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Spencer Dutton of ‘1923’ speaks: Brandon Sklenar on working under a lion, new TV love, and the’mission’

Since the premiere of Paramount+’s “1923” in December, the enigmatic Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar) has become a smouldering fan favourite far from Montana’s Yellowstone Ranch, working as a for-hire hunter taking down threatening big game.

Spencer Dutton has arrived.

Spencer’s unexpected love affair with British socialite Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer) serves as a life spark, especially after tragic news from his aunt Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren) that Spencer’s brother John (James Badge Dale) and Yellowstone caretaker uncle Jacob (Harrison Ford) have been shot by rivals.

“That’s definitely a big shift – this is now a man on a mission,” Sklenar, 32, says of his breakout character in the “Yellowstone” prequel.

When “1923” returns from its winter break on Feb. 5, the lethal but sensitive Dutton scion will be “protecting his family and his legacy,” according to Sklenar. “He’s found love again, which gives him meaning.”

 I’m convinced it was my moustache that got me the part because I was 10 years younger than Burt in the story. At the time, it was extremely lucrative to play someone like Burt Reynolds.

Trauma is what drives him. He witnessed his murdered father’s death in front of him. His mother died of frostbite. Childhood trauma influenced his decision to fight in the war, where he killed dozens of people. Trauma is pretty much all he’s ever known.

He’s a war veteran who is trying to escape his past and deal with his PTSD by putting himself in as much danger as possible because he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. But by performing this dance with death, he discovered a reason to live. That was the bait.

Julia does an excellent job with this (accent). Taylor did not require us to do a chemistry read before casting us. I’m not sure how he knew, but it works, and I’m thankful. It’s critical because their story is so centred on these two at odds.

I’ve heard comparisons to Rip and Beth. That comes from this strange soul connection; they both know it’s not a good idea to be together. It’s difficult to describe or put into words.

I was actually under a 200-pound stuffed lion that appeared to be real and was obviously heavy. We had a real lion on set that day, and we used movie magic to make those scenes work.

It was surreal to see you driving a vintage car through the Kenyan countryside.

We spent 212 months in various locations, including South Africa and Kenya. You are not in Santa Clarita when Taylor Sheridan says you are in a location (California, where the series is filmed). Those vehicles aren’t reliable, but they’re entertaining to drive around in. On set that day, we had a herd of elephants. One elephant began to run around, and before you know it, four elephants are running around. It was a wild ride. The natural instinct is to flee, but this is the wrong thing to do.

Now for Montana: You grew up in New Jersey; how are your horsemanship abilities?

Much improved over the previous six months. If you spend every day on a horse with the best wranglers in the world for two months, you’ll get pretty good on the horse. I’m feeling pretty good right now. And there’s something in our DNA that makes us want to get on a horse, especially in Big Sky country.

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