YOU can be forgiven for getting the wrong idea about new drama series Hell On Wheels.
Perhaps the title conjures images of a series about the torturous Tour de France. Or a reality show about a parachute pants-wearing bogan who gets his kicks from dropping donuts in his lowered Commodore.
On the contrary, Hell On Wheels is a critically acclaimed period drama about the construction of the railway through the wild west of America.
It is a brutal post-civil War saga that in some ways resembles the renowned Deadwood. There is plenty of violence (including scalping), drinking, sex and greed.
Mixed up in it all is a young Irish immigrant Sean, who has his initially naive sights on achieving ‘‘ the American dream’’. It is a plum role for Ben Esler (pictured), who was raised in the Melbourne suburb of Templestowe.
‘‘ The first audition for it, I remember just sitting in a waiting room with lots of other Irish-looking guys,’’ Esler says.
‘‘ I just went in there (to audition) and did my best.’’
Esler, 29, back home for a break before returning to Canada to begin work on a second season, spent many years performing bit parts in shows including Blue Heelers.
His stocks skyrocketed after he scored a key role in the $200 million Steven SpielbergTom Hanks war series The Pacific, which was filmed in Australia in 2007. Esler played gunner Chuck Tatum, whose real-life memoirs were used as source material for the show.
Hell On Wheels is being produced by US network AMC ( Breaking Bad). ‘‘ AMC make shows that push the envelope — they get away with a fair bit,’’ Esler says.
‘‘ One of the big stories in the show is about racial prejudice and being a black man in America figuring out what his life is going to be like postemancipation. How real his prospects are.’’ Hell on Wheels, FX channel, Sunday, 7.30pm