Jennifer Ferrin, who plays Louise Ellison on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, talks about filming the train shootout scene and proving Cullen Bohannon wrong.
Q: Cullen originally told Louise that the railroad was no place for a lady that wasn’t a whore. How has Louise proved him wrong?
A: For our story’s purposes, she had no intentions of staying. She was sort of like a guest reporter coming out to do a story and then she’d hightail it back to New York. Circumstances led her to have to stay or choose something else. I think she saw it as quite a personal challenge to not only get the greatest story in history up until that point, but to survive in a man’s world as a woman and not take “no” for an answer. She certainly has perseverance, and through all of the odds, she’s endured and did it on her own. I think that was very important to her.
A: [Laughs] I don’t think there’s a personal vendetta against Durant, but I think Louise has always been on to him as far as his intentions and his morals – or lack thereof. He’s certainly never been an upstanding citizen and I think Louise doesn’t put it past him to be involved in yet another dirty deal.
Q: Talk about that shootout scene with Shea, Delaney, Louise and Durant. What was it like shaking things up a bit and being right in the middle of all the action?
A: That was a really intense scene to shoot. It was really great being in that railroad car, and it was very choreographed in such tight quarters. At that point, Louise and Delaney had become friends, and I think she really could see that he had been taken advantage of in many ways. I think she grew to admire him, so for him to just be offed like that was really disturbing – and she was caught in the crossfire. Louise has certainly been in a few sticky situations, but not at gunpoint like that.
Q: What did you think about Durant keeping Shea from killing Louise, considering their dynamic?
A: Durant realizes it would be a step too far and it does show his humanity during an odd moment. It was an interesting choice because he certainly has some sort of conscience despite the fact that he was involved in this plot. I think Durant and Louise do have a history, and they certainly have a mutual respect for their intelligence and ability to spar in an intellectual way. I guess you could argue he’s not all evil. [Laughs]
Q: You’ve talked before about working with the writers to round out your character. What did you learn about her personal life? Did you have any idea where she’d end up?
A: I think with Louise having the relationship with John Campbell… the abortion and then seeing her come back from that in this final season, we see her tenacity and her determination to keep going. I think it’s really challenging to create full and wrapped-up stories for each character on a show like this where there are so many characters… The railroad is ending and who knows where these characters will go.
Q: Delaney asks about Louise’s marital status, but she assures him she hasn’t found the right person yet. What was your reaction to that? Do you think Louise is devoted to her job?
A: I think her sexuality has come into question a lot and there was difficulty maneuvering that in the time period. I think for her, marriage would have to be with a very special person, and I truly believe that she would fall in love with a woman if she were to have that companionship. I think the tryst with Campbell was a power play. She likes her independence, her career, taking care of herself, and I think she likes the solitude. That makes it challenging to have a partner in life.
Q: You previously worked with John Wirth on the TV show The Cape. What was it like ending this story with him?
A: I felt so fortunate to be working with John again. He wrote my character and asked me to come on-board, and it was a wonderful family that we created. We’re all extremely close still and it was very hard to say goodbye to that creative, supportive experience. The great thing about these kinds of dynamics, though, is that you know you’ll see and work with each other again.
Q: Did you get to keep anything from the Cheyenne Leader office set?
A: I asked for my satchel and my notebook. I got to keep those, which is really great. It’s a beautiful leather-bound notebook and a satchel.
Q: What has your character taught you? What will you take away from your experience on Hell on Wheels?
A: I felt such a great responsibility to represent a woman who was lesbian or bisexual and to stay true to who she is. That doesn’t mean she is put into a box and labeled. It means that she is an entirely whole human being who lived during this time, who had the feelings she had, and who had purpose and drive for her career. I really felt a great responsibility, and I can only hope that it came though and fans of the show respond positively to the stories we were trying to tell.
Read an interview with Anson Mount, who plays Cullen Bohannon.
The final episodes of Hell on Wheels air Saturdays at 9/8c on AMC. To stay up-to-date with all the latest Hell on Wheels news, sign up for the weekly Hell on Wheels Telegraph.