What’s next for AMC, now that The Walking Dead has become an unequivocal success and previous series Mad Men and Breaking Bad are still going strong? The cable network’s next original series is Hell on Wheels, a drama set after the American Civil War that focuses on a former Confederate soldier out to avenge his wife’s death. AMC has ordered ten episodes, including a pilot.

Hell on Wheels will follow the story of Cullen Bohannan, a southern soldier who heads west to avenge the death of his wife, murdered by Union soldiers. In the wake of Reconstruction, he travels to the work site of the Transcontinental Railroad, tracking his wife’s killers along the way.

The show gets its name from the traveling saloons, casinos and brothels that followed Union Pacific railroad workers across the west. The towns that would spring up and disappear with the work camps were called “Hell on Wheels” by newspapers of the era.

Anson Mount (Conviction) will play the lead. Other cast member announced are Colm Meaney (Get Him to the Greek, various Star Trek properties), Lonnie Rashied “Common” Lynn Jr. (Terminator: Salvation), Dominique McElligott (Moon), Ben Esler (The Pacific), and Eddie Spears (Into the West). Tony Graton and Joe Graton will write and executive produce, duties they also performed for revenge flick Faster earlier this year.

AMC has experience with both period pieces and westerns in particular. One of the biggest draws for Mad Men is an uncompromising reproduction of 1960s America, and it’s a a safe bet that at least a few of the names on the art and production teams will lend themselves to Hell On Wheels (initially, at least). The network’s well-received 2006 miniseries Broken Trail bodes well for its ability to recreate the Old West with style and believability.

The show’s creators will have to work hard to get fans to root for Anson Mount as a vengeful husband; almost 150 years after the Civil War, many Americans still aren’t receptive to a sympathetic Confederate character. However, this trend was recently bucked with the Civil War-era love story Cold Mountain. Other subjects the writers are tackling are the plight of immigrant workers and newly-emancipated African Americans (probably highlighted by Common), the greed of the railroad owners, and the moral ambiguity and lack of law and order on the American frontier.

Will AMC be able to continue its race to the top of original cable programming? We’ll find out when Hell on Wheels lands, presumably in late 2011.

Source: TV Guide