1923 takes Yellowstone to Africa

By Gen Terblanche16 October 2023

1923 takes Yellowstone to Africa

While 1883 gave us the story of how the Duttons founded their ranch, and Yellowstone brought us up to date, the latest series in Taylor Sheridan’s Dutton saga takes us back to Paradise Valley in 1923, during the Great Depression, Prohibition era, and a time of rampant abuse at the boarding in the Indian Schools.  

Watch the trailer for 1923 now

It’s a restless, difficult time for Dutton patriarch Jacob (Harrison Ford, Blade Runner 2049) – the big brother of 1883’s James Dutton (Tim McGraw) – and his wife Cara (Helen Mirren, Anna). So while James’s oldest son John Sr (James Badge Dale) helps Jacob to run Yellowstone, John Sr’s brother Spencer (Brandon Sklenar), a World War I veteran, escapes to seek his fortune in Kenya as a big game hunter, where European decadence clashes with Kenyan locals and a frontier wilder than any he’s ever known.    

1923 is on Showmax

Through 1923 Taylor Sheridan shows how the Duttons become killers to survive. Spencer’s sister Elsa (Isabel May) narrates in the opening scenes of episode 1, “Violence has always haunted this family … And where it doesn’t follow, we hunt it down. We seek it.” And as Spencer starts the series, he’s still at war with the monsters in his mind.

There’s a death wish at the heart of the fact that he’s hired himself out to hunt and kill the hyenas, leopards and lions who’ve turned man-eater (partly inspired by Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson’s account of the real-life man-eating lions of Tsavo).  

But you couldn’t get further from the horror of Europe’s trenches than the wide plains and skies in Africa, and Spencer is about to find a reason to live again.  

Watch 1923 now »

Off the map 

For episodes 1 to 5, Sheridan and his team shot Spencer’s scenes across three different African countries – Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania – during 2022. But things aren’t always as they seem.  

Michael Greyeyes as Hank and Aminah Nieves as Teonna in 1923 now streaming on Showmax
  • Scenes set at the train station in Nairobi in episode 1 were really filmed KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, where the Umgeni Steam Railway, a locomotive preservation society, runs vintage steam trains between stations on a historical line between Botha’s Hill and Inchanga (nicknamed the Inchanga Choo Choo) that dates back to the 1880s.
  • Scenes set in Nairobi’s famous Stanley hotel (which lost its original facade when it was torn down and rebuilt during the 1950s) in episode 2 were shot in KwaDukuza in the iLembe District of KwaZulu Natal at Kearsney Manor, a mansion built in the late 1800s for sugar baron Sir James Liege Hulett (now mainly used as a wedding venue). The Stanley is where Spencer meets the woman he’ll fall in love with, a British aristocrat named Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer).
  • Establishing shots of the African savanna in episode 1 were filmed in the Serengeti National Park in Northern Tanzania, which is home to the great migration, and the largest population of lions in Africa. This is also where Spencer’s hunting scenes and the safari tent camp set were located. Brandon Sklenar has revealed that the hunting scenes were shot with a combination of real live elephants, leopards and lions, CGI effects and model animals, including a huge stuffed model lion and a life-sized elephant head on a mechanical rig (used in a thrilling attack scene in episode 3).
  • Spencer’s romantic Zanzibar “hideaway” scenes in episode 4, during which he and Alex frolic in the waves, were really shot at Diani Beach in Kenya.
  • Scenes set in Mombasa’s harbour in episode 5 were really shot in Kalk Bay, a small working fishing harbour near Cape Town, South Africa
Yellowstone prequel 1923 is on Showmax

Talent spotter 

With 1923 shooting in Africa, all sorts of familiar faces pop up. These are just the credited names we recognised, but keep your eyes peeled for extras and background performers, too.  

  • Zambian-born Kondwani Phiri (the young Lorenzo in American Gigolo) plays safari guide Linda in episodes 1 and 2. 
  • Nairobi-born actor Raymond Watanga plays Spencer’s unlucky guide Kagiso in episodes 1 and 2. 
  • South African Adam Neill (Cornelius in Desert Rose) plays Benson, the representative for the Protectorate of Kenya who deals with Spencer in episode 1. 
  • South African Clyde Berning (Frank Evans in Die Byl S3) plays Richard Walsh, a tourist in Kenya in episode 1. 
  • South African Nick Boraine (Harry in Strike Back S1) plays Richard Holland, the safari tour head who hires Spencer to hunt the man-eaters in episodes 1 and 2. 
  • South African Rendani Mufamadi, who recently made a splash as Hepoko in One Piece, plays Spencer’s chauffeur and assistant Gatimu in episode 2. 
  • South African Rafe Soule plays Alex’s fiance Arthur in episodes 2, 7 and 8.  
  • South African Bianca Bosch (Olivia in The Kissing Booth films) plays Rachel, the bridesmaid at Alex and Arthur’s engagement party in episode 2.  
  • South African Colin Moss (Thayer in Warrior S3) plays Charles Hardin, one of Spencer’s hunting contacts in episode 3. 
  • South African Ben Tjibe, who worked on casting The Woman King, plays the boat captain who transports Spencer and Alex into Mombasa Harbour in episode 5. 
  • South African David Chevers (Dr Lategan in Die Byl S3) plays the Union Castle Line shipping ticket clerk in episode 5.  
  • South Africans Paul Snodgrass (Murphy in Redeeming Love) and Byron Lee Olivato play the captain and first mate of the Mauretania respectively in episode 5.  
  • South African Nico Panagio (host of Survivor South Africa) plays Captain Yiannis, who introduces Spencer to the tugboat captain in episode 5. 
  • South African Craig Jackson (David Stein in Inconceivable) plays the merchant marine from the Lambridge who picks up Spencer and Alex at sea in episodes 6 and 7.
  • South African Luke Tyler (Hilton in Moffie) plays First Mate on the Lambridge who nearly interrupts Alex and Spencer’s honeymoon in episode 6. 

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