There's drama brewing on and off the screen at AMC's Hell On Wheels. According to an official statements, after the ye olde west-centric show got itself a 10-episode renewal for its third season, showrunning/executive producer John Shiban decided that he would no longer continue his duties on the show.
Shiban released his own statement: "I'm very proud of our work on Hell On Wheels and was thrilled to hear the show would have a Season Three. I have since made the difficult decision that the time has come for me to leave. I care deeply about the series and will do whatever I can to aid in the transition to ensure the continued success of the show. I truly value all the time I have spent with this wonderful group of very talented people."
In response, AMC released a statement of their own: "John Shiban has informed AMC, Entertainment One and Endemol that while he was fully on board when the network informed him about their intent to pick-up Hell on Wheels, he has since made the personal decision that he will be unable to return as showrunner. He has asked the production partners to seek a replacement showrunner. Like all of our shows, network pick-ups are always conditioned on an approved showrunner. We are confident that eOne and Endemol will satisfy that obligation in the near future."
With this revelation, the show's future is now being called into question—or at least put on hold until a new showrunner is announced. It was previously noted that creators/executive producers Joe Gayton and Tony Gayton would leave their daily show duties, but potentially stay on as consultants. With the additional, unforeseen loss of Shiban, though, it remains to be seen who will be able to tame this wild, wild west. Who knew building the Union Pacific Railroad would be easier than creating a show about it?
This is not AMC's first time at the show-shuffle rodeo. The Walking Dead's Frank Darabont left the show in Season 2, while Rubicon creator Jason Horwitch exited in the midst of production on that show's first and only season. Before Hell On Wheels, Shiban previously worked as a consulting producer on one of AMC's other hit shows, Breaking Bad.
[Photo Credit: Chris Large/AMC]
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AMC has become the network to watch out for when it comes to original programming. The Killing may have been a waste of time (and an incredibly frustrating one, at that), but they're still responsible for programs like Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad. That's why you should be pumped for Hell On Wheels, AMC's latest endeavor. The series, which will premiere following The Walking Dead, is a historical drama that focuses on the construction of the transcontinental railroad after the Civil War.
Hell On Wheels premieres Sunday, November 6, at 10 pm. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this is the new Deadwood.
Anson Mount (of the upcoming Straw Dogs) will star as former confederate soldier out for revenge after the death of his wife. Presumably, he'll do this while building the railroad. Or at least taking trains. Rapper turned actor Common will also star as a recently emancipated slave, along with Dominique McElligott, Colm Meaney and Eddie Spears.
This isn't AMC's first foray into the wild west; they produced the mini-series Broken Trail in 2006. "Since Broken Trail, AMC has looked for the next expression of an original Western series," said AMC's senior VP of original programming, production and digital content, Joel Stillerman, "Hell on Wheels is an incredibly powerful story that captures the intensity and inspiration of the American West at a time when nothing less than the future of the nation was at stake. The characters and the story that Joe and Tony Gayton, Jeremy Gold, and John Shiban have created; and that our terrific cast and crew have realized is compelling, epic, and a truly original take on a classic American genre of storytelling."
The series is appropriately timed, as the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War was this April. Being the mamby-pamby liberal arts History major that I am, I'm always glad to see a historical TV series, especially one that takes a multicultural bent. Fortunately for us, and for AMC, American history isn't all just old guys making speeches. Because that would make for some incredibly boring TV. Not to mention, a boring country.
Deadline is reporting that Common just landed a lead role on AMC's newest in-development scripted drama, the period western Hell On Wheels, which we covered earlier this month. The rapper-turned-actor is the first to be cast in the upcoming series, which centers around the building of the Transcontinental Railroad from Iowa to California during the 1860s, around the same time as the American Civil War. In his first regular television gig Common will play Elam, a half-black, half-white freed slave who heads out west seeking work on the railroad and his place in the world.
Although Common may be best known as a Grammy Award-winning rapper, he's had significant roles in a number of big budget movies over the years, including American Gangster and Terminator Salvation. Most recently he starred in Just Wright with Queen Latifah and Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey.
“Common brings a layered intensity to a very complex role,” said AMC's Joel Stillerman. “This part required someone who can transcend the stereotypes of the period and bring the character to life in a truly unique way, and he brings that."
Hell on Wheels, which was created and written by Joe and Tony Gayton, is the latest in a spate of new programming from AMC, including Rubicon, The Walking Dead, and college football drama The Wreck.
AMC, bastion of fine television programming such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, has commissioned its next pilot, the Western Hell on Wheels, from creative team Joe and Tony Gayton. The new project, developed by Endemol and E1 Entertainment, centers on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the mid-19th century, and will presumably feature AMC's typically high production value plus an injection of good old-fashioned Western pastiche.
"Hell on Wheels brilliantly captures the world surrounding the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad in post civil war America. The epic setting provides the perfect backdrop for the early industrialism and corruption surrounding the project; the incredible immigrant experience; and the good, the bad, and the ugly of what it took to get this railroad built," said Joel Stillerman, AMC senior vice president of original programming, in a recent statement. "The Gaytons have created a high octane world that pays homage to the script's namesake, and this show fits perfectly with our goal of creating premium television on basic cable."
If Hell on Wheels gets picked up, it will join AMC's new political thriller Rubicon and zombie horror The Walking Dead as part of the cable network's strong new dramatic lineup, which already includes acclaimed hour-long serials Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
Is AMC cable's answer to HBO? While the network had zero dramas before 2007 (when Mad Men premiered), AMC now looks to be gunning for every last Golden Globe the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has to offer! And I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually manage to take them all.
If all goes as planned, Hell on Wheels will join The Wreck, the Southern college football drama from The Blind Side director John Lee Hancock, which we reported on last month. The hour-long series would center on "the high-profile coach of a once legendary team that has just finished a losing season. The school gives the coach one last chance to turn the team into winners or he's fired."
AMC hasn't struck out yet, so I have high expectations for Hell on Wheels (if it gets picked up), as well as The Wreck, Rubicon (the pilot premiered last month), and The Walking Dead (beginning this October).
Source: The Wrap