Almost being hanged, gaining and losing a baby, surviving a bear attack — it hasn’t been an easy journey for Hell on Wheels’ Elam Ferguson. AMC asked actor Common to share his insights on some of his character’s most memorable moments. Find out what makes these scenes special and watch clips of the moments themselves.
Cullen Saves Elam From Hanging – Season 1, Episode 7, “Revelations”
“The scene at the campfire between Elam and Cullen Bohannan really was the first time you saw the two men open up to each other, so it was a pivotal moment — and the hanging scene was really tough to be a part of.”
Q: How difficult was the transition from music to acting? — Burnside
A: It was difficult because it was something I had never done before, but at the same time, it was so invigorating and energizing and so inspiring that it really wasn’t difficult. Because I love it so much, and I feel like it’s a blessing to do, I’m always excited about it. When you love something, it’s not as difficult. One difficult aspect, though, was having people within the film and television industry see me as an actor and not just Common, the rapper. Being able to be seen as the actor that I am and let my work do the talking – that was difficult. I definitely know that I’m growing. It’s a journey, but I’m with the journey.
Q: When you’re immersed in playing your character, how much of Elam is drawn from historical interpretation, and how much is drawn from your own experiences? — Snake Eyes
Continue reading “Hell on Wheels Q&A – Common (Elam Ferguson) Answers Fan Questions” »
Got any burning questions for Common about playing Elam Ferguson on AMC’s Hell on Wheels? Here’s an opportunity to ask! Submit your query in the comments section below by Monday, September 15 at 9AM/8c. Then check out Common’s fan Q&A, which will be posted exclusively on amc.com later that week, to find out if he answered yours.
Hell on Wheels airs Saturdays at 9/8c on AMC.
Q: You’re now in your fourth season of playing Thomas Durant. In what ways do you think Durant has changed most since the series began?
A: Well, I think it’s been a tough journey. He’s been battered and bruised, he’s been shot and nearly died, he’s been broke, he’s been in jail — a lot of stuff has happened to him that he probably didn’t anticipate. It’s been a rough ride, and I think now he’s much more realistic about what he can get done. He still has that burning ambition to get the railroad done and get it through, but I think he’s aware that it’s not as easy as he thought.
Q: Though the arrival of John Campbell in Cheyenne would seem to present a major challenge to Durant’s authority, Durant dismisses him as “nothing more than a bureaucrat.” Do you think Durant feels at all threatened by him?
A: Durant has dealt with much more senior people than Campbell. What we haven’t seen a lot of in the last few seasons is Durant operating in Washington. He has a number of senators and various high-card people in his pocket, so I don’t think he’s threatened. I think Campbell is an irritant, but I don’t think Durant is up at night worrying about him particularly. Durant has dealt with much more powerful people than Campbell.
Q: In Episode 404, Durant goes out of his way to help Eva and wants nothing in return, telling her they’re “friends.” What do you think his motivations are for looking out for her?
Q: What were you most looking forward to when you started filming Season 4?
A: Revisiting the character of Psalms, and further development of the character. When he was introduced, he was a Freedman, and you didn’t think that there would be anything new or different from the other guys. Now, he’s starting to see things differently as he becomes head of labor on the railroad. To see him go from being property to being in charge is a huge leap. It’s a major arc: He went from being this angry, bitter guy who looked out for himself to looking out for others.
Q: You’ve been playing Psalms for four seasons now. In what ways are you most similar to Psalms? In what ways are you the most different?
A: We’re similar in that he’s a good storyteller and he looks out for others and his fellow man. Taking the time period into consideration, African Americans were very limited in the choices that they had, so I would imagine Psalms had a more tenacious personality. It’s not that I’m not tenacious, but you had to do a lot more then. That was probably a drive that you had and didn’t even know it. At that time, you had no idea if you would live to see the next day. You counted your blessings.
Q: You’ve had your share of fight scenes on the show. Do you enjoy doing them? Were you hoping there would be more this season? Continue reading “Hell on Wheels Q&A – Dohn Norwood (Psalms)” »
Q: You’re now in the fourth season of playing Eva. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about your character so far?
A: The most interesting thing I’ve learned about Eva is how resilient she is, and how much of a romantic she is as well. She started out really tough in Season 1, and then, of course, the whole Elam and Eva love affair was a big milestone in her life and in her evolution. It really allowed her to get in touch with the more human, softer, feminine side of herself. Giving away baby Rose was a real destruction point, and I found it fascinating that part of her survival mechanism in giving away the baby was that she did it not just to protect the baby, but also to protect herself and Elam from a community and an environment that might not be nurturing of a child belonging to a mixed-raced couple. She did that, and yet she still wanted to keep the relationship with Elam. That didn’t happen, so her resilience had to come into play. That’s what I’m exploring this season: How does Eva bounce back from her lowest point possible and build herself a new identity?
Q: Has the new season presented any new challenges for you?
A: Yes. I had a really strange experience at the start of the season, where I just felt really numb and I couldn’t figure out if it was me, as an actor. I figured out eventually it was because Elam isn’t in scenes with me anymore.
Q: So did being without Elam affect both Eva and you, as an actor, as well?
Q: You previously directed the Season 3 Finale, “Get Behind the Mule.” What was your favorite moment from that episode?
A: I came into this show as a viewer first, so for me to get a chance to put Cullen Bohannon and the Swede together again towards the end of last season, knowing the audience was waiting for it, was a real thrill for me. That was one of my favorite parts, and definitely a highlight.
A: It was really nice, because it’s so much easier once you’ve actually done it and you understand the vibe. Suddenly you know all these faces and how the game works and you feel like you’re a part of the community. That’s always a nice thing.
Q: Is gearing up to direct an episode of a television drama at all similar to preparing for a play? How so?
Q: Has your approach to portraying the Swede changed at all since you first started playing him?
A: Whenever I approach a character, I take what’s on the page and I compile a list. What do I know about the character? What is said about him? What is the truth? What is questionable? The interesting thing about the relationship between [Cullen] Bohannon and Thor Gunderson is that they say many things about each other which may or not be true. So, I try to go through the script myself and not take what someone says about that character. I have four seasons of information about my character, but also about the characters with whom he interacts. My perspective of the Swede has changed, as I think the Swede himself has changed.
Q: In your Season 1 Q&A, you described the Swede as “a Norwegian survivor of the Andersonville Prison Camp who has the weighty responsibility of ‘keeper of order’ amongst the group of harlots, murderers and dipsomaniacs that is Hell on Wheels.” How would you describe him now?
A: He’s a very interesting creature, and has a very personal, yet distant, relationship with God. His actions always attempt to close that distance. Every step he takes, every move he makes… wait a minute, I’m going into a song… I’ll be watching you! [Laughs] Everything he does, from his perspective, is in honor of his desperate need to please God. An impatient God who wouldn’t mind wiping out humanity: That’s the God that Thor Gunderson understands, so it allows him to be this honorable Old Testament creature. Some may question the morality, but every character on this show has been created so beautifully flawed. The Swede is the absolute antithesis to our hero. He’s a formidable and dangerous adversary.
Q: So is he still a keeper of order at the Mormon fort?
Q: With three seasons now under your belt, has your approach to playing Cullen changed at all?
A: Yes. My approach to Cullen has to change every season if you expect to have a character that’s going to develop at all — a character that has the same conflicts or the same issues all the time is going to grow very boring. Walter White was described as a man who transforms from Mr. Chips to Scarface, and I thought that was brilliant. I’m not sure if I can define an arc as clearly as that for my character, but my touchstone word this year is “maturity.” To Cullen, that means one thing towards the beginning of Season 4, and his approach towards that runs the risk of hamstringing him later in order to get through an interesting arc. I think it’s interesting because, in a way, Bohannon and Durant will be crossing paths this season — Durant’s going to the dark side, and Cullen is trying to pull himself out of the muck and do something that is beyond himself.
Q: Has it gotten easier or harder to play Cullen? Are you still discovering new things about him? Continue reading “Hell on Wheels Q&A – Anson Mount (Cullen Bohannon)” »
Siobhan Williams, who plays Naomi Hatch on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, talks about her unique audition process and an eerie surprise on set.
Q: You’ve said that you received a “fake script and character breakdown” during your audition. What exactly does that mean?
A: When I went in for my audition, I was given a scene where I was playing a character who I didn’t know too much about. In the scene, she had fallen off of her horse and [Cullen] Bohannon was there. She was being abrasive with him and not necessarily taking his advances very well, but by the end of the scene, she was really flirting with him. I think what they wanted to see was basically the chemistry between them.
Q: When did you find out which character you’d actually auditioned for?
A: I found out about a week later that I was in contention for the role of Naomi. Around that time, they mentioned that it was possible that my character would end up pregnant later in the series. They didn’t say whose baby it was. I still didn’t know that I was going to be getting together with Bohannon, so it wasn’t until after I actually booked the role that I found out.
Q: Were you surprised at how Naomi’s story eventually played out?
A: I was very surprised. I didn’t know until the finale that I was going to be married. That was a shocker to me. I had gone over, in my head, all of the possible directions that I thought the character could go by the end of the season and getting married was definitely not in the cards when I was thinking through. I was surprised in a very pleasant way.
Q: What was it like wearing the pregnancy prosthetic?