‘1923’ Star Brandon Sklenar on How That Heart-Wrenching Ending Will Shift the Tone for Season 2
[This story contains major spoilers for 1923’s season finale, “Nothing Left to Lose.”]
During 1923’s midseason break, Brandon Sklenar told The Hollywood Reporter that circumstances would only get more difficult for Spencer and Alex as they embarked on an arduous transcontinental journey to reach the Dutton family home in Montana. Well, as the season finale revealed, that was putting it mildly.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Wes Bentley on 'Yellowstone' Off-Camera Drama: "They're Still Working on It"
'1923' Star Michelle Randolph on Her Beautiful Romance and Cliffhangers Ahead in Season 1 Finale
The newly married couple played by Sklenar and Julia Schlaepfer narrowly survived a shipwreck until rescue came after a long period of being lost at sea. Besides their oceanic disaster, the Duttons had already escaped the clutches of a roaring elephant and a bloodthirsty collection of lions.
Once they finally stepped on solid ground again in Sicily, Alex re-encountered her ex-fiancé, Arthur (Rafe Soule), otherwise known as the British royal family’s Earl of Sussex. And later, in his drunken belligerence, Alex’s scorned ex-lover challenged Spencer to a duel on the first night of a three-week voyage to London. Needless to say, things didn’t go well for young Arthur as the famed American soldier and hunter had no choice but to throw him overboard to his death. From there, Arthur, Sr. (Bruce Davison) banished Spencer from the ship, with a devastated Alex still onboard and pledging to find him in Bozeman, Montana.
“Spencer’s trying so hard to keep it together and to avoid any conflict. And the most frustrating thing is Arthur’s persistence in making something happen. Spencer’s hands are tied there at the end, but yeah, the whole thing is incredibly tragic and incredibly frustrating,” Sklenar tells The Hollywood Reporter.
With Spencer and Alex now separated for an indefinite amount of time, Sklenar expects a tonal shift in season two.
“All I know about part two is that I’m certain there’s going to be a shift in the tone, just for Spencer and the show itself,” Sklenar says. “The stakes all around have been raised to a new level, and the pain and the guilt that he’s carrying into this next part is going to shape him into a version of himself that we haven’t seen yet.”
Below, in a spoiler conversation with THR, Sklenar unpacks more from the finale and also addresses the still-ongoing mystery surrounding the lineage of Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone character.
So, to pick up where we left off last time with Vice, the most intimidated I’ve ever been by Christian Bale was when his character threatens Shea Whigham’s character at a funeral, and you, as Spencer, reminded me of that scene when issuing warning after warning to Alex’s (Julia Schlaepfer) ex, the Earl of Sussex (Rafe Soule). Do you fault Spencer for what transpired?
No, I don’t fault him at all. But Spencer faults Spencer. I would’ve done the same thing, but I wouldn’t have handled it as well as he did. I think he handled it pretty well.
Alex is probably going to blame herself for not taking her own advice of staying in their room for the entirety of their three-week voyage. Would Spencer let her blame herself for what ultimately happened?
Not at all. He takes full responsibility. And at the end, when they’re ripped away from each other, he knows that she’ll carry some of that burden and that guilt. But he feels fully responsible for it, and his guilt just compiles at the end of that episode when they’re separated.
The British royal family was quick to call Spencer and Alex’s behavior dishonorable, and yet they acted without honor every step of the way. Is their hypocrisy one of the most frustrating parts of all this?
It’s definitely one of the most frustrating parts. At the end, Spencer’s trying so hard to keep it together and to avoid any conflict. They’re both so close to getting home, and he goes into it pretty confident that he’s going to be able to hold it down and prevent something from happening. And the most frustrating thing is Arthur’s persistence in making something happen. Spencer’s hands are tied there at the end, but yeah, the whole thing is incredibly tragic and incredibly frustrating.
Did they let you throw Arthur’s stuntman overboard?
They did! That was my first time doing something like that and hopefully my last time. Even when it’s a stunt guy, it’s a little nerve-wracking throwing someone off the end of the Queen Mary.
Were you and Julia making Titanic references throughout this section of the story? There’s certainly some overlap between Spencer and Alex with Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet).
(Laughs.) I always try to steer clear of any hard reference, but yeah, there were some jokes on set about it, especially when we were outside on the deck. There were definitely some Titanic references like, “I’m flying, Jack!” There was also a “king of the world” moment.
When on the bow of a ship, why not?
(Laughs.) When in Rome, when on the bow.
At the beginning of the finale, do you think Alex was suffering from motion sickness or morning sickness?
(Sklenar pauses and then laughs.) I don’t know. I hope it’s motion sickness.
Well, now that Liz (Michelle Randolph) has suffered a tragedy involving her baby, do you feel more confident that Spencer and Alex are the grandparents of Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone character?
I don’t. I wish I did, but I don’t. I honestly do not know. It’s something that we’ve all wanted to know the answer to, but I don’t think we’re going to know until everyone gets that episode, whenever Taylor [Sheridan] writes it and puts it down. But it’s something that he’s keeping very close to the vest, and genuinely no one knows.
I’ve gone back and forth on it every single episode.
Me too. From day one, we’ve all said, “No, it’s this person! No, it’s me. It’s Jack.” But I don’t know. It could go either way.
Have you been briefed on season two’s story or schedule yet?
No, but we’ve all been speculating. Hopefully, we’ll start shooting in the summer, and we’ll be on a similar timeline to this season. But I don’t know. All I know about part two is that I’m certain there’s going to be a shift in the tone, just for Spencer and the show itself. The stakes all around have been raised to a new level, and the pain and the guilt that he’s carrying into this next part is going to shape him into a version of himself that we haven’t seen yet. If I can speculate as the character, I could see it going there. And then, hopefully, he carries that home and is able to realize his purpose in terms of fighting for his family and saving the ranch.
Do you think it’ll go even darker?
I would say there’s a weight to it, but I don’t necessarily want to say darker. There’s a weight that I think the audience may feel in part two that wasn’t felt as much in part one, just based on the circumstances and where the story was. Taylor has just raised the stakes so high at the end, and they’re as high as they can be at that point.
1923 is now available on Paramount+. This interview was edited for clarity. Head here to read THR‘s interviews with Julia Schlaepfer, and Aminah Nieves and Mo Brings Plenty on the season one finale.