It’s a show that hasn’t been talked about very much on this blog – AMC’s post-Civil War drama series titled "Hell on Wheels," which first came along in 2011, at a time when there were several Civil War-themed projects (TV and film) either in development at various studios, or were already on the air, and so maybe that’s why it got lost in the shuffle; although it has survived, 5 seasons later.
It never quite grew on me; I watched a few episodes of the first season, but, maybe because there was so much else fighting for my attention, I just lost interest and thus didn’t stick around much longer. I have to admit that I haven’t watched an episode of it since the first few I did see during its very first season. Although I’m sure some of you reading this are big fans of the series, which co-stars rapper-turned-actor Common, who plays a character named Elam – a freed, bi-racial slave who heads west to find work, while also hoping to find his place in society, as he doesn’t feel that he fits squarely into either the “black world” or the “white world.”
I should say it co-STARRED Common because, his last appearance on the series, according to IMDB, was a September 2014 episode. He was a staple of the series prior to that – 32 episodes in total, from the first through the 4th seasons. Not to spoil it for you, if you haven’t watched the series at all, and are planning to, but I’m sure you can guess why his character is no longer a part of the series after 4 seasons.
From what my research tells me, the seasons of the series have followed almost a real-time representation of history, with the first season starting just after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, followed by season two, which is set in 1866, with seasons 3 and 4 taking place in 1867.
The series is currently in its 5th season (its last), which kicked off mid-July, with some new faces added. Of note is Amber Chardae Robinson in her first television role, in what the TV press describe as "a major new addition to the story." Robinson plays Stagecoach Mary, obviously inspired by the real Stagecoach Mary – aka Mary Fields, also sometimes called "Black Mary," the first black woman to work as a mail carrier in the USA, known to have been one of the toughest women ever, earning the respect and devotion of most of the residents of the pioneer community in which she worked in Montana, before she died in 1914. She started life as a slave in 1832, gaining her freedom after the Civil War. Later, as Stagecoach Mary, she was admired throughout the Cascade, Montana region for holding her own and living her own way in a world where the odds were stacked against her. In a time when black people and women of any race enjoyed little freedom anywhere in the world, Mary Fields enjoyed more freedom than most white men. She often dressed like men of her time, and wore a revolver strapped around her waist. Said to have weighed around 200 pounds, she was a match for any man in Montana Territory, with a standing bet that she could knock a man out with one punch, never losing a dime to anyone foolish enough to take her up on that bet. By order of the mayor, she was the only woman in Cascade, Montana allowed to drink in the local bar, often spotted smoking cigars in public, and arguing politics with others.
On "Hell on Wheels" this season, she’s apparently being depicted as historical account dictates, based on reviews I’ve read of the episodes in which she’s featured. Also, the below clip released by AMC over the weekend, tells us that.
"Hell on Wheels" was created by brothers Joe and Tony Gayton, and shepherded to air by Endemol Senior VP of scripted programming Jeremy Gold.
Are you a fan? If so, tell us what the rest of us are missing.
By the way, this is Amber Chardae Robinson’s first screen acting role (whether film or TV). She only just graduated from Colombia University with an MFA in Acting. Her past acting credits are all in theatre. So being cast in this series, playing such a prominent character, must have been a coup for her, when she eventually got the news. So she’s obviously an actress to know, going forward.
Here’s the clip featuring Robinson as Stagecoach Mary in "Hell on Wheels." It’s from the episode that aired on Saturday night, over this past weekend (the series airs on Saturday nights). According to IMDB, she’ll appear on 5 episodes this season (2 of them have already aired, so 3 more to go before the season ends):