Emmy- and Tony Award–winning actor and producer Eric Nelsen grew up in Florida, but since moving to Fort Worth in 2020, he’s embraced the cowboy lifestyle. When offered the role of Ennis on one of Taylor Sheridan’s Western juggernauts, the drama miniseries 1883, Nelsen jumped at the chance to return to his childhood horseback riding roots. More recently, he’s been working in Tulsa, filming a role as a bounty hunter for the western thriller Cottonmouth. (The production was granted a waiver to shoot while the Screen Actors Guild is on strike.) Now he says if he could only do westerns, he’d “be a happy guy.”
Before 1883 began shooting, Taylor Sheridan put his actors through the paces of ranch life at “cowboy camp.” Everyone “fell head over heels in love with the cowboy lifestyle,” Nelsen says. He likes to think of this way of life as a reprieve from his hectic daily life in the spotlight. In his day to day, “if someone’s spending more than ten minutes on a task, it’s taking too long,” Nelsen says. “But cowboy culture, I feel like it’s the exact opposite. They take time to appreciate the little things.”
Nelsen brings the “infectious” Texas culture back home to his wife, Sainty, and their two kids. (He’s even gotten Texas-born Sainty to sport cowboy boots more often, he says.) We reached Nelsen via phone at home in Fort Worth, where he shared a list of the cowboy comforts he brings into his daily life once the costume is off.
The cowboys and country artists Eric Nelsen admires have one thing in common, and it’s not a Southern drawl. Nelsen says that after seeing tried and true Texans wearing Wranglers, he bought a pair himself and was delighted to discover jeans that fit well and last. “You’ll just feel a little badass in them,” Nelsen says. You’ll find nothing but Wranglers in his jeans drawer, but his staple pair is the Icons slim cut.
Nelsen has worn his fair share of cowboy hats, but his favorites all come from the Fort Worth–based Best Hat Store. The hats are made with quality materials such as beaver and rabbit fur, and they’re custom fitted to each shopper’s specifications. Nelsen’s go-to is a silver belly with a classic upturned cowboy rim, which he “spiced up” with “1883” embroidered on the back, a Yellowstone pin, and a pheasant feather. Eventually, he dreams of upgrading from a Hollywood-inspired cowboy look to a hat that shows wear and tear from work on a ranch.
At first glance, Poncho’s shirts look like your classic Western button-ups. But unlike the stiff and heavy shirts of the past, these shirts are breathable and mold to your body, Nelsen says—perfect to wear in the Texas heat. “If I’m fishing, if I’m doing anything outside, I don’t have to just go to your standard Columbia lightweight fishing shirt,” Nelsen says. “I can still look cool and trendy and unique and have that Western flair with the pearl snaps.” While Nelsen has a penchant for Poncho’s pearl-snap options, you’ll also often find him wearing the Madaket flannel. Thanks to his busy film and travel schedule, Nelsen learned that he can shove the shirts in his bag and have them come out wrinkle-free.
From hosting parties to cooking up quick dinners for his family, Nelsen swears by his DCS grill. Even though it’s on his patio, he counts it as his favorite kitchen appliance. “It has this air of ‘Wow, I’m a master griller,’ ” Nelsen says.
Nelsen gets his steaks from 6666 Ranch, owned by Sheridan, where portions of the Yellowstone universe are filmed. The cattle on the ranch have been bred there since the 1800s, which Nelsen says “is just as top-notch as you can get.” With shipping now an option, Nelsen is already planning which of his friends and family members will be getting beef for Christmas.
As an ode to his love for Texas, Nelsen founded a bourbon brand that’s “Texan through and through.” He wanted to take a Texas staple that had “been on the shelf for decades” and make it more appealing to younger crowds. The bourbon, which is aged at least five years, is distilled in San Antonio and bottled in Dallas.