Common has been dabbling in feature acting for a few years now, since he appeared in 2007’s Smokin’ Aces, but he may have just landed his biggest role yet.

The Chicago-bred MC has been cast in the AMC network’s forthcoming drama series Hell on Wheels. The show will center on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and Com is set to play Elam, a half black, half white, freed slave hoping to find work. According to deadline.com, he is the first person to be cast in the Western.

“Common brings a layered intensity to a very complex role,” said Joel Stillerman, the network’s VP of programming. “This part required someone who can transcend the stereotypes of the period and bring the character to life in a truly unique way, and he brings that."

Com most recently appeared in Just Wright, co-starring Queen Latifah. —Adam Fleischer