On “1923,” Michelle Randolph plays Elizabeth “Liz” Strafford, a feisty frontier woman and the fiancée of Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) and the mother of their unborn child. It’s that last fact that has been sending “Yellowstone” fans into a spiral since the question now becomes – will she be the grandmother to the John Dutton character (played, principally, by Kevin Costner) in the mainline series? Or will that fate fall to another character (Julia Schlaepfer’s Alexandra is the other viable option)?
In terms of the ever-expanding mythology of “Yellowstone,” this is a huge question and introduces an element of mystery and suspense to the series that will ripple through the entire franchise.
TheWrap spoke to Randolph about this questionable genealogy, as well as whether or not she was a “Yellowstone” fan before being cast, Taylor Sheridan’s style of working and when she’ll be back for the just-announced Season 2.
How familiar were you with the “Yellowstone” universe before you signed up?
I’m not going to lie. I did not watch “Yellowstone” before. My dad did. And he told me about it every day. I swear for the last five years of my life, I’ve heard the word “Yellowstone” too many times. And so I knew about it. And then when “1883” came out, I did watch “1883” and I loved that. I had heard about the fact that they were doing “1923,” but I was really surprised when I got the audition. Because, obviously, you don’t know what the story’s going to be. But I was really excited. Now I have become a “Yellowstone” fan. Now I know too much about “Yellowstone.”
Taylor Sheridan is infamous for not interacting much with his actors. What was that like for you, especially playing somebody who is so pivotal to the Dutton family tree?
Well, when we obviously auditioned, there was a character breakdown, so that had quite a bit of information to at least go off of. And then his writing is so good. Reading the scripts, it’s easy to get a sense of what you feel like your character’s job is in the story and who you are. But the freedom of it… I think what’s cool is that Taylor hires the person who is the character. For me, whenever I’ve met someone on set I knew exactly who they were playing right away. Amina Nieves is Teonna in my head. I can’t imagine anyone else being that. She embodies the strength of that character. And Julia Schlaepfer, she is Alex. I think he really casts the right person for the job.
Is it frustrating at all? Do you want to go to him and go, “Yeah, well, what is her motivation here?” Or is it just something that you internalize and work out for yourself?
I’m confident knowing that if someone wasn’t doing what Taylor had in his head, that he would tell them. However, thank God that was not the case for me. It’s an actor’s dream because you have such a specific idea of what is needed but then you have the freedom to make it your own. And I think that’s what brings magic to a character is when you have that freedom.
Sheridan is also infamous for turning in scripts very late. Does that cause any consternation on your part?
When I booked the show, I had the first three scripts so I knew that much. For me, once I have the character, I feel like, you know, who they are pretty quickly. You’re always discovering new things, but I was more just curious about what was going to happen. We always had enough time and I always had the scripts far enough in advance to where it didn’t throw you off. But I just wanted to know, where is the story going? And not even for my storyline, genuinely, I wanted to know what was happening in Africa. I wanted to know what was happening with Teonna. I think that’s cool that even knowing that I’m working on a project, that I wanted to know what was going to happen. Taylor’s writing is just so good.
People are talking about your character a lot since revealing that she’s pregnant because there’s some confusion about the Dutton family tree now. Are you aware of this at all? And do you have any insight?
I’m so confused. I have no idea. It’s funny because that’s been something that we as a cast have talked about since the beginning, and we have no… I have no clue. I know nothing.
I have no insight. We’re all in it together.
This week you have a big scene with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. What was shooting that like?
It was so fun. Honestly, they are both so easy to be around and they have great stories and they’re so present on set. It’s very surreal. I think the whole experience has been… just having booked the job and then we were all in Montana for six months… Everyone on that set became family. I’m pinching myself still, to be honest, working with those people.
Was there an intimidation factor? How did you break the ice with those two?
Well, we did cowboy camp, which I’m sure you’ve heard us all talk about a lot because it was the time of our lives. But we did cowboy camp before, so I had met Helen and Harrison both there. They didn’t partake in all of the things that we did, but Helen had to learn how to ride the buggy. And then Harrison, I think, rode a little bit. It was nice. Being able to spend so much time with Darren before and Brian Geraghty. Because there were a lot of days where maybe in the show it doesn’t look like we were shooting all together a lot, but those sequences… The horses and the town stuff and the shootout, those took weeks to shoot. We spent so much time together and that was so much fun.
Brandon said that when he met Harrison Ford he had to explain to him that he was on the show.
Well, it’s so funny. Did Brandon tell you when we all were at cowboy camp and Harrison was just perched on the fence? And we were like, “Who is this man watching us? This is so weird.” And then all the boys started to get all nervous. I was like “What? Why are all the boys acting weird?” And then we were like “Holy shit, that’s Harrison Ford!” He’s just chilling. It was great.
Season 2 was just announced. How thrilled are you to come back and explore this character further? Do you know when you’re coming back?
I don’t know exact dates yet. I’m so excited. The last thing I want to do is say goodbye to, not only this character but all the people I’m having a chance to work with. So this is a dream come true to have a second season.
“1923” streams on Sundays on Paramount+.