“Hell on Wheels” has brought a lot of fire and brimstone to viewers’ screens in the first two seasons, with Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former soldier and slaveholder, bent on avenging the murder of his family as he works building the Transcontinental Railroad, heading west.
With season three (currently airing Saturdays on AMC), the show is looking inward, focusing more on what drives a man, and what good can come of devastation. At the center of this focus is Anson Mount, who plays lead character Cullen. We spoke to him over the phone from the “Hell on Wheels” set in Calgary, Canada, where season three is still shooting.
Q: How do you get into character?
Mount: Character is something you build. I just put on my boots. I really think the “disappearing into a character” thing is crap. Americans are the ones who always try to say it. They just don’t do that in Europe. They’re more realistic: acting is a job. It’s selfish of an actor to try to do this on set.
Q: When you go home, (White Bluff, Tenn.) do people recognize you?
Mount: If I go back, I’m generally doing an event, so yeah. Or they just recognize me because I’m from there. But I’ve changed quite a bit.
Q: Do you and Common (who plays Elam Furguson on the show) have rap battles on set?
Mount: (Laughs) No, but if we did, he would definitely win. We have talked about doing a funnyordie video though, with Cullen and Elam sitting around a campfire. We’d call it “Things Cullen Bohannon would never say.” An example would be like, “Hey Elam, whatever happened to Kool and the Gang?”
Q: What do you think of the show’s redirected focus this season, with a more introspective slant?
Mount: I think it’s a natural progression, and it’s made the transition from destruction through creation, which there actually was a lot of back then with eminent domain, to creation from destruction, where Cullen’s learned some things from the choices he’s made.
Q: Do you think “Hell on Wheels” is bringing the western genre to the forefront?
Mount: I think Westerns have experienced a downturn, but they never really went away. I think what movies are being made is a reflection of what’s going on in the world, and I think the personal struggle Cullen goes through, a lot of people are struggling too. I think it’s interesting that westerns and martial arts movies both became really popular in the 1970s, and I think they’re very similar in a lot of ways.
Q: So, the wolf attack in the Season Three premiere episode: how much of that was real?
Mount: It was mostly CGI. We actually had a very skittish wolf, and at one point he grabbed his meat pack and ran off to the woods, by the time we caught up to him he had eaten like four pounds of it and didn’t want to do a thing.
Q: Are there any television shows that you watch regularly?
Mount: I’m a huge fan of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” It’s the best show on television, ever. I’m actually going to be on an episode of “Talking Bad” later this season.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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