‘1923’ Star James Badge Dale On Sunday’s Shocker Ending: ‘I Left Something In That Dirt’

‘1923’ Star James Badge Dale On Sunday’s Shocker Ending: ‘I Left Something In That Dirt’

January 4, 2023

SPOILER ALERT! This story contains major plot points from Sunday’s episode of 1923 on Paramount+.

A rousing gunfight between the Dutton crew and some local sheep owners led to a shocking conclusion Sunday on 1923, with one major member of the famed ranch taking a fatal hit. That’s right, Taylor Sheridan fans: no one is safe from his fictitious bullets, even a prized member of the Dutton family (we’ll never forget you, Dave Annabel’s Leo Dutton from season one of Yellowstone!)

Here, James Badge Dale — the actor best known for The Departed — talks about playing John Dutton Sr. for only three episodes and how he knew from the start that his days on 1923 weren’t going to last forever.

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DEADLINE: So is it an honor to be killed off from a Taylor Sheridan drama?

JAMES BADGE DALE: I’m so happy to finally be able to talk about it because I did the whole press tour and they were like, ‘what’s the story arc here?’ And I was like uh, uh. I had a great time. They were very upfront with me on what they’re looking for and what they needed. It was a pleasure to play the role of John Dutton Sr.

DEADLINE: What was your audition like?

DALE: I’ve known [casting director] John Papsidera for like 20 years. He’s seen me in all sorts of ups and downs and lefts and rights. He called and said, ‘look, I think you might be the guy. Can you make a tape for us? Taylor’s just gotta see it.’ I was working down in North Carolina. I ran out at about 6 A.M. and taped in a swamp on my iPhone. There were like three scenes and I rewrote everything into one scene and I just knocked it out on my iPhone and in the swamp. I sent it to my agents and they were like, ‘there’s no way. Like, all you can hear are the bugs. You can’t send this.’ And I was like, send it, send it. Taylor saw it and said, that’s my guy. 

DEADLINE: This season came together very quickly. Did it feel like it was going fast?

DALE: They had the air date set already, so we were running up against it while shooting in Montana and dealing with the elements. We were up against the wildfire season, which was particularly bad this year. And then of course winter was coming. We worked fast, but we worked safe and we tried to work smart. 

DEADLINE: So what was your relationship with horses before this?

DALE: I’ve said this before. I was born in New York City. There’s a big difference between someone who grows up on a ranch and someone who grows up riding the subway. But Taylor hires good people and I’ve known these guys throughout the years. The guys who trained us were from the same wrangling team who was on The Lone Ranger back in 2013 [he played Dan Reid]. The guy who was my riding double back on The Lone Ranger was one of Harrison Ford’s stunt guys. They are good people and they bring good positive energy to work all the time, and they work safely. And I think that’s the most important thing when you’re working with animals. The animal is the main concern on set.

DEADLINE: So what do you think Taylor was trying to establish with your character in particular? What was the goal here in your short life? 

DALE: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the short life, cuz Taylor only gave me the first three scripts. I don’t know where this goes. My job was very specific and the way I saw it is once John Dutton Sr. dies, the younger brother has to come home. It’s a very epic romantic notion, how they need to get Spencer back here.

DEADLINE: What was it like working with Harrison?

DALE:  You know, there’s not many movie stars left. He is it. He is kind. He is humble. He’s the hardest working guy there. We had a great time riding horses together and I learned a lot from him. And we had a lot of fun. That’s the key. We do 80-hour work weeks. You gotta have fun. You gotta come in there and you better enjoy this and you better show up prepared and you better have a rough response to everything, man.

DEADLINE: So how did it go, doing that death scene?

DALE: We took three days to shoot that. Like I said, when you’re working with animals and gunfire, it requires a certain type of energy. You have to really control your heartbeat and your anxiety ‘cuz that animal is feeling everything. I was just so proud of this film group and stunt guys and how they were able to handle it. It’s not always easy. When I was laying in the dirt, I was thinking like, ‘you know? I’m leaving something in this dirt. I’m leaving something here.’

DEADLINE: Any chance you will come back as a ghost to haunt the family?

DALE: If Taylor calls me tomorrow, I’d say ‘all right. I’ll get on the plane.’

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