Q: With three seasons now under your belt, has your approach to playing Cullen changed at all?
A: Yes. My approach to Cullen has to change every season if you expect to have a character that’s going to develop at all — a character that has the same conflicts or the same issues all the time is going to grow very boring. Walter White was described as a man who transforms from Mr. Chips to Scarface, and I thought that was brilliant. I’m not sure if I can define an arc as clearly as that for my character, but my touchstone word this year is “maturity.” To Cullen, that means one thing towards the beginning of Season 4, and his approach towards that runs the risk of hamstringing him later in order to get through an interesting arc. I think it’s interesting because, in a way, Bohannon and Durant will be crossing paths this season — Durant’s going to the dark side, and Cullen is trying to pull himself out of the muck and do something that is beyond himself.
Q: Has it gotten easier or harder to play Cullen? Are you still discovering new things about him?
A: It’s gotten easier in a sense. I wasn’t nervous at the beginning of this season, like I was in previous seasons, about being able to find the character again. I basically just pulled on my boots and hopped on a horse. The material is getting more and more challenging as we move forward. There’s definitely been some moments this season where I’ve had to question the extent of my own talent or find a way of extending my own talent in order to achieve what’s been asked of me. I love being on set with my costars every single day, so as long as I get to keep doing that, I’ll keep enjoying it until the last day of the season — but then I’ll be sad again.
Q: Cullen is now a married man. What kinds of challenges will that present for him this season?
A: There are situations where you’re trying to do the right thing, but you’re actually making it worse. He finds himself in that kind of situation, but doesn’t see it for a while.
Q: You’ve said you’re not naturally a “tough guy.” Has being on the show toughened you up in any way?
A: The other night, some guy’s dog on the street bit my dog, and then he blamed my dog. I almost kicked his ass!
Q: [Laughs] Your love for Mac is quite apparent!
A: Maybe I’m tougher than I thought when it comes to standing up for my dog.
A: [Laughs] Well, I hope so! I can only imagine that being a father is a challenge. The child is a baby right now, so it hasn’t really gotten into lessons of morality at all.
Q: What’s the biggest lesson that Cullen has learned so far? Is there anything that playing Cullen has taught you?
A: I guess it would be that engaging in battle will always bring more battle, but sometimes the battle is brought to you, and you have to rise up to the challenge.
Q: Season 4’s tagline is “Hell Ain’t Civilized.” What would Cullen say to that?
A: I think he’d say, “I hope I never find out,” or “We’ll see.” Maybe he’d even say, “Well, maybe hell needs a railroad!”
Hell on Wheels returns for Season 4 on Saturday, August 2 at 9/8c on AMC.Read More