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1st look: Common in AMC's Western 'Hell on Wheels'

By Curt Wagner

RedEye

8:56 AM CDT, May 4, 2011

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Chicago rapper/actor Common is going west for AMC’s latest original series, "Hell on Wheels."

Actually, he’s going north to Calgary to film the contemporary western that begins production May 16, according to AMC.

The series, set to premiere in the fourth quarter of 2011, stars Anson Mount as former confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon, “whose quest for vengeance has led him to the Union Pacific Railroad's westward construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad.”

Common plays Elam, “a freed slave who comes west seeking work on the railroad and his place in the world. As a half black, half white man he does not completely belong to either world.”

“Common brings a layered intensity to a very complex role,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC senior vice president. “This part required someone who can transcend the stereotypes of the period and bring the character to life in a truly unique way, and he brings that. We are thrilled to have him join our cast.”

In addition to Common and Mount, “Hell on Wheels” stars Dominique McElligott as Lily Bell, Colm Meaney as Durant, Ben Esler as Sean McGinnes, Philip Burke as Mickey McGinnes and Eddie Spears as Brother Joseph.

From AMC: “Hell on Wheels” tells the epic story of post-Civil War America, focusing on a Confederate soldier (Mount) who sets out to exact revenge on the Union soldiers who have killed his wife.  His journey takes him west to Hell on Wheels, a dangerous, raucous, lawless melting pot of a town that travels with and services the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, an engineering feat unprecedented for its time. The series documents the railroad's incredible feat of engineering and construction as well as the institutionalized greed and corruption, the immigrant experience, and the plight of the newly emancipated African-Americans during reconstruction. Over time, “Hell on Wheels” chronicles this potent turning point in our nation's history, and how uncivilized the business of civilization can be.  

After watching the early sneak peek video below, I think I’ve found my latest TV obsession from AMC after “The Killing,” “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.” Are you onboard?

Read Kyra Kyles' chat with Common at The Kyles Files.