got a real appreciation for cowboys — just the profession, the culture. It’s some tough work.
C&I: There are scenes that you as Thomas and Sam Elliott as Shea Brennan share in 1883 that recall some moments in the ’60s TV show The Outcasts, which featured Don Murray and Otis Young as bounty hunters. Of course, the big difference is, those characters really didn’t like each other very much.
C&I: In fact, we’d probably do well not to repeat some of the racially charged shade they threw at each other.
LaMonica: [Laughs.] Yeah.
C&I: But when you and Sam started working together, did you ever get together and discuss a possible backstory for your characters? Maybe things besides what Sheridan had in the script?
LaMonica: Not really. Just knowing who Thomas and Shea are — from day one, Sam and I just hit it off. We didn’t really have that meeting about how we know each other or whatever. We both had individual meetings with Taylor, as far as our individual characters, and where they came from, and how they kind of met up. But me and Sam just hit it off instantly.
C&I: That certainly comes through in your scenes together.
LaMonica: In front of the screen and behind it, we’re brothers. We’ll go get drinks together. We talk about everything in life together. When we will meet up in the morning, every morning, for work, we embrace each other. Over the Christmas break, we were going back and forth with each other. It's a special relationship that carried off the screen.
C&I: Have you found that, even in this day and age, there still are people out there who are amazed — or even skeptical — when they see a Black cowboy in a movie or TV series?
LaMonica: Yeah. I try to interact with the fans on social media as much as possible. Because it’s fun. I know that, while growing up, before I was an actor, I would’ve loved to have had the opportunity to have a response from an actor that I loved respond to me. So, I go on and I look at a bunch of stuff. But there was one comment, I didn’t respond to it. I just skipped to the next one. They said, "I love 1883, but realistically, a Black cowboy riding with a bunch of White people wouldn’t have happened back then. The back talk really wouldn’t have happened. They need to do more research about that.” And I’m like, I want to say something, but I can’t go down that rabbit hole.
C&I: Well, you might have suggested they take a look at a history book or two.
LaMonica: [Laughs.] I always knew there were Black cowboys. But before I got this role, I didn’t know there were as many, and their impact in shaping the West as it was. One in every four cowboys was a Black cowboy back in the 1800s. We were everywhere. So, I knew they existed. I knew about Bass Reeves. I knew about Nat Love. I knew about Bill Pickett. The big ones, I’d learned about. But there were so many other ones that were impactful, yet you just never heard their stories. That’s why on this job … look, this is a great gig, acting wise and career wise. But responsibility wise, I took it upon myself to really embrace the culture of it and do it the right way. Hopefully, it’s resonating with people.
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From our May / June 2022 issue
Photography: (All images) Paramount Plus
Illustration: ©Heather Gatley