‘1923’ Star Julia Schlaepfer On Her Characters Harrowing Tugboat Scene: She Chose This Life No Matter What

SPOILER ALERT! This story contains plot details from the sixth episode of 1923 on Paramount+.

They’re not there yet.

Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and Alex (Julia Schlaepfer) are well on their way to see the Dutton clan in Montana, but the trip was delayed when their rickety tugboat (captained by Prison Break‘s Peter Stormare) collided with a gigantic ship. Fortunately, the couple was saved by a passing craft helmed by the appropriately named Capt. Shipley (Game of Thrones‘ Joseph Mawle), a gentle soul who marries the couple after offering them rings from dead sailors — and a smaller one around his neck.

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Here, Schlaepfer explains how they shot those challenging water scenes after spending a blissful two days frolicking on a beach in Kenya. And are they ever going to get to Montana? She promises it’s coming …. soon.

DEADLINE Before we get into Alex and Spencer’s incredible journey, let’s back to when you were first cast.

JULIA SCHLAEPFER My parents loved Yellowstone and 1883. I have never seen either of them and they would pester me and my brothers to watch all the time. We were never going to watch it because we thought it was so funny how much they wanted us to watch it. Then I got the audition, read the script, and just fell in love with the story and character, of course. When I got a callback, Taylor Sheridan flew me out to Jackson Hole to screen test. I read with Taylor as Spencer for the role. By the end of the audition, we were all crying in the audition room together. He called me the next morning when I was at the airport and he said, ‘you’re Alexandra.’ I met Brandon Sklenar on the first day of Cowboy Camp.

DEADLINE Oh, so you got to do Cowboy Camp!

SCHLAEPFER We were very lucky. Brandon and I got to do an extended Cowboy Camp because everyone was in Montana shooting. We had a month or two before we had to fly out to Africa with the crew. So we stayed in Montana, just the two of us, and we would go to the ranch every morning and ride on our own. Then we’d grab lunch and go for swim training [for the capsized tugboat scenes]. It was like summer camp, honestly.

DEADLINE You and Brandon had to jump into an intimate relationship pretty fast.

SCHLAEPFER Brandon and I were very lucky in the casting. That chemistry you see on screen just exists between the two of us. And there is such a deep level of trust, just like with the characters. Spencer and Alex don’t really know why they are so connected. Brandon and I have that. Taylor immediately put his trust in me and Brandon, really gave us the reins. I think that gave us the confidence to dive in.

DEADLINE When were you told you had to have a British accent?

SCHLAEPFER I knew immediately. They had me audition with a British accent. I studied accents at NYU, so I had a base level of an accent going on. But then they got me this amazing dialect coach who helped me specify it to the 1920s royalty that she is. I was doing a modern British accent when I went in for my audition. We honed it into this Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth-type of accent.

DEADLINE Where did you and Brandon shoot those beautiful From Here To Eternity-like beach scenes?

SCHLAEPFER Kenya. We were on the most beautiful beach in Kenya. It was the greatest two days of our lives. We were like two little kids and our director would literally yell from the beach saying, ‘we gotta work.’ We had been going so fast so our characters had a chance to just relax and have a moment of love and romance.

DEADLINE Where did you shoot those tugboat scenes?

SCHLAEPFER All of that was in Malta, which actually has one of the biggest film water tanks in the world. It was freezing. It was their winter time. We all thought it was going to be warm because Malta sounds like Italy — very warm. We just shivered in the water tank the whole week, but it was a great bonding experience and so much fun.

DEADLINE While stranded on the tugboat with Spencer, Alex gives a speech about about how she refuses to be scared. What was the meaning behind that?

SCHLAEPFER It was really important because when she decided to run away on an adventure with him, she genuinely wanted it and the danger that came with it. But she didn’t what that meant and what it entailed. She didn’t know what the world was truly like. We’ve watched her get absolutely rocked by all the things that have happened to them, the lions and now the boat. She’s finding her strength that she’s never had to access before because she grew up in such a privileged upbringing. As they continue their journey, there are going to be more moments like that. It’s going to continue to be difficult for them. She’s kind of convincing herself that she’s not going to be scared. She chose this life no matter what. It’s going to be her and Spencer until the end.

DEADLINE One of your final lines in the episode was how you’ll go wherever Spencer goes, even if ‘it’s the death of me.’ What did you read into that?

SCHLAEPFER Taylor doesn’t write anything that he doesn’t mean! When I first read that, I was like uh-oh. I’m truly going on not knowing what is going to happen to her. We don’t know what their fate is. I definitely think it means there are a lot more obstacles they are gonna have to go through before the end of the story.

DEADLINE The moment in the episode when the captain gives you the ring around his neck is very touching.

SCHLAEPFER That was such a special scene. We got to keep those. So Brandon and I both have our characters’ rings with us. They gifted those to us at the end of filming.

DEADLINE I know you can’t spoil it, but it’s certainly taking quite a while for you two to get to Montana.

SCHLAEPFER I know, everyone is so impatient online. I want to get to Montana, too. I want her to meet the whole family. I can’t tell you, but it will take some time. They’ve got to cross the ocean and they have to cross the country.

DEADLINE Where were you when you found out there would be a second season?

SCHLAEPFER Taylor had dinner with us one night and what trying to tease out what happens to our characters. Early on I think he realized that he wanted to write more for us. They were whispering on set about a second season happening. We are just so beyond thrilled and are pinching ourselves that we get to do this job.

DEADLINE Do you know how your character is related to Kevin Costner’s John Dutton?

SCHLAEPFER Everyone was speculating when we first got to Cowboy Camp. There were many debates about the family line. We would all poke fun at each other and try to figure it out. I was drawing out a family tree on the back of my script. We don’t fully know. Taylor keeps all those things quite a secret until he’s fully ready to show us the scripts. But we have a very strong idea. That’s all I can say!

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