Snowpiercer: Working on Mister Wilford’s Train


Life aboard the titular world-circling train in TNT’s Snowpiercer may be centered around the need to survive in a frozen, apocalyptic future, but the day-to-day life of those on board is more focused on bringing meaning and fulfillment to a claustrophobic existence. Alison Wright, for example, plays a hospitality hostess who is faithful and confident that the eternal engine designed by Mr. Wilford will always provide, and Mickey Sumner is a brakeman who acts as a cop-like enforcer of rules that she never bothered to question. The two actors spoke to us about their roles and how their characters’ loyalties will be tested in very different ways when the show premieres on May 17, 2020.

Wright’s character Ruth is not only thankful for her life aboard the train; she dedicates her time to making sure others are comfortable as well, especially those in first class. “Ruth is quite a zealot for Mr. Wilford,” Wright says. “She’s a big fan of his and feels eternally grateful that he’s managed to keep her alive and everybody else alive. She’s very proud to work for him, very proud to wear the teal uniform, and very proud to keep law and order for him. Life is actually a little bit better for her on the train than it was before. So things are going pretty well for her.”

Brakeman Bess Till, according to Sumner, also starts out in Snowpiercer as someone dedicated to her job. “She’s very much a part of the brakeman uniform. She does what she’s told; she enforces the law,” says Sumner. “But before the freeze she was a rookie cop in Detroit and I think never really fulfilled her cop dream. Then she comes on the train as a sort of kind of cop, but I think there’s a sense of pride that she was one of the true cops on the train. Not a lot of the other brakemen came from [a law enforcement background].”

The catalyst that changes everything in Snowpiercer is former detective Andre Layton, played by Daveed Diggs, who comes forward from the impoverished tail section to solve a murder, but Wright cautions viewers against seeing that mystery as the central conflict. “It’s just an element of the story that’s not something that’s going to be the structure of the story for the entire way. I think it’s just a way into a story and perhaps a great way into how we police the train… There are many different levels of security and enforcement on the train, and I figure the murder mystery is a great way to meet a lot of characters quickly.”

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