One thing that Hell on Wheels viewers can be sure of is some Western drama. The story of a traveling community that follows the construction of the first transcontinental railroad is ripe for the telling. But next time you sidle up to the TV for the latest episode of this AMC series, just remember that many of the actors portraying the Western characters you love have also dabbled in science fiction. Take a look at the scifi roles played by the Hell on Wheels cast.
Christopher Heyerdahl (The Swede)
Heyerdahl’s scifi roles are numerous. He played parts in 1994’s Highlander III: The Final Dimension, a film franchise about immortals who can only be killed by beheading. He also appeared in several television series, including the scifi-steampunk The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne; Stargate SG-1; Stargate: Atlantis; The Dead Zone, a small-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a man who could see the future; the Superman-as-teenager hit Smallville; Sanctuary, about an organization that seeks out powerful humans/creatures called abnormals; and more recently, the Battlestar Galactica spin-off, Caprica. Heyerdahl also appeared in the 2004 science fiction adventure The Chronicles of Riddick (the sequel to Pitch Black).
Colm Meaney (Thomas “Doc” Durant)
In science fiction circles, the most recognizable face on Hell on Wheels is easily Colm Meaney. Meaney played Chief Miles O’Brien, Star Trek‘s transporter chief on the U.S.S. Enterprise. He was featured in 225 episodes of two separate Star Trek franchises: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. To add to his geek cred, he also starred in a few episodes of the television show Stargate Atlantis as Chief Cowen, a leader of an advanced militaristic society. A lesser-known role for Meaney was as a constable in a 1987 episode of Tales from the Darkside, a fantastical anthology series akin to The Twilight Zone.
Dominique McElligott (Lily Bell)
Actress Dominique McElligott’s first foray into the fantastic leaned towards the horror side of the spectrum with a role in the pilot episode of Being Human, a show that mashes together werewolves, vampires and ghosts. In 2008, she had a role in Satellites & Meteorites, a movie that feels like a romantic comedy, but plays with science fictional themes such as questioning the nature of reality. In 2009, McElligott starred in the critical hit Moon as Tess Bell, wife to Sam Rockwell’s character Sam Bell, an astronaut nearing the end of his lonely three-year work stint on the Moon.
Tom Noonan (Reverend Cole)
Anyone of movie-going age in the 1980s has fond memories of RoboCop. RoboCop 2, maybe less so. But one thing people do remember from the sequel is the bad-ass villain called Cain, played by Tom Noonan. Cain starts out as the primary distributor of a new designer drug named Nuke, but winds up as the brain behind the OCP corporation’s new crime prevention robot. Noonan’s scifi roles also included the 1999 thriller The Astronaut’s Wife, about strange goings-on after two astronauts lose contact with Earth for two minutes.
Robin McLeavy (Eva)
You can’t see Robin McLeavy in any scifi films yet. But that will change later this year when she will be seen playing Abraham Lincoln’s mother in… wait for it… Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, an alternate history vampire flick based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s popular mash-up novel. Things do not bode well for Honest Abe’s mom; it is her ultimate fate that motivates Abe to hunt vampires.
April Telek (Nell)
April Telek seems to have made a career out of science fiction television roles. She has been seen in the parallel-worlds adventure Sliders (1996); the small-screen adaptation Highlander: The Series (1996); Viper (1996 and 1997), about a crime fighter who rides in a morphing Dodge Viper; Sleepwalkers (1997), in which researchers send operatives into people’s dreams; The Outer Limits, another Twilight Zone-like anthology series; and Stargate SG-1 (2005).
Wes Studi (Chief Many Horses)
Wes Studi’s scifi credits include the Highlander television series in 1992; the scifi thriller Deep Rising (1998), in which the passengers and crew of an ocean liner must deal with hijackers and large, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures; the futuristic film Ice Planet, in which aliens cause a human spaceship to crash-land on a remote planet; and Kings (2009), a modern-day alternate history retelling of the biblical story of King David. If he still seems familiar but you can’t quite place him, it’s probably because he lent his voice to the character of Eytukan, the clan leader of the big, blue Na’vi (and father of Jake Sully’s love interest, Neytiri) in James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster, Avatar.