Siobhan Williams, who plays Naomi Hatch on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, talks about her unique audition process and an eerie surprise on set.
Q: You’ve said that you received a “fake script and character breakdown” during your audition. What exactly does that mean?
A: When I went in for my audition, I was given a scene where I was playing a character who I didn’t know too much about. In the scene, she had fallen off of her horse and [Cullen] Bohannon was there. She was being abrasive with him and not necessarily taking his advances very well, but by the end of the scene, she was really flirting with him. I think what they wanted to see was basically the chemistry between them.
Q: When did you find out which character you’d actually auditioned for?
A: I found out about a week later that I was in contention for the role of Naomi. Around that time, they mentioned that it was possible that my character would end up pregnant later in the series. They didn’t say whose baby it was. I still didn’t know that I was going to be getting together with Bohannon, so it wasn’t until after I actually booked the role that I found out.
Q: Were you surprised at how Naomi’s story eventually played out?
A: I was very surprised. I didn’t know until the finale that I was going to be married. That was a shocker to me. I had gone over, in my head, all of the possible directions that I thought the character could go by the end of the season and getting married was definitely not in the cards when I was thinking through. I was surprised in a very pleasant way.
Q: What was it like wearing the pregnancy prosthetic?
A: It was weird! The first time I put it on and had my dress on over it, I looked in the mirror and thought, “Wow!” It was basically like a spandex body suit with a pillow attached, and was really awkward to take off and put on.
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A: James and I are actually extremely close — he’s like my step-TV-dad so I can’t use the hashtag as much as he does. I think he calls me #BestTVDaughter.
Q: You’ve described filming the hanging scene in the Season 3 Premiere as “eerie.” How so?
A: Everyone was feeding off of each other. It was a very emotionally intense scene. It was a big scene that used about a three or four kilometer radius around us – all of the hills and valleys and the creek running through – it was an expansive scene. Jeb, played by Ben Sullivan, who [gets hung], was so phenomenal. In one of the last takes we did, where he’s got the noose around his neck, all of a sudden there were coyotes in the background. They were howling and going crazy like they had just killed something. It was terrifying to hear. Everything kind of fell into place; it felt real. It was beautiful, but haunting.
Q: You grew up in Calgary, where the show is filmed. Did you show any of your castmates around?
A: Yeah, there were a few restaurants we went to and some suggestions that I made for day trips and hikes and things like that around in the area. It’s funny because I had been away from Calgary for about three years now, so a lot of the cast members who’d been spending more time shooting there were showing me some things.
Q: You’re starring in a Western film, Forsaken, with Kiefer Sutherland and Demi Moore. Did Hell on Wheels help you land that role?
A: I think so. I originally auditioned for it right after I finished my first episode of Hell on Wheels, and when I booked Hell on Wheels I researched the era very heavily, so all that information was still in my head. Forsaken is set, I believe, five years after Hell on Wheels and in the same vicinity. Also, the feel of a Western is just so specific, and that definitely helped.
Q: What modern day technology would you miss most if you lived during the 1860s?
A: To be honest, I wouldn’t miss it at all. It would take a lot of adjusting, but I love the idea of an element of surprise – neighbors knocking on your door when they want to hang out. I like the lack of predictability that comes with the lack of having people at your fingertips.Read More