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EXCLUSIVE TV Goodness Q&A: Anson Mount Discusses Season 3 of AMC’s Hell on Wheels [INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Warning: Spoilers Discussed

Back in June, TV Goodness attended the ATX Television Festival in Austin TX. We talked to some great people and sat in on some really good panels. We screened the second episode of Hell on Wheels‘ season 3 (the premiere was too CGI heavy and not quite ready) and got an opportunity to sit down with series star Anson Mount to discuss the evolution of his character, what’s coming up this season, and what he loves most about his job.

TVGOODNESS: I love how Cullen Bohannan changes yet stays the same. Can you talk about playing this character and how that’s changed from the first season?

Anson Mount: “This season he’s having to change in terms of maturation, but not out of a decision to mature. It’s literally a question of survival. He has to mature in order to survive. When he first came to Hell on Wheels, it was totally a fluke that he discovered this enterprise that resembled an army. Totally a fluke. But then that allowed him to begin to keep fighting his war. And then when he came into a position of power he decided to run the enterprise like an army and found out that doesn’t work. And so now he’s having to- if he wants to keep this thing that’s filling the hole in his life and in his heart he’s got to figure out how to run it. That requires a certain level of thinking and operating beyond base instincts. So that’s where that comes in. And if it was a decision to mature it would be boring and I’d want to be on another TV show, but because it’s maturation for survival’s sake I think that’s really interesting.”

TVGOODNESS: Do you think part of that was forced on him because of Lily’s death…

Anson: “No. Absolutely not, no. You’ll see in the beginning of episode 1. He could easily die. He’s in a situation where he could die. He is drowning. He’s a drowning man. When you’re in a situation where you’re in danger of drowning your instinct decides for you whether you’re gonna go through with it or not. And his instinct says, ‘No. I’m gonna swim to the surface.’ So he wants to live. He does. He doesn’t quite know why but there’s something deep in him that has a kind of begrudging hope.”

TVGOODNESS: As we go into season 3 and we’re meeting these new characters who come into town and interact with Cullen, can you talk about how it’s been to work with the new actors and go into these new directions with your story?

Anson: “We’ve been very lucky. We’ve hired some very cool people. We’ve got Jennifer Ferrin, who’s a new contract player. We’ve got a fellow who’s a friend of mind that I went to grad school with named Leon Ingulsrud. He’s a founding member of SITI Company, which is Anne Bogart’s theater company, and he’s playing Doctor Major Augustus Bendix. He’s a very dangerous Calvary major.”

TVGOODNESS: And we meet him in episode 2, right?

Anson: “Yeah.”

TVGOODNESS: He’s an interesting character.

Anson: “He’s like- do you read any Cormac McCarthy?”

TVGOODNESS: Yeah, I have.

Anson: “Have you read Blood Meridian?”

 TVGOODNESS: I haven’t.

Anson: “Well you need to read it.”


Anson: “He’s like the judge. He’s profoundly, deeply intelligent. And bigger than everybody and he uses his size and his intellect for nefarious purposes.”

TVGOODNESS: He definitely impressed me and he wasn’t on-screen for very long.

Anson: “He’s just an odd-looking dude. It’s interesting. And then Mr. Toole’s brother, Declan Toole comes to town to find who he believes is his brother’s child. There’s actually a cultural standoff between the Irish and the Freedmen about whose baby this is.”

TVGOODNESS: Sounds good. How far along are you in filming this season?

Anson: “We’re in the middle of episode 5. Neil LaBute is directing episode 5 right now.”

TVGOODNESS: That’s exciting.

Anson: “He came on board as the fan of the show and we’ve really enjoyed working with him. Obviously he’s a smart dude. This is his first episode of television.”

TVGOODNESS: What’s coming up this season that you’re excited about and allowed to discuss?

Anson: “I had to learn a little bit about lacrosse. I can’t tell you exactly why.”

TVGOODNESS: And what have you enjoyed in the past two seasons?

Anson: “The best part of my job is riding my horse. It’s the best part of my job. I just get to be in the sunshine on my horse.”

TVGOODNESS: I know you can’t really give away too much, but can you tell us anything else about the premiere?

Anson: “Yeah. At the end of season two Cullen Bohannan is offered the position of temporarily running the Union Pacific. And this survival mechanism that springs into life in him, his swimming to the surface is getting to New York to accept the position and it doesn’t necessarily go smoothly.”

TVGOODNESS: Nothing does.

Anson: “So a big part of our first episode is set in New York City. We have three locations: Hell on Wheels, Omaha,Nebraska, and New York City. And it’s a big, expensive episode. [Laughs] We spent a lot of money on this episode.”

TVGOODNESS: Did you shoot on location?

Anson: “We built sets. We were gonna do reciprocity with Copper and we were gonna use their New York sets and let them use our railroad sets and some lawyer f*ckheads got involved and decided that we were not allowed to do that.”

TVGOODNESS: Well, we’re excited for the season to start. We like what we’ve seen so far.

Anson: “We’re pretty happy with it. We’re still tweaking it a little bit.”

TVGOODNESS: It’s been a good journey to go on, seeing how the other characters in the camp have evolved as well. Who’s your favorite person to work with?

Anson:Common. He’s one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with.”

TVGOODNESS: I love that relationship. Tell us a little more about its evolution.

Anson: “Good and I’m proud that we didn’t go the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor route. The immediate friendship would’ve been stupid.”

TVGOODNESS: It wouldn’t have been believable.

Anson: “But because we’ve done that, it’s really paying off now. And you’ll see. I think that’s maybe the best part of season three, is seeing that relationship start to evolve.”

TVGOODNESS: That’s great to hear because I do love your scenes together. 

Anson: “You’ll see. It takes root in episode one. Cullen is in full Grisly Adams mode and he’s gonna go to New York and do this crazy thing and the one person he has to have with him- and he goes and finds Elam. But then…”

TVGOODNESS: The twist.

Anson: “He’s very underhanded about it. You’ll see why. I don’t want to ruin it for you. It’s so good. It’s so good and so wrong. [Laughs] It’s so…it’s…so…it’s a good episode.”

Season 3 of Hell on Wheels premieres Saturday, August 10th at 9/8c.

Edited for space and content.

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