The connection between 'Lawmen: Bass Reeves' and 'Yellowstone' prequel '1883' explained

  • Paramount+'s new historical Western drama "Lawmen: Bass Reeves" premieres on Sunday.

  • The series is executive produced by "Yellowstone" cocreator and showrunner Taylor Sheridan.

  • It was originally billed as an offshoot of the Dutton family origin story "1883." — but not anymore.

One of the most overlooked heroes in American history is finally getting his story told in the eight-part series "Lawmen: Bass Reeves," which premieres Sunday.

Starring David Oyelowo in the title role, the series follows a freed slave in the mid-1800s who was the first Black man to become a Deputy US Marshal. Considered today a legendary lawman of the Wild West, Reeves is widely credited with being the inspiration for The Lone Ranger, according to

The series is executive produced by "Yellowstone" cocreator Taylor Sheridan and also stars Donald Sutherland, Dennis Quaid, Lauren E. Banks, Garrett Hedlund, and Shea Whigham.

It's sure to be a hit with fans of Sheridan's period pieces, "1883" and "1923," but for those wondering if the show takes place in Sheridan's ever-expanding TV universe, the short answer is no.

While "Lawmen: Bass Reeves" was initially conceptualized as a follow-up to "1883," the team behind the show later walked this decision back. Let us delve into exactly why.

The series was initially billed as a 'Yellowstone' universe show — but not anymore

When word first came that Sheridan and Oyelowo (who is a co-executive producer) were teaming up to bring the story of the legendary lawman to life, Deadline reported that the series would be an offshoot of the Dutton family origin story "1883."

As such, the series' link to the frontier-focused drama was signposted in its original title, "1883: The Bass Reeves Story."

It was never explicitly stated how the adventures of the legendary lawman would intersect with the first-generation Duttons that "1883" followed. Still, it didn't seem like an out-there idea, given the prequel series featured other historical figures, such as Marshall Jim Courtright (Billy Bob Thornton) and General George Meade (Tom Hanks).

Tom Hanks as General George Meade in "1883."
Tom Hanks as United States Army Major General George Meade in "1883."Emerson Miller/Paramount+

However, according to creator and showrunner Chad Feehan, turning "Lawmen: Bass Reeves" into a stand-alone project came early in the development process.

He told TVLine this month that linking the two series was "an idea that we briefly talked about" but was tossed aside when he realized the slave-turned-Deputy US Marshal's story wouldn't work in the confines of the timestamped prequel.

"Once I learned some of the things I didn't know about Bass' life and decided where we wanted to start the story and where we wanted to end the story, it preceded '1883,'" Feehan said.

Along the way, other changes were made, including Sheridan's decision to step into the less hands-on role of executive producer rather than director, as he was originally announced.

There are still some connections between 'Lawmen: Bass Reeves' and 'Yellowstone'

Christina Alexandra Voros, who has directed many episodes of the Kevin Costner-led series and some of "1883," directs the first three episodes and the finale. Damian Marcano takes on the episodes sandwiched in between.

There is another "Yellowstone connection" as Moses Brings Plenty, who plays the supporting role of Chief Thomas Rainwater's (Gil Birmingham) close confidant and driver on the main series, has been cast in "Lawmen: Bass Reeves." According to IMDb, he will portray a character named Minco Dodge.

David Oyelowo as Bass Reeves and Shea Whigham as George Reeves in "Lawmen: Bass Reeves."
David Oyelowo as Bass Reeves and Shea Whigham as George Reeves in "Lawmen: Bass Reeves."Emerson Miller/Paramount+

'Lawmen: Bass Reeves' could start its own franchise

According to a press release from Paramount+, "Lawmen: Bass Reeves" is the first of an anthology series that will explore "other iconic lawmen and outlaws who have impacted history."

There's no word on which other historical figures future seasons could shine a light on.

"Lawmen: Bass Reeves" premieres on Paramount+ on November 5.

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