‘1923’ Star Julia Schlaepfer on Alexandra and Brandon’s Homecoming: ‘Their Love Is Tested’

The “Yellowstone” spinoff returns this weekend

1923 Alexandra and Spencer

This weekend, Taylor Sheridan’s old timey “Yellowstone” spinoff “1923” is finally back after a month-long hiatus. And not a moment too soon.

When we last left the show, there was a brutal attack on the ranch that left several members of the Dutton family dead and others injured (thank the Lord Harrison Ford pulled through). But in the final sequence, we see Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer) in their African love nest. She’s reading all the letters from Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren), his aunt and adoptive mother. Finally, she reaches the letter pertaining to the attack and how the family is summoning him back to Montana. He asks her how long it’s been. She says three months. What a cliffhanger! (We love a good time jump don’t we folks?)

TheWrap spoke to Schlaepfer about having to design her character partially by herself (since Sheridan is so stingy with details), filming in Africa and what Spencer and Alexandra’s trip to Yellowstone really means for them – and his family.

Taylor Sheridan has said that he doesn’t give actors much context for their characters and yet your character is very enigmatic and internal. What was it like building this character, mostly on your own?

I was putting pieces together as we went. And when I went to go screen test for the role, I went in the room, and I read once and then I went back out, the other girls went in, and then they call me back in, and Taylor just looked at me and said, “Just be you.” He was like, “I don’t want you to do anything but be yourself. Because you have the qualities that I’m looking for in Alexandra. Just be yourself.” And he actually read the scenes with me for my final audition as Spencer. And I just let everything go. I was like, “Okay,” and I brought myself completely to it and let go of all these ideas of who she was. All of the research I did, I threw out the window in that moment. And by the end of reading those scenes with him, like we were all in tears in the room, just like crying together. It was really special. And I was like, “I think I found her. I think I found her.”

Alexandra takes such a leap going with Spencer. Did you ever ask Taylor for more details on why?

For me, I don’t know if it’s just the hopeless romantic in me, but I was like, “Yeah, I’d run after the car.” It just made sense to me. And we did talk about it. Taylor brought me and Brandon to Texas for some rehearsals. But the rehearsals ended up being very short, just reading the script together and listening to the words. But we talked about the moment that everything shifts for her is when Spencer looks at her and says, “Dying is the closest thing to alive you’ll ever feel.” And in that moment, I think everything shifts and that’s when she starts to fall in love. And that’s when she realizes there’s a world out there so much bigger than her. And also she comes from a world where she has to be this thing, she has to dress up in this way. She’s so constricted by this life but she wants to do her duty to her family. But it’s just so not her. And then she needs this one-way ticket out of there in this a sweaty, dirty hunter. And he goes on all these adventures. And they have this chemical connection. And I think it’s almost like that moment, when she starts to run after the car. Ben [Richardson, the director] and I talked a lot about that, where it’s like, she’s not thinking, it’s like her body is just like pulling her forward, she doesn’t even know what’s happening to her. It’s just like this magnet. And I think that’s kind of what we see unravel. I think both of them don’t really know what they’ve gotten themselves into. They’ve just followed this visceral feeling. And then you watch as the season goes long as they see the repercussions of their actions. Their love is tested and they have to decide, is this love really worth it? Is this what I what I want? You watch their love strengthen in a different way.

What was it like shooting in Africa?

It was nuts. It was crazy. Because yeah, we had a separate camera crew in South Africa and our friends were shooting back home. And back in Montana, there were so many different storylines going on. So people, had some days on, some off, that type of thing, but with me and Brandon, it was us nonstop. We were always working. And if we had a day off, we were doing fittings or stunt training or flying 16 hours to Kenya, that type of thing. It was nonstop. But it was also the most fun whirlwind that I have ever been a part of. I still feel like I’m like getting my bearings realizing that I just did all of that and was in Africa and the whole thing. We were living off adrenaline and we were gross and dirty, and just like enjoying that aspect of it. And they think it really adds to the story and how fast it all moves.

Did you know that that final moment in episode 4, with Alexandra reading the letter about the attack on the ranch, was going to be so iconic?

I didn’t know it was going to be a cliffhanger for a month. But we both realized the weight of that scene. That was one of our scenes that we screen tested with, me and Brandon. It’s so pivotal to the story. And I think so it’s so funny, because I see a lot of people online when the shows came out being like, “How does Africa tie into Montana?” And then this is really a turning point where it’s like, they’re going home and what’s going to happen? I mean, it’s such an epic scene. And it took us a whole day to shoot that entire scene. It was nice to get to take our time with that one and make sure we got it right.

Brandon told me that it wasn’t going to be a happy homecoming. How does Alexandra fit into this whirlwind and what can you tell us about the rest of the season?

I still don’t even fully know how she fits into the whirlwind. You know what I mean? There’s still a lot to uncover about what happens when they get home. When you first meet her, she has this naive quality about the type of adventure she wants. And I don’t think she realizes just how dangerous it is, and how much effort and fear, it’s going to have and take. We watch her become this pillar of strength for Spencer in a way that, I don’t even think she realized she was going to be and he realized she was going to be. And we watch her go from wanting this like adventure and this love story to being like, “Okay, it’s time to hunker down and figure this out, because we’re either going to live or die, and I want to live. And so we’ve got to make it happen.” We watch her toughen up in that way to prepare herself for what’s to come.

“1923” streams every Sunday on Paramount+.