Kasha Kropinski is continuing on her third season with the Emmy-nominated AMC show Hell on Wheels. The South African actress plays Ruth – a compassionate minister who sets about creating an oasis in a debauched railroad town. In her exclusive interview with Celebrity Teen Scoop – the 21-year-old talks about filming the show, living in Los Angeles, and her love of ballet.
CTS: You co-star as Ruth on AMC’s Hell On Wheels. Could you tell us more about the show and your character?
KK: Hell on Wheels tells the story of the real life mobile community of immigrants, freed slaves, prostitutes, drunks and businessmen that followed the construction of the transcontinental railroad in 1860’s America, just after the Civil War. I play Ruth, the local minister, who has inherited her father’s church after his tragic death last season. Living in that environment, she has had to grow up quickly and has consequently made a lot of mistakes. This year in season 3, she is trying to redeem herself and atone for her sins by becoming a source of goodness and light for the people in her community.
CTS: For five months a year, you shoot in a remote location in Calgary, Canada. What is that experience like?
KK: We shoot the show an hour outside of the city centre on an enormous ranch in Alberta, on the banks of the Bow River. It’s rare that we film anything in a studio, so we’re frequently amongst nature, working outside. It’s an incredibly picturesque spot, which lends itself to a lot of opportunities for beautiful cinematography. However, working in this way can also mean fighting the elements. The set was completely flooded recently, delaying production by several weeks. Being out there in the middle of nowhere is almost like going back in time. You can imagine it is truly 1867, which is sometimes a desperate prospect! To experience that extraordinarily difficult lifestyle in a virtual sense makes me take stock of the conveniences and efficiency and advanced technology (particularly medical) we have in the 21st century. The living conditions were brutal for those women and men in Hell on Wheels.
CTS: What do you like the most about being on the show?
KK: As an actor, to be working at all is a privilege. To be a series regular on a highly rated cable series, and to get to develop a character over multiple seasons of growth and maturation is even more so. It’s not something I’ve done before now, which means Ruth is the character I’ve spent the most time with in my whole career. It’s great to get to work that way, and to slowly reveal aspects of a person’s personality over time. Also, I love period dramas and have a Victorian sensibility, so dressing up is definitely a favourite aspect! I honestly wish I could wear multi-layered petticoats and corsets daily.
CTS: How did you get your start in acting?
KK: All through my childhood I watched films and musicals from the ’50s and ’60s. I would perform for my parents at every given opportunity, which drove them a little crazy! However, it never occurred to me that acting was a profession and I never declared to anyone that I wanted to act. When I was about 5 years old, the mother of a school friend suggested that I join her daughter at a drama school/theatre troupe in my neighbourhood. I attended class that afternoon and have acted ever since! I went on to perform in four theatre productions every year with that troupe until I was 9 years old, at which time my parents and I moved to Los Angeles. My parents wouldn’t let me start acting in the States until I got settled into the American school system. My first television job was playing a vampire on a series called Angel. I had to wear yellow contact lenses, artificial teeth and facial prosthetics, and I also had a stunt double. It was exactly how you imagine working in Hollywood would be!
CTS: Which actors and actresses would you like to work with the most?
KK: I revere a lot of actors and actresses in British theatre and television who aren’t so widely recognised. There is such an abundance of talented performers, I would be thrilled to work with any of them. I love the idea of collaborating with people I admire over an extended period of time in a stage production. It’s a dream of mine to act with the Royal Shakespeare Company one day.
CTS: What tips do you have for young people thinking of getting into the acting industry?
KK: It is such a blessing to be passionate about something, so it is important not to be disheartened by difficulties you may encounter. There is a lot of competition, a lot of waiting, and a lot of disappointment in this industry, but developing patience, resilience and a way to cope with rejection will be enormously helpful to your well-being.
CTS: You were born in Cape Town, South Africa and lived there for nine years. What was it like to move to LA after spending most of your childhood in South Africa? Do you ever go back to visit?
KK: Moving to LA was exciting and terrifying! Living in South Africa is an entirely different experience. It’s provincial and intimate, whereas LA is a sprawling metropolis. That was the major difference, really – the size of everything. Be it the distances you have to drive, the variety in all the supermarkets, or the fact that my school in Cape Town had 12 pupils per class, whereas there were more than 30 kids in a class in LA. My childhood in SA was idyllic and I loved it, but I am so lucky to live in LA and have the opportunity to pursue my career. I don’t go home that often since it is such a long haul trip (about 26 hours). However, I did go back to play a role in the film version of the South African classic novel, The Story of an African Farm. We filmed in the Karoo, which is a magnificent desert territory. It was a very special time for me and it was wonderful to see my friends again, many of whom came out to the set to watch the shoot. I’ve also had friends visit me in the States, which has been lovely.
CTS: You are also a very talented ballerina. How did you get your start in ballet? Would you ever want to take on a role like Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan?
KK: Thank you very much. I started dancing when I was three years old but after looking at old videos, it is evident I was having fun and games rather than showing any potential for the performing art! I became obsessed with ballet before I could walk, after crawling past the TV and seeing a broadcast of a performance of Swan Lake. I kept asking to see more, and when I was old enough, started taking lessons. Fortunately, the school I attended also provided ballet classes run by a beautiful and exceptional teacher who still teaches there today and whom I am still in touch with. I wanted to be a professional ballerina and continued training into my late teens, but it was then that I became injured and was forced to stop. I would love to be involved in a film about ballet – not only as an actress, but even as a choreographer or consultant. To be able to share the profound beauty I see in ballet with an audience – who might not otherwise have access to or knowledge of it – would be such a joy.
CTS: What do you like to do in your free time when you aren’t on-set or preparing for a role?
KK: I take ballet class whenever I can and when it doesn’t cause me too much pain! I am addicted to reviews of ballet productions and read everything and anything I can get my hands on. I attend ballet and theatre performances as often as I can. I also enjoy reading biographies of actors and dancers whom I admire, and with the advent of YouTube, I am able to listen to and watch their past and current interviews. I love taking walks whilst listening to music. My taste is eclectic and I enjoy finding new artists with a unique sound.
CTS: What is up next for you?
KK: I still have about a month left here in Calgary, so I’m focused on work at the moment. Then it’s back to LA and auditions after we wrap.
Hell on Wheels season three premieres Saturday, Aug. 10 on AMC.View Slideshow »»