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AMC's 'Hell on Wheels' star Anson Mount talks with Philly2Philly

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AMC’s hit western Hell On Wheels returns on Sunday for it’s second season. Star Anson Mount, who portrays Cullen Bohannon, kindly took time between his many projects to speak with Philly2Philly.com.

Mount has been a working actor since graduating from Columbia University with an MFA in Acting. That foundation provided him with the skills to transition between theatre, television and film. Anson Mount photo: tumblr.com

“It was all classical theatre from Greeks to Ibsen, with a little Beckett thrown in there,” Mount says.

Prior to filming Hell On Wheels, he starred with Jason Statham in the movie Safe, which was shot in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Mount didn’t have time to enjoy the city.

“I was working in New York at the same time so I was kind of just going back and forth,’ Mount explains. “I teach in the MFA Acting Program at Columbia University, and I was bouncing back and forth between classes and the film.”

So how did an actor like Mount come to teach at an esteemed institution such as Columbia?

“They had me come in and create a position about four years ago, to head up the sort of preparation side of the third year of the acting program. And then I passed the position along to another alum last year, but I still teach the audition class. Basically the deal is I get to make my own schedule. And work comes first,” stressed Mount.

During his hiatus, Mr. Mount portrays Radha Mitchell’s husband in the pilot for the series Red Widow.

“It was great, I loved the role. For two or three years now I’ve been sort of  shying away from playing the…you know…the leading man, you know the good guy…started to play criminals and villains a little bit more. And this came along, and I said, all right, yeah I’ll do this. It was really nice to ease back into a role playing someone who’s just a lovely person.”

Mount definitely maintains a busy schedule, having filmed two movies: Supremacy and Code Name: Geronimo  prior to shooting season two of Hell on Wheels, which started production in April and wraps up later this month.

“AMC is a great place to work. They take a really long time to decide who they want to work with then they get out of the way and let you do their job. I can’t say enough good things about this job. It’s strange. I have never had people listen to my opinion so much as actor. It’s been great to be appreciated for my ideas as well as for my acting,” he says.  

While the actor is protecting the story line, he did share some production details about the new season.

“I don’t really know anything. I have heard a couple of rumors. I know that the second season is going to center around a construction project on the transcontinental railroad…where you’re going to be able to see the progress throughout the season. I don’t want to say more than that. Because we have a bit more of a budget and we can do more CGI, and we can do more construction, you can actually see what we’re working on. It’s not necessarily the tracks themselves.”

Mr. Mount did some research in 19th-century etiquette as part of his preparation for the role of the conflicted Bohannon.

“It’s a lot of a formality for me. I’m pretty formal compared to most men, because I grew up in the south. I do the thing that if I’m walking on the sidewalk with a woman, I’m the one who has to walk closest to the street. Most men up here don’t know that. Standing up a table when a woman excuses herself. Things like that men don’t really practice that up here, I’ve noticed,” he continues, “You have to take all of this with a grain of salt because they’re in a place with mostly men. And most of the only women you are dealing with are prostitutes. Who knows? And it’s not a place that built around manners.”

Despite his extensive body of work in just a short time, Mr. Mount is careful in the projects that come his way.

“I can’t really do I do without material that makes sense to me. Or material that I think is good and challenging. To just do something for the sake of doing it or it seems like it fits in an overall structure of things from a business perspective, I usually … fall and hurt myself. Right now it’s all about the material.”

Check out the AMC marathon of Hell On Wheels this Sunday before the premiere of season two. 

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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photo: tumblr