Q: Hell on Wheels has more permanent structures this year, but the church looks mostly the same. Did it get any upgrades?
A: Yes, actually. There’s a little room attached, which was Reverend Cole’s room. Last year, it was actually quite a bit smaller, and whenever we shot a scene in there it was difficult to navigate the camera and to negotiate the space.
Q: Ruth seems to thrive in the Hell on Wheels environment, taking over for her father and, in fact, helping him out the door. Do you relate to how she handles her world?
A: I don’t like to rock the boat. I don’t like upsetting people. I don’t like being selfish. Ruth doesn’t necessarily want to behave the way she does, but because of where she is and what is required of her in those situations, she just has to get on with it and do it. I’ve never been confronted with a situation like that, but I probably wouldn’t want to kick out my father and make him a rambling drunk. [Laughs]
Q: Your goodbye scene with Reverend Cole is so emotional. What was it like to shoot that?
A: The first take we did, I just completely broke down and started sobbing. I wasn’t acting at all. For me, it was Tom [Noonan] saying goodbye to me, and so it was really difficult. But all that gushy stuff aside, when we had to do the actual stabbing, we had a blood squib and, in the middle of the take, our makeup artist, Gail Kennedy, handed it to Tom, and he crushed it against his stomach. It looked so amazing.
VIDEO: Inside Episode 207, “The White Spirit”
Q: Where do draw your inspiration when playing Ruth?
A: Music is an enormous part of how I work. I have a little playlist for each scene. In terms of people, from early on in the season until Daddy unfortunately kicks the bucket, Tom [Noonan] was an enormous, enormous inspiration.
Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from him?
A: I have a tendency to over-analyze things, and his approach is very natural and very organic. He’ll just throw something at me, and I’ll respond to it. It’s a very spontaneous process and a very energetic process. I think that’s been really important for me to explore.
Q: Ruth and Eva both engage in forbidden romances. Do you see similarities between the two women?
A: I’d say they’re similar just in terms of survival, of just doing what you needed to do to just live through the day. All the women of that time, prostitute or upper-class, they were all just trying to survive. And they’re all very strong in their own way.
Q: What do you enjoy most about shows like Hell on Wheels?
A: Kids today worry about going shopping at the mall or being late for the movies. But back then, there was a question of whether you could find your next meal, you know. You had to make your own clothes; you had to grow your own food. The differences are so fascinating to me.
Q: What’s the most fun thing about working on the set of Hell on Wheels?
A: What was really wonderful was the set this year. It was so much bigger and we were by a river and it was absolutely stunning scenery. But the weather is crazy. There was a scene we did that had to be at night at my room in the church… and there was a tornado on set. I just thought, if we were in the 1860s, Ruth would have to endure that tornado, but I’ll just get in my car and drive back to the hotel!