Eric Nelsen grew up around horses, so he felt pretty good about his role as a cowboy in the new Paramount+ series, 1883. He quickly learned that he, well, had a lot to learn.
Prior to filming the series, the actors were all required to attend Cowboy Camp, which essentially teaches them all there is to know about cowboy culture. There, Nelsen was humbled.
“My parents are big into horses. My dad was a horse trainer most of his life and my mom rode and showed horses, so it was very much a part of my culture in my life,” he told PEOPLE at the global premiere of the Yellowstone prequel at the Wynn Las Vegas on Saturday.
“I had never ridden at the capacity and the intensity that I have on this show,” he added. “So I think it brought my level of cowboy from five to about a 20.”
Still, despite knowing a thing or two about horses, Nelsen was still new to other things needed for his role as cowboy Ennis.
“I had never roped before, so all of that was a new side of it for me. It was exciting to learn and I had always wanted to,” he said. “Even still, I thought I had skills and I got there and [1883 creator Taylor Sheridan] told me what I didn’t have. There was still so much to learn. So I kind of just kept to myself and just learned from the best.“
Those skills, though, make 1883 authentic. “It is a rollercoaster of a journey but what you can expect is the most raw, gripping presentation of a Western of that time,” Nelsen said.
“You know, you watch these Hollywood movies and a lot of the times they can fluff it up a little bit and make it easier for the viewers to watch at times, make them see what they want to see as opposed to what it actually was,” he added. “And Taylor’s gift is just showing the most authentic version of what this is. And that’s exactly what he does.”
1883 will be available to stream Dec. 19 on Paramount+.