When you signed up for the series, did you know you were going to die in Episode 5 or was it a surprise for you?
It was a surprise for me after being selected. I just finished, I don’t know, maybe the first episode and Taylor Sheridan was like, “Hey, I’ll send you the rest, read it, and then let’s talk.” He sent it over, and I read it, and I [Episode] 5, and I’m crying. I am confused. I can’t even believe it. I’m so sad. And then we talk about it, and we’re seeing where the story comes from. All of which are pivotal in Elsa’s entire spin-off and her backstory. It really made sense in the plan of things, but no, I was just as heartbroken as the people who watched it.
It’s a big episode for you in terms of plot, but also your final episode. I think it’s bittersweet. What went through your mind when you were filming your last scene?
Plenty of emotion. We are rooting for these two characters. We see some quick ups and downs and James Dutton has a lot to do with that. We ended up completely falling in love with each other and the innocence and purity of those two were on display. Then what happens eventually happens, but in my mind, Ennis is a hero because he knows what’s happening on that hill and bandits are on their way. He basically said, “Stay here,” and he went and got the bullet for her.
I say this with 100% certainty, if he could go back and do it all over again, he would do it the same way because he missed. The guy went down, but he took a shot. And the shot that Ennis took was the one Elsa didn’t have to do. I think that really shows the heart and soul of who Ennis is, and then, to take one last breath talking to James, saying, “I love her,” is an incredibly emotional moment. action, especially for the part they already have, James and Ennis. It was a sad moment in the end, but Ennis, he gave up his life for the love of his life. He leaves with a smile because he knows he saved Elsa.
Which brings me to my next question, which you may have just answered, but you do it all in one episode, have sex with Elsa, get engaged and die. Do you think that’s a fitting ending for Ennis?
Yeah, and I got punched in there too! It’s a whole range of emotions right there. It’s been a roller coaster for Ennis, but that’s the show. It was a first day for everyone, and the surprise it brought was life back then. There are very few rules. You’re flying by the seat of your pants, and this episode shows that throughout. That’s a lot, but I also think we’ve seen a big turning point for a lot of the characters in this episode, especially for Elsa and Ennis.
There was a lot of naivety before [this episode]. We finally see Ennis stand his ground and stand up to the man he just wants to approve of [James]. And now, we see that he doesn’t need approval because he already has everything he ever wanted in Elsa. So it’s strong, and the arc of these characters is reaching a climax, and then we’ll see some kind of valley. Then we’ll see another climax, but what an emotional episode, and I’m grateful to be able to participate in it.
https://www.looper.com/736462/eric-nelsen-reflects-on-his-time-on-1883-and-why-ennis-had-to-die-exclusive-interview/ Eric Nelsen ponders his time in 1883 and why Ennis had to die