Victor Gilbert on developing his character across multiple episodes in "Hell on Wheels"

November 22, 2017

Acting presents a stage unlike any other to branch out and test your own, individual limits through the personalities and traits of the characters you play. With that comes advantages that most other professions don’t offer. Actors get to travel, they get to meet new people, and they get to explore their craft amongst other great artists for each new project that they embark upon. Above all else, actors get to tell stories. They get to bring fictitious worlds to life and they get to bring their audiences along a variety of different journeys that they wouldn’t otherwise take. Just as film and television fans enjoy immersing themselves into their favorite shows and movies, actors and actresses enjoy devoting themselves to their scripts and plot lines in order to spread these stories around the world. It is an addicting field to work in and an extremely rewarding profession. For most actors, it is a dream come true and for actors like Victor Gilbert, it is only just beginning.

 

At just 10 years old, Gilbert is slowly showing the entertainment industry what he is capable of. He has lent his talents to a number of interesting roles. For instance, in 2016, Gilbert landed a role in The Kiss, a heart-wrenching film about a young boy exploring his sexuality in the 1950’s, much to the dismay of those around him. For this film, Gilbert played the young male lead and is perhaps the reason that the film is gaining such widespread praise and recognition at film festivals around the world. In another of his more prominent roles, Gilbert played Eric in The Walking Man. The Walking Man depicts the journey of a man who is compelled to leave his job and become a homeless wanderer. Throughout the film, his friends and acquaintances share their opinions about his life change and the audience is left to ponder the man’s true intentions. Eric is one of the principal children who speaks to the camera about the main character’s life choices and it required Gilbert to master several intricate lines, as well as to remain very serious on screen. Not only did he learn the entire script by heart, he executed his character’s scene in one take. This ability is almost unheard of, not only for child actors, but for professionals of all ages. For Gilbert; however, this was just another day in the life of doing what he loves.

 

In 2015, when Gilbert was only seven years old, he auditioned for AMC and Netflix’s hit show, Hell on Wheels, which portrays the life of Cullen Bohannon, a former soldier and slaveholder who follows the track of a band of Union soldiers who killed his wife. Bohannon’s quest for vengeance brings him into the middle of one of the biggest projects in history, the building of the transcontinental railway. After the war years in the 1860’s, this undertaking connected the prospering east with the Wild West. Gilbert was thrilled when he won the part and even though he was only seven years old, he managed to grasp the magnitude of landing a role on such a well-known series. Gilbert went on to play a young, orphaned boy who is taken in by the character Jeff Strobridge. This was the first time in his career that Gilbert would play a recurring character and he was excited about the ability to be able to develop his character over several different episodes. It was very important for Gilbert to develop his character in such a way that helped highlight the giving, kind nature of Strobridge. The intention of building children into Strobridge’s storyline was to show different sides of his character that hadn’t already become apparent. Gilbert’s character was integral to Strobridge’s plot line and he thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility that came with it.

 

“Jeff needed children to show his kindness. He is a very important leader in the show, and so were his children. We were helping define his character and show his sweeter side. It was so much fun working with him and helping develop his character,” recalled Gilbert.

 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of acting in Hell on Wheels was getting to explore the world of the Wild West through the show’s intricate sets and costumes. All of the buildings were made to create an atmosphere that would resemble this interesting period in history, and Gilbert loved getting to see what it would have been like to live as a child in the 1800’s. When he played on set, he played with sticks and stones. There were no modern toys to be seen on screen and so he had to figure out how a child his age would have had fun back then. He loved getting into character and interacting with the other actors on set and was fascinated by the cowboy costumes, fake guns, and more. In addition, his on-screen father, played by Reg Rogers, made a point of interacting organically with all of the kids on set so that their on-screen relationship would appear more authentic. This role helped to solidify Gilbert’s interest in pursuing a career as an actor and he loved every minute of it.

 

The series producer, Chad Oakes, was pleased to know that they had made the right decision hiring Gilbert for the job. He knows that oftentimes, hiring child actors involves an element of risk. It is difficult to know how a child will respond to direction on set and how they will portray their character on camera. As soon as he saw Gilbert in action, he was sold.

 

“Victor had a few major scenes with the lead character, played by Anson Mount, and a few scenes alone with Reg Rogers. His smile is very contagious and he makes friends easily on set. Beyond that, he isn’t shy on set and was able to communicate easily with anyone about what he needed which made him easy for the cast and crew to work with him on set. He is a patient little man and he will do amazing things,” said Oakes. 

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