AMC’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ takes on race relations

AMC western series “Hell on Wheels,” which premieres Nov. 6, will draw natural comparisons to HBO’s “Deadwood,” though perhaps the focus on the transcontinental railroad builders’ ever-moving camp will offer up a much darker “MASH.” 

One aspect that most intrigued the actors who spoke at the Television Critics Assn. panel for “Hell” today was the show’s approach to post-Civil War racial issues.

“I feel a true responsibility to be as true as I can to what black Americans went through at that time,” said Common, who plays an emancipated slave, “because we suffered through a lot of things but we also prevailed in a lot of things.”

Anson Mount plays a former slave owner who finds himself tensely reunited with Common’s character on the railroad build, which is being run by Colm Meaney’s entrepreneur, Doc Durant.

“One of the things I find uncomfortable as an actor is taking on the (bigotry) of a character, which is something you must do,” Meaney said. “If someone is a bigot and you must play that, it can be a little bit uncomfortable. I find that sort of surprising that it can be a bit unnerving.”

Concluded Joe Gayton, one of the exec producers: “The key is not to shy away from it.”

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