Yellowstone prequel series 1883 stars Tim McGraw as James Dutton. Tom Hanks also has a cameo, but why is he in the show, and who does he play?
Yellowstone prequel series 1883 features a Tom Hanks cameo in its second episode. 1883 premiered exclusively on Paramount+ on December 19, and features a cast full of big names. Tom Hanks may be the biggest name, however, despite having only a brief appearance in the episode “Behind Us, A Cliff,” which warrants some explanation as to why he is in the show and who he is supposed to be playing.
Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner as John Dutton, owner and operator of the largest ranch in the United States and head of the Dutton ranching dynasty. While the series is set in the present day, however, the Duttons have owned their land for many generations, stretching all the way back to the late 19th century. Thus, the subject of 1883 is the Dutton family’s ranching origin story, as they leave their home in Tennessee to head West and search for a new life. In the process, they encounter as much conflict and violence as their 21st-century descendants have over the four seasons so far of Yellowstone.
1883‘s cast of characters is heavy-hitting all around, but Tom Hanks is an especially noteworthy member. The two-time Oscar-winning legend appears at the beginning of 1883 episode 2 during a flashback of James Dutton’s (Tim McGraw) to the Civil War. Hanks plays a Union General who offers Dutton some consolation before taking him prisoner. This is General George Meade, who was actually a real historical figure.
Born in Spain to Pennsylvanian parents, the real Meade’s military career began in the 1830s and 40s during which he served in the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. Meade was also a civil engineer during this time. Despite spending much of his career living and working in the deep South, Meade fought for the Union in the Civil War, and is best known for his decisive victory over Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Yellowstone spinoff show 1883 shows Meade, as played by Hanks, at the earlier Battle of Antietam, however. There, he offers a sympathetic presence to McGraw’s James Dutton, a confederate soldier, as they take in the aftermath of the South’s defeat in the bloodiest single day of the Civil War, and in fact all of American military history to this day.
It may seem odd for an actor as successful and well-known as Tom Hanks to have only a cameo appearance in 1883, especially given that he has no prior connection to Yellowstone. However, Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson are good friends of fellow celebrity couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who star in 1883, and Hanks’s short appearance was a request from McGraw, which he happily obliged. Since Yellowstone‘s 1883, as the title indicates, focuses on a time period a couple of decades after the Civil War, it’s likely Hanks/Meade won’t appear again. However, the character is still clearly an important one to James Dutton, who still grapples with his war memories nearly 20 years later, and to McGraw, who wanted to bring his good friend to the set to play the part. With plenty of other big names making up the show’s main cast, it will be interesting to see what other surprise cameos, if any, 1883 has in store.
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1883 releases new episodes Sundays only on Paramount+
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1883: Tom Hanks’ Yellowstone Cameo Explained – Who Does He Play?