'1883' Actor Eric Nelsen Explains Why Episode 5 Had to End That Way For Ennis

NOTE: This article contains spoilers for 1883 Episode 5 "The Fangs of Freedom."

The 1883 and Yellowstone creator said it "had to happen this way," according to actor Eric Nelsen, even if the latest storyline breaks fans' hearts.

If 1883 viewers didn't already know that life on the trail was dangerous, Episode 5 showed just how unforgiving it can be. Ennis, the new love of Elsa Dutton's life, ultimately broke her heart through no fault of his own by the end of the episode.

Nelsen, who plays Ennis in 1883, spoke to Newsweek about his character's arc and his heroic death.

Ennis has become a fan favorite during his short stint on the Paramount+ Yellowstone spin-off, and Nelsen admits he's has been forced to lie to viewers of the show for weeks now.

"I've had people reach out saying, 'there's always twists and turns and I pray you're not a part of them' and 'oh, I just pray you don't die. You're my favorite character.' And every time I read that, part of me kind of falls apart because I know what's coming," Nelsen told Newsweek.

In a time where 'men were men' Ennis stood out as a cowboy with a softer side, something which endeared him to Elsa (Isabel May) and to the watching audience.

"I saw Ennis as the outlet to kind of go against the grain of the show a little bit," he said. "We live in this extremely dark, gritty world in 1883 and Ennis is that little beacon of light that can pop through and put a smile on audience's faces—but at the same time, he is also a badass cowboy."

As sad as it is to say, that beacon of light has now been extinguished as Ennis was shot dead during Episode 5 of 1883. His dying words spoken to James Dutton were "I loved her."

Eric Nelsen 1883 image
Eric Nelsen played the young cowboy Ennis in "Yellowstone" spin-off series "1883" on Paramount +. Ethan Miller/Paramount+ / Getty Images

Unaware his own stint on the show would be so short, Nelsen admits he confronted creator Taylor Sheridan when he found out about his character's demise.

"Once I read all the scripts, I ran to Taylor and I was like, 'Why? Why? This is who we were rooting for the whole time.' We're rooting for this couple and we finally get them there and then it all falls apart."

Sharing Sheridan's response, Nelsen said: "And he's like, 'you'll see. Keep reading. It has to happen this way.'

"So for Elsa's journey, it's a complete turning point in the story, and it sends her on a trajectory where she otherwise wouldn't be heading, and it is pivotal for the character."

Nelsen continued: "So it does make a lot of sense and you'll see as the rest of the episodes unfold that, for Elsa, it had to happen this way."

1883 Episode 5 still
Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) and Ennis (Eric Nelsen) took their relationship to the next level in Episode 5 of "1883" on Paramount+. Paramount+

While Ennis' time on the show may be over, Nelsen is still thankful he was cast by Sheridan in this fan-pleasing role.

"When Taylor casts, he says he really looks for the soul of the character in his actors. We did some developing but I pretty much fully developed Ennis on my own and brought it to Taylor and he loved everything about it. He really let me run with it, which was a gift."

Nelsen can take away many new skills from his time as Ennis on 1883, thanks to the cowboy boot camp the cast attended prior to shooting. Nelsen admits his cowboy credentials were "at about a 5/10" upon arrival, but he left "at about 11/10" with honed horse riding skills and the ability to rope cattle.

The camp was so immersive the cast were also fed food from the time period, which Nelsen believes helped make the world on screen so believable.

Eager to work in Sheridan's expanding TV universe again, Nelsen says he'd be game for anything the showrunner asks him to do. "I told Taylor, there would never be a part, a role or a character that he would call me for that I would ever say 'no' to. Working with him has been a dream."

Nelsen has starred in some Dodge Ram commercials with Yellowstone actor Jefferson White recently, which has got the fan base murmuring.

"Some of the fans have came up with these theories that I'm Jimmy's great, great grandfather and that's why they're pairing us in these commercials, and that it will later come out that we're actually related in some way," Nelsen added. "Maybe that'll be seen somewhere? But that's a complete fan made up idea but it was cool. I like it."

1883 will continue on without Ennis and Eric Nelsen in Episode 6 which airs on Paramount+ on Sunday, January 30.

Update 01/18/2022, 2:43 a.m. ET: This article was updated to reflect the new release date of Episode 6.