“That is a goal of mine in my lifetime, to achieve an Emmy Award as an actor,”‘ says Common, who plays former slave Elam Ferguson on AMC’s 19th century western “Hell on Wheels.” He goes even further, adding, “It would be great to have a Grammy, an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Tony.”
Until recent years, Common was best known for his music; he does, in fact, already have a pair of Grammys on his mantel – Best R&B Song for “Love of My Life” in 2002 and Best Rap Duo/Group Performance with Kanye West for “Southside” in 2007. “I really wanted creatively to grow,” he explains of his decision to branch out into acting. “There was something out there that I felt beyond music that I wanted to creatively do. I tried playing the piano, and that didn’t really work too good, so I just started going to acting classes … I really felt enthused and inspired to go to class every day I could … so it let me know that I really purely loved the art of it.”
Common describes Elam as “one of the best characters that I’ve ever had the opportunity to play … being able to represent a black person of that time – an intelligent leader who’s strong and been through all the perils and hatred of slavery and has come through that. To be able to play that enriches me.” “Hell on Wheels” takes place during the years immediately following the Civil War, when Elam struggles to win respect as a free man from embittered Confederates.
If nominated for an Emmy, Common will likely submit the seventh episode from the first season, “Revelations,” which begins with a flashback to Elam’s childhood, when his white owner – who was also his father – taught him how to read and at the same time unwittingly educated him about freedom. “It informs you a lot about him … and there was also a scene where my character Elam was talking to Cullen Bohannan, who’s played by Anson Mount, and we were around a campfire, and it was really telling.”
A second season of “Hell on Wheels” is currently in production. It premieres on AMC on August 12.
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