We fell in love with him on wax, admired his ball playing skills in Just Wright and learned about his life in his book “One Day It’ll All Make Sense.” Now we get to see a more serious side to rapper Common as he takes on one of his most serious acting roles to date in AMC’s new series, “Hell on Wheels,” a Western that chronicles the building of the transcontinental railroad.
In “Hell On Wheels” Common finds himself playing a mixed-raced former slave named Elam Ferguson, who works on the rail system. For Common, taking on this role was a huge challenge due to the history of slavery in this country, but he hopes that his character is able to defy some of the stereotypes often seen on television and in film.
“A lot of times we’ve seen slaves obviously going through so much pain and trouble, they were oppressed and downtrodden, so it was more of a lower position. (My character) has been through a lot of things, but is holding his head up high and his shoulders are up strong. I feel blessed that I’m able to represent what a black man, what a black person was at that time,” he says, “but it definitely was some weight and some pain.”
The series, centers on Cullen Bohannon, a former Confederate soldier and slaveholder who is avenging the death of his wife. After setting his slaves free a year before the Civil War, he takes a job overseeing the workers on the transcontinental railroad, which includes Common’s character Elam Ferguson. Even though the show takes place during a point in history well before his time, Common realizes that many of the issues are still relevant today and thinks the show is a small step in healing the past, “It’s still in us and we’ve got to remove it. Along with it just being entertaining and being fresh – it’s an important show.”
Hell on Wheels airs Sundays at 10pm EST on AMC.