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.