If you’ve read us for a while (thank you), you know that Hell on Wheels is near and dear to us, dating back to the first season. The final episodes, set to air next year, are now shooting in Calgary, and I was fortunate enough to visit the set late last week for a peek behind the scenes.
They’re shooting the penultimate episode right now, so I can’t tell you anything on the pertinents of the day’s scenes, but I can tell you that a fantastically warm and welcoming group of people are putting together one of our favorite shows. The very large crew–easily over 100 people–were working outdoors the day I was there, and thankfully Calgary gave us a beautiful, cool but not cold, blue day. It was a terrific visit.
The show shoots on a ranch outside of town, and takes advantage of its prairies and vistas for several of the outdoor scenes. There is also a fixed set of streets and full buildings–many of which we’ve seen portray Laramie and Truckee, including the livery, Mickey’s bar, and Eva’s brothel. I was extremely chuffed to stand in the street where Eva had that terrific conversation with Brigham Young about coming home to the Mormons.
I walked through the saloon and hotel, which are immaculately decorated with period furniture and linens. The United Pacific office–complete with the bear–is full of papers, pens, desks, and period pieces, and if you’re at all a 19th century antique buff, the set would be your heaven.
Around back, Chang’s house and office and the tents for Truckee’s Chinatown still stand–everything in close proximity for easy and efficient shooting. Because of the way production runs, only one set tends to be in use at a time, but it allows for quick switches when an episode spans several locations.
Also still standing were the tunnel sets from earlier in season 5a, where we saw Bohannon and Tao (RIP, sniff) down in the mines. What we didn’t see in full detail onscreen was still there, too–a full bedroom complete with a bed, laundry line, stockpile of jars and cans of food, and a reading desk with books.
I met Marvin V. Rush, the director of photography, who’s created the amazing look of the show for its entire run, and he echoed what we’ve heard from our other Hell on Wheels interviews, that Calgary has become an integral character on its own. Unit photographer Chris Large was also on set, and he’s been the one to bring us all the terrific still photography over the years. I asked whether he tries to capture precise moments as they unfold onscreen and he said, no. Instead, his goal is to capture the big moments to help paint a picture of what the episode is about, while also being mindful to not spoil the episode.
I had the chance to chat with Jennifer Ferrin, Colm Meaney, Dohn Norwood, Phil Burke, and Kevin Davey. Here’s what they had to say about their picks for favorite moments that we’ve seen so far in the series:
Jennifer Ferrin: “Certainly the scenes with Eva and the abortion, because Louise is such a hardened character. We didn’t get to see much of her personal life at all. To play that vulnerability was really a little gift in the trajectory of her story, because for the most part, she’s been really rock solid, and hardened, which you had to be then. To be able to really share that was great. And all my scenes with Campbell. I loved working with Jake [Weber]. The scene where they got together was so exciting, the way it was written, but we didn’t know what it was going to be until we actually rehearsed it. Marvin Rush, our DP, was directing that episode and really wanted to give us an opportunity to rehearse, which was imperative. It wasn’t a sex scene, it was a game of chess, and that was so much fun to find, I think for both of us.”
Colm Meaney: “The terrific scene in the [5a] finale around the conference table to try to figure out how to end the thing, and the relationship with Maggie that developed was very interesting.”
Dohn Norwood: “The [real estate] scene with Durant and Psalms represented a lot. Having slaves buy land was a big deal. Also revealing the Central Pacific side of things and showing how Asian and Asian Americans participated in the construction of the railroad and the dangers they faced, was an interesting perspective to convey to audiences.”
Phil Burke: “I have fruit in every episode–I love that. That’s a complete straight rip-off of Brad Pitt in Oceans 12. Mickey’s still proving himself to everyone else. He’s still not on the level he wants to be. There’s still a level of show off and try hard, who doesn’t know he belongs, even though he does. There’s a few chips on his shoulder, and he’s [proving himself] by buying fresh fruit, or a nice suit. I love acting with Robin and Andrew [Howard]. Any time I can get in a scene with those guys and play around is fantastic. I like my office. I started a small art collection. The true diehard fans will notice the art collection.”
Kevin Davey: “In episode four of season four, right at the beginning in the teaser, I’m walking around town picking up dead bodies. We go to pick up what we think is a dead body and it’s actually Cullen Bohannon in the mud and he turns over and brings his gun up, and I just lean down and say, ‘Top of the morning, Mr. Bohannon.’ I thought it was a comedy moment, grinning at this disheveled Mr. Bohannon.”
You can catch up with Hell on Wheels through iTunes, Netflix and DVD. Season 5a is also on AMC.com a little while longer. Season 5b returns to AMC in the Summer 2016. Our library of Hell on Wheels previews, interviews, and recaps is here. Keep an eye on our Instagram for more exclusive pictures from the set.a
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…