Westerns saddle up for TV comeback

Thu Nov 3, 2011 8:33am EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The TV Western is saddling up for a big comeback, and actor Anson Mount couldn't be happier.

Mount, 38, plays a rugged post-Civil War soldier with revenge on his mind in the new series "Hell on Wheels", making its debut on cable channel AMC on Sunday and heralding a revival of a genre that dominated U.S. television in the 1950s and '60s.

"Hell on Wheels" is set during the building of the Union Pacific railroad in the 19th Century, and comes complete with vast rolling plains, trigger-happy lawmen and scalping Native Americans.

For Mount, it's a role born of childhood dreams in his native Tennessee, when he said he began playing cowboys and Indians at the age of six.

"I would climb this sort of half blown-over tree in my backyard, and I had a cowboy hat and a sheriff's badge and a little plastic six-shooter around my hip," Mount recalled.

Filming "Hell on Wheels", he said, "I spend a day on a horse out in the sun getting to shoot a grizzly. I can't believe I'm not having to pay them to do this. It's amazing."

Hip-hop artist and actor Common, who plays a recently freed mixed-race slave working on the railroad, agreed. "It's fun to be in the mud and running around with guns. Learning to ride a horse. It's a great time," he told reporters.

Gunsmoke and wagons aside, "Hell on Wheels" also casts an unsentimental eye on a key turning point in the forging of the United States, the ravaging of Native American land and the price of progress.   Continued...