Julia Schlaepfer as Alexandra of the Paramount+ series 1923
Emerson Miller/Paramount+

'1923' Star Julia Schlaepfer Dishes on the Future of Alex and Spencer Dutton

 "I do hope that there's a payoff and they have a beautiful reunion down the line. But then again, it is the Yellowstone universe, so you really never know."

As 1923's rebellious rich girl Alexandra, Julia Schlaepfer has really been through the cinematic wringer. Alongside Brandon Sklenar's Spencer, she's faced angry elephants, swam from a shipwreck, scuffled with angry exes, and been torn asunder from her one true love. Indeed, Alex and Spencer just haven't been able to catch a break throughout the entire first season of 1923, and things aren't looking all that great for the kismet couple as we look forward to season 2. 

Schlaepfer says she's eager to see what happens to the (hopefully) happy couple as well, sitting down with Wide Open Country for a chat about how she landed her spot on 1923, bonding with her castmates at cowboy camp, and how this Colorado girl came to adopt a very believable British accent. Read on for all that and more. 


Wide Open Country: Tell us about the process of getting cast on 1923. How did you know Alex was the character for you? 

Julia Schlaepfer:  I actually had never seen Yellowstone or 1883. My parents were obsessed with it, and they had been begging me and my brothers to watch it for so long. It became a running joke in our family, where my brothers and I would just be like, "Well, now we're not going to watch it," because they would just get so mad that they couldn't talk about the shows with us. 

When I got the audition for 1923, I was actually with my parents. I ran downstairs and I was like, "You're never gonna believe what just came into my inbox," and they freaked out. They were, "You have to get this one. This is our favorite stuff." They also were like, "Well, now you have to watch 1883 and Yellowstone, so joke's on you." 

I read the scripts and the character audition sides and the character description, and it was pretty hard not to immediately fall in love with Alex and the storyline. I put the audition on tape and pretty quickly, Taylor [Sheridan] came back and said, "We want to fly you out to Jackson Hole and have you screen test." I went out there and did that. Taylor, and Ben Richardson, our director, and all the producers were there, and I did my screen test for them. It was a five-hour day, and it was really beautiful. By the end of the screen test, Taylor and I were crying together. It was really great. 

He called me the next day in the airport as I was flying home, and he said, "You're Alexandra. Get ready for the ride of a lifetime." It's been unreal. I feel so lucky that I got to travel the world and play such an incredible, feisty character. It's been amazing.

Brandon Sklenar as Spencer and Julia Schlaepfer as Alexandra of the Paramount+ series 1923

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Wide Open Country: Were you testing opposite Brandon? Did you do a chemistry read?

Julia Schlaepfer: No, we didn't do a chemistry read. Brandon had just been cast. He actually called Taylor before our screen tests and was like, "Do you want me to fly out and read with all the girls?" Taylor was like, "No, they're already under enough pressure, it's already stressful enough. I think I'll get a sense for who you'll get along with." 

Taylor had all of the girls come in twice to read. The first time I read, I was just reading with the casting director, and he was watching. Then he asked us to come back in one at a time and redo the whole process. It was about 28 pages of material total. He came back into the room and said, "OK, I'm reading with you this time, I'm going to be your Spencer. I just want you to be yourself. Drop all of the character ideas you had, drop all the prep work you did, I don't even care if you do an accent or not because we'll get a dialect coach for you. I don't care about that. You just be you and read it with me." 

Because Taylor's written the story, he knows the characters and it was incredible. It was just so easy to connect with him. I think by like the third scene — they were pretty emotional scenes — by the third scene we were tearing up. The last scene I read was the letter scene from episode 4. We were reading that one, and I started to see Taylor get a little misty eyed. By the end of the scene, I was crying and he was crying, and it was silent in the room. I looked up and everyone in the room, all the producers and the director and everybody, we were all crying together. We all looked at each other like, "What just happened?" We all laughed about it. 

Taylor just has such a sense for people, and I think that he knew Brandon and I would really hit it off, and we really did. The first time Brandon and I met, we just had instant chemistry, so we got really lucky.


Wide Open Country: That's fortunate, considering you were really shooting together off away from everyone else. You're on your own little island, sometimes literally.

Julia Schlaepfer: It's so funny. We all went to cowboy camp before shooting and the entire cast got really close, and then we had to leave to go to Africa. I'm really good friends now with Aminah [Nieves, who plays Teonna Rainwater] and Michelle [Randolph, who plays Elizabeth Strafford], and we were so sad to leave each other. I would FaceTime them every day and update them. 

But yeah, we were totally like in our own little world over there. When the show started to come out, it was really weird, because that was like our secret little project and now everyone's seeing it.

Brandon Sklenar as Spencer and Julia Schlaepfer as Alexandra of the Paramount+ series 1923

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Wide Open Country: You are very much not British, which I think some people would be shocked by. How did you nail the accent? 

Julia Schaepfer: They set me up with a really incredible dialect coach named Jessica Drake. In my original audition, I did a modern British accent. I studied accents in college and so I had a handle on very modern British dialects. But when I started working with Jessica, she was like, "I saw your audition tape, but this accent that we're doing is so specific because it's 1920s and it's royalty. It's like Queen Elizabeth, but even more heightened, because it was before Queen Elizabeth's time. She wasn't even born yet." 

We worked really hard, watching interviews of a lot of royals. Princess Margaret was a big one. Taylor specifically wanted me to look at Princess Diana. And so I looked at those two references, but it is very specific. At first it was a tad jarring because I was like, "This sounds so heightened," but it really was accurate to that time. So I worked with her and we read through every script. I had a couple months of prep time while we were waiting to go film in Africa, so I just honed in on that. 

Our director, Ben Richardson, is British, which was really lucky. I would go up to him every day and ask, "Did that sound good?" Actually, at first he wasn't saying anything during the first week of filming. He didn't mention the accent at all. I was like, "Oh, my gosh, am I totally screwing this up?" And then the second week, we were filming the scene where Spencer and Alex meet for the first time at the Stanley Hotel, and I'm was about to run in for a take. Ben turned to me and he was holding this very specific British type of candy and he started to talk and he stopped himself. He was like, "Oh my gosh, Julia. I literally forgot that you were American. I was about to bond with you over the fact that they brought us British candy on set." That was all the confirmation I needed. I wasn't worried at all after that. 


Wide Open Country: Were you method? Were you using your accent all the time? 

Julia Schlaepfer: You know, I wasn't. I would slip in and out of it for fun. I kind of do that with my friends all the time anyways. One of my best friends is British, so I'll do it with her. 

I found it more helpful to do it as soon as I was in character on set, like as soon as I was dressed as Alexandra. Once I was in that world, then I would stay in it, but when I was off set I just didn't find it helpful. 

Wide Open Country: Tell me about where you guys shot. Obviously, you mentioned Africa, but where else? 

Julia Schlaepfer: We were only in Montana for cowboy camp, and then they shipped us off. We started in Salt Lake City for a couple of days to film with the live leopard for episode 1. I was on set every day because I was so excited to get started and then we went to South Africa, like all over South Africa. We were in Cape Town, Durban, Limpopo. We were out in the bush for a while. Then we flew up to Kenya for all of the Zanzibar beach stuff. Then we went to Malta for the water tank, and then we ended in Long Beach, California, on the Queen Mary for episode 8. 

It was quite a whirlwind, but it was so much fun. We were living out of suitcases, and we were dirty and tired, but it was like the most fun version of those things. We were having the time of our lives. It was really freeing. 

Julia Schlaepfer as Alexandra of the Paramount+ series 1923

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Wide Open Country: Were there days where you were like, "I can't believe I'm out in the African bush shooting a TV show? How did I get here?" 

Julia Schlaepfer: Pretty much every day was like that. I'm still processing that I was in Africa. It was so wild. 

I think the first day it hit me was pretty early on. We were shooting that scene with the elephants. They had real elephants, like there was a herd of elephants. There were a couple of babies that were so cute, and they had these elephants trained to actually run towards the car that we were filming in. It was unreal. Like, the car was flipped over and we were positioned kind of crumpled up inside of it. 

They were trying to get the elephants more comfortable with us, because they're actually very sensitive and so they were scared of us. They handed us oranges because elephants love citrus, and so we would stick out our hands and the elephants would come down and scoop the oranges out of our hands. It was so unreal. I felt like it was all fake. It was insane. 

Even those scenes in Mombasa at the ports, you know, we had 800 extras on set. Brandon and I would show up and be like, "I cannot believe that we are the two idiots that they trusted to tell this story." It was surreal. We feel so lucky. And for that reason, because we were in these majestic places every day, we felt such a responsibility to tell the story to the best of our abilities. 


Wide Open Country: A lot of people online have pointed out that pretty much every single thing Alex and Spencer do ends up in some sort of life-threatening scrape. Did it ever seem like that? And do you think these crazy kids will ever catch a break? 

Julia Schlaepfer: Every script that Taylor would send me, I would start reading and be like, "Oh my gosh, they have the worst luck. What is going on?" 

As an actor, I felt so lucky because it's a dream to get to act out these scenarios. As soon as I read the shipwreck scenes, I was like, "That is gonna be so fun and such a challenge," so I just couldn't wait for that sequence. 

I really hope that they stay out of trouble in season 2, but I doubt it. Especially with that ending, I think that both of their journeys home are now going to be even that much more difficult because they are apart from one another. 

I don't know what happens, though. We really don't know at all. We haven't gotten any scripts, but I do hope that there's a payoff and they have a beautiful reunion down the line. But then again, it is the Yellowstone universe, so you really never know.


Wide Open Country: Have you watched Yellowstone now? Are you caught up? 

Julia Schlaepfer: I am not up to date. I think I'm on season 3 right now. I was watching up until we started filming, and then I was like, "OK, this is too many worlds. I have ones I have to focus on right now." 

Julia Schlaepfer as Alexandra and Brandon Sklenar as Spencer Dutton of the Paramount+ series 1923

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Wide Open Country: Fans have been speculating about who John Dutton's grandparents are. Is it Spencer and Alex or is it Elizabeth and Jack? Do you know, or is that secret info? 

Julia Schlaepfer: We have a sense, but nobody actually knows. This was something that was highly discussed amongst the cast, especially early on during cowboy camp. Some of the actors would get into debates about who it was. At one point, we even drew out a family tree because we really were trying to figure it out. 

I have been told by our producer, Michael Friedman, that somewhere with Taylor there exists the full family tree. I haven't seen it, but they know what the lineage is. All we have is speculation now. We're all waiting with bated breath, just like the rest of the world. 


Wide Open Country: I have all the faith in the world that Spencer and Alex are going to end up together, even though they're separated now. Do you have faith in them? Do you think they're endgame?

Julia Schlaepfer: I do have faith in them. I think they're going to do anything they can to get to each other. 

What I'm excited about with Alex in season 2 is that I think in the last part of season 1, we really saw her grow so much stronger and learn a lot. I'm excited for that kind of ferocity and strength and bravery to come forward for her as she tries to get home on her own. 

I really do think she's going to make it. I think she's determined, and she's got a lot of fire. I would like to believe that they're endgame, too. But I'm always joking with Taylor, like when we first sat down for dinner when I was cast, I was like, "Alex is going to die, isn't she?" He said, "I don't know, I haven't written that yet, and I wouldn't tell you if she was."  

From the beginning, we've all been trying to get little details out of Taylor. But I would like to believe that they're endgame and they live happily ever after and get some nice relaxation and payoff after everything they've been through.


Wide Open Country: For real. Even when they get to Montana, it's not like it's going to be chill. They're going into battle. 

Julia Schlaepfer: I know, I know. Their whole journey was always just to get home. But then you forget that when they do get home, there's a lot of stuff that has to go down so it's going to continue to be tough, but we'll see. Truly, I'm excited to find out what happens when I get the scripts. 


Wide Open Country: As a viewer of the show, whose storylines are you really invested in? 

Julia Schlaepfer: Teonna's story is incredible, and Aminah is one of my best friends. She's so extraordinarily talented. That story is so important because it's a true story. It really happened to so many people, and so I'm very invested in that storyline. I really hope that she gets her redemption as well, because Teonna has earned it. 

Of course, maybe because the three of us girls are such good friends, I'm invested in Elizabeth's storyline as well. What happened to her in episode 8 is so tragic. 

We've been living together since the show wrapped, and so every week when the show is coming out, we'd sit down together and watch it. Sometimes we stay up until midnight to watch it. We'd be so excited to see each other's segments because we weren't there with each other while we were filming. I had no idea what it was going to look like or what they were doing in their individual worlds. It's been so nice to have them to go through it all with, and I've been so proud watching them.


Wide Open Country: Is there anyone else you bonded with from the show? Do you have Helen Mirren on speed dial now? 

Julia Schlaepfer: The whole cast really gets along. We have created a family. And I know sometimes people say that about their cast, but we really have separation anxiety when we're away from each other. We get together as much as humanly possible. 

Helen Mirren is the coolest person alive. She really is. We weren't sure what to expect or how much time we'd get to spend with her, but even in the short time that I was in Montana before leaving, she always wanted to hang with us. She would come out to the bars with us. I think it hit me about how surreal this all was when I got to buy her a drink. It was like, "Helen Mirren, I'm getting you a drink."  

She really is just so cool and so supportive and really treats us all like we're equal with her. That has been a dream come true, because she is an absolute idol of mine. I just can't believe that I'm on the same show as her.

READ MORE: 7 Heartbreaking Moments From the 1923' Season One Finale