LaMonica Garrett talks early days in acting, Black representation in westerns and role in ‘1883’

LaMonica Garrett
Photo: Bobby Quillard

From the time he was young, LaMonica Garrett loved entertaining.

Whether it was breakdancing, rap or plays, the California native knew he had that creative energy flowing through him. His other love was football, and though it took him pretty far, he wasn’t able to make it his career so he turned back to acting.

“That was first passion. I got close to the NFL but didn’t make it, so I went back into acting,” said Garrett. “I moved to LA and over the course of time, I had some ups and downs. But I really stuck with it and started to take off.”

Garrett has appeared in a number of shows, including “The Flash,” “Arrow,” and “Supergirl.” For Garrett, the role that really solidified that acting was the right move was when he joined the cast of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.”

“It was my first day on set. Seeing the professional actors and how they prepared each day, what it takes to get to that level of creativity was incredible,” said Garrett. “To be a fly on that wall and process, it hit home that I gotta double down on this.”

These days you can find Garrett on the Paramount+ series “1883.” Set in the western part of the United States, the show is a prequel to the popular show “Yellowstone” and follows the Dutton family as they flee poverty in Texas in search of a better life in Montana.

Garrett plays Thomas, a cowboy who is a former enslaved person and an American Civil War Vet. He now serves as a Pinkerton Agent alongside fellow cowboy and war vet Shea Brennan, played by Sam Elliott.

“Thomas is a former slave that ended up becoming a Buffalo soldier. He meets Shea and the two grew to be brothers, with those two traveling through life together,” said Garrett. “They’re responsible for getting an immigrant family from Texas to Oregon and are hired to protect them. Thomas is a loyal guy, he has a moral compass that people gravitate towards.”

Garrett watched a lot of westerns himself as a child but didn’t notice at the time that there wasn’t a ton of representation on the shows he was watching. 

“Black cowboys in 1880s are not seen a lot but have a rich history. I grew up watching westerns, and my mom said ‘I never saw a Black actor in the opening credits,'” Garrett recalled. “I never thought about it, but it affected me.”

What truly sets “1883” apart from other westerns is that it is telling stories from the perspective of Black cowboys and immigrants alike without drastically changing the western genre as a whole.

“What’s unique about [1883] is that it has different groups that didn’t have representation. Black cowboys weren’t in the mix in shows like ‘Gunsmoke,’ or ‘Bonzana.’ We’re getting perspective from immigrants that didn’t have a voice, as well as a different look at how women were perceived in all of this,” said Garett. “It’s different compared to past westerns. We’re not recreating the wheel, but looking at it through a different lens that you haven’t seen before.”

Garrett hopes that those who are in the filmmaking world continue to tell the stories of Black people and immigrants during that era in American history because it further adds to the story of our country.

It means a lot, not just for the genre but other avenues. I hope young filmmakers and writers invest more into research and more stories, period, with people of color,” said Garrett. “It’s history. They say it’s a diversity push, but it’s actually telling a story of history.”

Garrett says that those who tune in to watch Paramount+ will be in awe of the cinematography but will also be completely drawn in by how refreshing the story is to the western genre of television.

“I think [audiences will] look at it as a cinematic masterpiece. The visuals, landscapes and nature is the leading character and it jumps right out at you,” said Garrett. “I also think that if you’re familiar with the west in the past, it’s refreshing to get westerns that look through different goggles, like immigrants and Black cowboys, and how they see the world so you can get a better understanding of who they are and why they are coming here. The show as a whole each week picks back layers, it’s great.”

“1883” airs weekly on Paramount+. Follow Garrett on Twitter and Instagram @lamonicagarrett.

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