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Hell on Wheels Q&A – Kasha Kropinski (Ruth)

Kasha Kropinski, who plays Ruth on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, talks about shooting her final scene and a surprise from the crew on her last day of filming.

Q: When you began shooting Season 4, how much did you know about Ruth’s storyline in the upcoming season?

A: I knew absolutely nothing at the start of the season. They were very secretive and I couldn’t get any story out of them, so everything was a surprise. As each script came through, I read and performed it, and I experienced the evolution of Ruth this season as it happened. When I first read about Sidney Snow, I thought, oh gosh, here’s a bad guy to stir things up in town. I didn’t know what was to come.

Q: Did you find that being kept in the dark helped your performance?

A: There’s spontaneity when you don’t know what you’re going to be given the next week. If I knew throughout the entire season that Ruth was going to die, I think that would have affected my performance in a negative way. I would have been obsessing over it and worrying, and I think that can dictate your choices as an actor. I think it’s beneficial to have the freedom of ignorance.

Q: Ezra dies in the church fire set by Sidney Snow in Episode 409. Have you gotten close off-screen with Tayden Marks after having had so many scenes together?
A: Absolutely. Tayden’s family is my family. I am unbelievably fortunate to have met them. I can’t decide whether Tayden is like my actual child or my little brother. The scenes where I’m crying over Ezra in Episode 410 when everything is falling apart – I was able to have access to those emotions because I love Tayden and he’s special to me.

Q: Ruth shoots Sidney Snow in Episode 410. Jonathan Scarfe told us he was quite surprised that Ruth was the one who ended up shooting him. Were you just as shocked?

A: Ruth has always been quiet, subservient, and not necessarily courageous. I was hoping, seeing where the story was leading, that she would do something incredible. But when I read that moment in the script, I was surprised. We’d never seen that behavior from her. I was also excited. It was such an iconic moment, and it’s rare for women to be given that opportunity in a Western. Everyone expected Cullen to be the one. I appreciated that Ruth wasn’t the damsel in distress, but rather the cowgirl saving the day.

Q: Talk a little about training to use the gun. Prop Master Ken Wills mentioned that Anson Mount taught you a thing or two?

A: Since it wasn’t a gun fight, I didn’t need to know all of the technicalities of it. It was more about me being comfortable holding it and knowing how to aim it. Anson suggested I hold it with two hands, but [Props Assistant] Greg Auch mentioned that during that period, the correct way was to keep your body away from your opponent. They didn’t have bulletproof vests, so you had to keep your body at an angle and shoot with one arm. I wanted to do it accurately, despite the fact that using two hands might look a bit more aggressive. I didn’t want her to look like a little girl trying to act like a man. I also got to choose between a silver gun and a gold gun — I thought the silver looked better against the black dress. [Laughs]

Q: You tweeted a photo of yourself wearing a T-shirt featuring Ruth with the caption “Ruthless.” Where did you get the shirt?

A: One of the producer’s assistants, Kyla Robinson, said, “Kasha, pose for me!” and that photo resulted. I said, “Wouldn’t that be hilarious on a T-shirt?” and Kyla suggested “Ruthless” across the front, and we all laughed. On my last day of filming, all the crew unzipped their jackets and they were all wearing the shirt. I was crying and I was so moved. There were dozens of my face looking back at me. I felt like a superhero or something.

Q: In Episode 412, Ruth declines John Campbell‘s pardon for the murder of Sidney Snow and is hung. How did you prepare to film your death scene?

A: I knew there would be a trap door on the gallows, so at the beginning of the day, I was completely freaked out. I felt like I was actually going to die. I suppose that added to the scene. I’m here now, so obviously everything turned out alright. [Laughs] The hanging is probably the most disturbing way to die given all the ways we’ve seen people kick the bucket. It was very unsettling, especially because it was her decision. The sun was setting, and I think it adds so much more gloom. Everyone applauded at the end of the day, and I started sobbing again.

Q: What would you say are the biggest differences between Season 1 Ruth and Season 4 Ruth?

A: In Season 1, Ruth was a church mouse. She had always been an observer and a bystander and never really contributed to the grand scheme of things. I think her evolution occurred from Episode 410 and onwards. Ruth shooting Sidney was the first time we actually saw her make a decision. She had never stood up for herself or anybody else. The best part of her evolution was that she developed courage.

Q: What will you miss most about being on Hell on Wheels?

A: My whole world revolved around it, so to be without that is very disorienting. It feels like I’m leaving a part of myself behind. Tayden emailed me a Dr. Seuss quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Read an interview with Chelah Horsdal, who plays Maggie Palmer >>

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