Last week, TV critics got a look at AMC's upcoming original series Hell on Wheels, an epic historical drama about the building of the Transcontinental Railraod and the tent city that moved along the railroad as it was built. That sounds pretty cool. That sounds like an interesting story I'd like to see.
Now, we all know that Chinese immigrant workers were a major part of the labor force that helped build the railroad. It would make perfect sense for Chinese characters to have a presence in this show. Right? Right?
Surprise, surprise. There are no Chinese immigrant characters in the series. Somehow, they've been conveniently dropped from this side of the story. When pressed by critics on this point, the show's producers danced all around the answer: AMC at a loss for words over 'The Killing,' 'Hell on Wheels'.
"The genesis of the railroad started in the East," said Tony Gayton, taking a whack at the question, which, to refresh your memory as we travel further and further down the Gayton Family Rabbit Hole, was, "Why no Chinese characters?"Long story short, the Chinese were "excised" from the story. Hey, just like a history book! Yet another middle finger to the historical contributions of Chinese Americans, dating all the way back when. As usual, thanks Hollywood.
"It was Abraham Lincoln’s idea, and we’ve likened it to JFK, you know, saying, ‘We are going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade,’ " Tony Gayton prattled on merrily.
"And it was very similar. So it just seemed a good starting point."
But, he promised, "The Central Pacific will be a hint in the show. I mean, we will know that they are out there, building."
"Having said that, we did write the Central Pacific into the pilot," Joe Gayton jumped back in, sensing the explanation was not going over as well as might be hoped.
"And people asked us if we were insane, if we were trying to get both of the stories - service both of the stories - in a one-hour pilot. So they ended up getting excised."
It's kind of fitting, like a modern cable network version of that famous photo taken at Promotory Summit, commemorating the completion of the railroad in 1869. It is said that dignitaries did not invite Chinese workers to the official ceremony. We're talking about men and worked their asses off and died for the construction of this railroad. They're not in the photo either.
Hell on Wheels, and its invisible Chinese workers, premieres November 6 on AMC.