EXCLUSIVE: Anson Mount has landed the lead in AMC’s period drama pilot Hell on Wheels. Meanwhile, Irish actress Dominique McElligott has been cast as the female lead in the Western, set during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. The project centers on Cullen (Mount), a former slave owner and a Confederate soldier determined to avenge the rape/murder of his beloved wife by tracking and killing the Union soldiers who killed her. Fearless, Cullen winds up working on the Nebraska prairie’s Hell on Wheels’ portion of the transcontinental railroad. McElligott will play Lily Bell, an intelligent woman taking care of her ill husband who is part of the team of surveyors mapping the railroad’s course. In the pilot, Mount and McElligott join recently cast rapper-actor Common.

Mount, most recently seen in the feature Cook County, on which he also served as producer, just wrapped production on Straw Dogs and Burning Palms. On TV, he co-starred on the NBC/Dick Wolf series Conviction. McElligott recently wrapped The Guard and BlackthornHell on Wheels was created and written by Joe and Tony Gayton and developed by Endemol USA. The Gaytons and Endemol USA’s Jeremy Gold executive produce; Entertainment One’s John Morayniss and Michael Rosenberg oversee production. David Von Ancken is directing the pilot, which is scheduled to begin production in August in Alberta, Canada.