Pin It

Hell on Wheels’ Colm Meaney on Playing Villains: “To make those extremes believable is an acting challenge”

colm-meany-hell-on-wheelsColm Meaney knew he wanted to be a part of AMC’s Hell on Wheels from the very beginning.

“I’d heard about the pilot,” he told The Bulletin. “Everybody in town heard this was a great pilot.  Then my agents and manager got it to me, and I loved it from the get-go.  I loved it from the audience perspective, reading the script I took such great pleasure out of it and I loved the character.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character as well-written as this.  Certainly in the last 10 or 15 years I haven’t seen writing that has such a depth and such a clarity, and the vocabulary!

“To have this vocabulary where you use words like, ‘There will be perfidy of epic proportions!’  That’s Shakespearean, that’s beautiful.  What struck me about it, it reminded me of films like Treasure of the Sierra Madre when films were dialogue-intensive, when actors gave performances and they moved at a clip, apace—Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, those kind of guys.  Rat-a-tat-tat like that.  That’s what this reminded me of.  I thought this was magic; I wanted to do this desperately.”

The Irish actor gained fame playing Chief O’Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation, but his career started out in theater.  “I was working in the theater in New York,” he said.  “I began to understand that unlike London where you have film, television, theater—everything is centered in London.  Whereas in the US, if you wanted to work in film and television—especially in the ‘80s—you had to come to Los Angeles.”

Meaney knew he needed to break into the film industry.  “You can work 52 weeks a year in the theater and still not make a living—so I had a young daughter, a family to support, this is why I came out here.  I loved being here…I wasn’t suffering any hardship, but it was a difficult time.”

So the struggles have even more significance now that Meaney has been offered such a plum role as that of Doc Durant on Hell on Wheels.  “The thing about playing villains is you get to play extremes, and to make those extremes believable is an acting challenge, in a way,” the 59-year-old said. “This guy can go from anger, rage, to a kind of cunning—‘Oh, I should’ve done that.’  It’s the great flips that they do, which I suppose would be called bipolar or manic depressive in other situations.  As an actor you have to be very dexterous in the way you go from the rage to the contemplative very quickly.  And I love those challenges.”

Hell on Wheels airs on AMC, Sundays at 9 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Latest Videos

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-david-mamet-in-the-1976-sh.jpg
Watch: David Mamet in the 1976 Short Documentary ‘The Playwright Directs’
Though David Mamet is best known for his distinctive writing style in his scripts for the stage and screen, he has also directed theater and film. The 1976 short documentary titled The Playwright Directs depicts Mamet directing actors through several scenes at an almost frantic pace, dispensing pearls of wisdom throughout, like his thoughts on […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-marvels-agents-of-s-h-i-e.jpg
Watch: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Bloopers
Forgetting lines? Corpsing? Delivering lines in Spanish? Unruly props? All in a day’s work on the set of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, apparently. Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, and the rest of the cast find plenty of humor while playing super-serious secret agents in the Marvel Universe. While you’re waiting for season 2 of the series […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/audtion-tapes-robin-wright-and-h.jpg
Audition Tapes: Robin Wright and Haley Joel Osment Audition with Tom Hanks for ‘Forrest Gump’
Check out Robin Wright auditioning for the role of Jenny from Forest Gump opposite Tom Hanks. Interestingly enough, Hanks doesn’t quite have Gump’s southern drawl down just yet while the other actors audition with him. In fact, Hanks would base Gump’s voice on the voice of Michael Conner Humphreys, who played the young Forrest and […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-judi-dench-sing-send-in-th.jpg
Watch Judi Dench Sing “Send In The Clowns” From Back in 1995
Dame Judi Dench has such a commanding presence as a film actress that it’s easy to forget that her big break came on stage in England with the Old Vic Company in 1957. In fact, she made her Broadway debut the very next year when the Old Vic Company performed Twelfth Night and Henry V […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/bryan-cranston-emmy-award-speech.jpg
Watch: Bryan Cranston’s Emmy Award Speech: “I love to act. It is a passion of mine and I will do it until my last breath.”
The Emmy Awards weren’t the most exciting awards show this year but with Bryan Cranston winning for Outstanding Actor in a Drama for Breaking Bad, we at least got to hear one heck of a fantastic acceptance speech. “I was a kid who always looked for the shortcut,” he said. “I did happen to stumble […]