Paramount+’s Western series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ was originally unveiled as ‘1883: The Bass Reeves Story,’ a spin-off of the Duttons’ origin saga ‘1883.’ The ardent admirers of the ‘Yellowstone’ universe have been eagerly waiting to see how the path of James Dillard Dutton (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill), the protagonists of ‘1883,’ will cross with the legendary lawman’s life. The Duttons, whose members range from James to Kevin Costner’s John Dutton III, establish their Yellowstone Ranch around the same time Bass becomes a famed marshal. But do their tales intersect in the new historical series?
The Duttons Are Absent From Lawmen Bass Reeves
Irrespective of announcing the series as a spin-off of ‘1883,’ ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ was then conceived as a standalone project without any ties with the ‘Yellowstone’ universe, which includes ‘1883.’ Therefore, the Duttons do not feature in the David Oyelowo-starrer. When creator Chad Feehan was brought on board of the show, he was given permission to develop the period drama as a spin-off of the Duttons’ tale but his research into Bass Reeves took him in another direction.
“There was conversations about a tie into ‘1883’ before I was hired, and when I was hired I was given the freedom to craft the most compelling story that I could alongside the other writers,” Feehan told TV Insider. “I was given the opportunity, if there was a place to tie it to ‘1883,’ that was OK, but there was no obligation to do so. And so, we landed where we landed, which was our story takes place from roughly 1862 to 1877,” he added. Since the Duttons’ narrative begins only in 1883, it is understandable that they do not feature in ‘Bass Reeves,’ whose narrative ends over half a decade before the same.
The absence of the Duttons is also the result of both show’s geographical settings. “Bass primarily operates in [Native American] territory, which is modern-day Oklahoma and Fort Smith, Arkansas. And so it didn’t feel natural or organic to bring in any of the ‘1883’ characters to the story,” Feehan said in the same TV Insider interview. Since James and Margaret Dutton do not have any reason to appear in these territories pre-1877, their exclusion from the series is justified.
Feehan could have integrated the Duttons into the narrative of ‘Bass Reeves,’ especially since the namesake lawman lived until 1910. Still, the creator decided to focus on the most eventful and significant period in the life of the deputy marshal without dragging the narrative to post-1877. “[The timeline of the show] was a product of the breadth that we had to work with [in] eight hours. It was also driven by crafting, again, the most compelling narrative with these similar moments of his life,” he added.
David Oyelowo’s Bass Reeves is an Original Character
Similarly, Bass Reeves is not a character in ‘1883.’ David Oyelowo doesn’t feature in the show in any capacity either. Oyelowo had been developing ‘Bass Reeves’ for eight years. “I can’t tell you how many times in shooting the show I just found myself walking into either a daydream I had, either as a kid playing cowboys when I was younger, or even as an actor in the eight years I’ve been trying to get this thing made,” the actor told Vanity Fair. “Paramount+ didn’t exist at that time, and I think Taylor Sheridan was still trying to be an actor back then, so it was quite a while ago,” he added about the time he pitched the project for the first time.
Eventually, Sheridan came on board. However, the creator and writer of ‘1883’ understandably might have not found any scope to include Bass, an Arkansas and Oklahoma-based lawman, in the narrative of the same, which is mainly set in Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Since the real Bass died in 1910, it is impossible to include the character in any of the sequels to ‘1883,’ which are ‘1923’ and ‘1944.’ Therefore, Oyelowo’s Bass isn’t and seemingly never will be a part of the narratives of the ‘Yellowstone’ shows.