How much did you have to think about it being 1865?
With anything that’s done in this time period, obviously, we’re going to bring some kind of modernisms to bear because that’s what we have to draw upon. But it’s trying not to fall into that trap of being modern. With a lot of the issues in the show, our modern sensibilities are deeply affronted by a lot of the character’s actions. And yet, at that time in many ways, the show is actually quite forward because, you just have to put yourself in the mindset of the period. You can’t look at it from somebody in the 21st century; it doesn’t work like that.
So yeah, it is an exercise in not falling into the trap of being an advanced modern man.
And did you do a lot of studying up on the period and the Civil War? I love the scene in Episode 2 or 3 where you talk about the immoral mathematics at Andersonville.
Andersonville. I had no idea about the Norwegians in Andersonville. In our story their supply train is captured and this one Norwegian is put into Andersonville, but there was actually a whole troop of Norwegian soldiers as well who were in Andersonville. And there was quite a large Norwegian population there, which is something I’d never heard of. My father didn’t realize the amount of Norwegians that were involved in the Civil War and that were held captive in that horrible swamp of a place.
So that was eye-opening to myself and to my extended family. So that kind of education was great. Yeah, I did lots of research on that because it was something that I was completely ignorant of because it’s not something that’s really taught in school, certainly no schools that I’ve ever been to.
If you think about it, it’s not that long ago, the Civil War. Strangely, it’s still very fresh in so many minds. At the beginning of the year I was down in the South and the Civil War, it’s almost like it happened yesterday in many ways.
And yet for me, it seems such a long time ago, a foreign experience. So to try and bring the reality of that very fresh—I mean, this is just a year away from the end of the Civil War, it’s incredibly fresh. The wounds haven’t even healed or even close to healed. And I don’t even know if they’re healed necessarily today. But at that time these are still open wounds. Everything that everyone in this story has gone through—this is a horrible period in American history. And this story in many ways is part of the healing process, the rebuilding of the American dream.
And then, of course, he’s out hanging somebody else.
Well, you know, somebody has to lay down the rule of the law, right? It’s funny, because—I don’t know. When somebody says, “Oh, you’re playing the villain.” Oh, I’m playing the what? The villain? No, he’s not a villain. You know, you always want to blame the guy who has to be papa.
He’s just doing his job, right?
Well, I don’t even know if it’s so much doing a job as much as it’s always circumstantial, right? Everyone has to survive in this town. It’s not called Hell on Wheels for just a fun little name. It’s filled with murderers and thieves and someone who would steal the last penny out of their mother’s purse. These people are there, not just because they’re out of work, but because they’re all running away from something. Every single person there is running away from something or perhaps they’ve convinced themselves they’re running to something.
And they’re not law-abiding citizens. It’s not like the nice, friendly little town in the West where people are setting up a nice little shops and taking their kids to school. No, this is a very violent place. What’s the saying? “One less every day.”
People are dying or being killed through one action or another in this town. And he’s the guy who has to try and keep body and soul, law and order together in a lawless place. Do that by being understanding and cuddly? No, you got to lay down the law.
He doesn’t need to extort money from everyone though.
He’s the tax collector. You pay taxes. Do you not pay taxes? For your apartment, do you not pay tax to the person who runs the town?
I wish I didn’t have to.
Exactly. So, it’s just the beginning of modern government, modern municipal government.
I see your point. I think everybody’s going to kind of forget that even though Bohannon didn’t actually kill the guy that The Swede accuses him of killing, he’s killed plenty of other men in cold blood.
Yeah, but just before the guy gets his own throat cut, what’s Bohannon doing? He’s holding in his hand a knife. And he was going to kill him.