'Hell on Wheels': Anson Mount on the scene he fought to keep in the season premiere

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Image Credit: Chris Large/AMC

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Hell on Wheels‘ season 3 premiere, stop reading now. Anson Mount spoke with EW about a scene likely to have fans talking…

In the two-hour return of the AMC Western, Cullen Bohannon (Mount), the new chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad, tried to convince a Mormon family to peacefully vacate its land, which his tracks were set to cross. After agreeing to a survey to determine if the tracks could go around the property instead, Bohannon — a widower whose new love interest, Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), was killed in the season 2 finale — was invited to spend the night at the family’s home. He ended up in the barn with a daughter (who looked like a teen, but was actually played by a 23-year-old actress, according to Mount).

“The network almost made us cut that [sex] scene out, and we fought for it to stay in,” Mount says. “I’m not interested in pure, untainted heroes, just like I’m not that interested in strength. I’m interested in weakness, and I’m interested in what makes somebody human. Just because somebody’s had their heart broken doesn’t mean that they don’t get a hard on every now and then. Okay. It’s just realistic. He’s out there alone. The only thing he’s seen is whores, and half of ‘em have syphilis. What’s he gonna do?”

The scene also, however, speaks to Bohannon’s ambition and priorities. After the survey determined the tracks must go through the family’s land, Bohannon sent his new Chief of Police with Elam (Common) to deliver the news. The chief was shot and killed by someone unseen. When Bohannon returned with soldiers to the home, the father claimed it was his son who’d fired, and the son didn’t contradict him (despite Bohannon’s encouragement). “The reason the sex is so important in that scene is that he has to hang her brother the next day,” Mount says, “and he doesn’t even question it. He has to get on with the railroad. The law is the law. It makes the killing of that boy much more difficult, but he does it. We also had a scene in that episode in which I was reading to her little sister before she went to bed. We didn’t have room for it, unfortunately, but that’s the kind of stuff that we were trying to set up to make that ending so much more difficult.”

If the father’s last line to Bohannon — “You owe me a life for the one you took from me today” — didn’t already suggest that this story isn’t over, Mount confirms it. “That’s gonna come back around in ways that I cannot tell you,” he says of Bohannon’s tryst. (Are we thinking a pregnancy?)


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