‘Mercy Street’ Star Hannah James on Hoop Skirts and Sci-Fi Aspirations

“I don’t want to get locked into one, sort of period drama-type casting,” the actress tells TheWrap

mercy street hannah james

Hannah James plays a key role in the new PBS Civil War drama “Mercy Street,” but she was already well-versed in the war’s history prior to joining the series.

“I was born and raised in Virginia. So growing up we did a lot of studying about the Civil War,” James told TheWrap. “A lot of the battlefields are actually in Virginia…We have the foundation of a hospital on the farm where I lived that was from the Civil War. And in a lot of the fields around us you can find bullets from the Civil War.”

James plays Emma Green, the daughter of a rich Southerner who owns the hotel that has been converted into a wartime hospital at the center of the show.

The role marks James’ first major screen acting gig, one that has thrown her into the mix with veteran stars like Josh Radnor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

“To be honest, it was a little bit intimidating to begin with,” James said. “I did get to set and I was little apprehensive. There was this rumor and people were coming up to me like, ‘We heard you’ve never actually done anything before.’ But it was a bit of a joke actually.”

And while the show features some bloody moments, James said that there was another aspect of filming the period drama that she found the most difficult.

“I will say that wearing the period costumes is not quite so easy,” she said with a laugh. “The corsets for eight, nine, ten hours a day are pretty rough. And those costumes — some of mine weighed 30-40 pounds, so it wasn’t the easiest thing.”

And now with “Mercy Street” premiering to a solid 3.3. million viewers in its first week, James can look to the future to what her next part may be.

“Something futuristic would be awesome,” she said. “I was talking to someone — my hoops are about four feet wide, and they were saying, ‘You’re next part should totally be in a skintight suit.’ But I would be lucky to have any role. I don’t want to get locked into one, sort of period drama-type casting, even though I love doing it.”

“Mercy Street” airs on PBS Sundays at 10 p.m.