The former Universal rapper stars in the post-Civil War Hell on Wheels as Elam Ferguson, who has recently become a freed slave and is now working in a railroad town.
On his role as freed slave Ferguson, Common told New York Magazine: "Very challenging. And that's why I took it on. It's a lot of responsibility because what black people went through in slavery, within that system of slavery, was really treacherous.
"And for me, I felt like I owed it to the people that lived during that time to bring something truthful to the character. And even just revisiting some of the experiences of it, [there] was just a lot of emotion and a lot of pain. At the same time, a lot of strength came from it.
"What I enjoy most about the character is the fact that he was written so strong, not as just a person that was oppressed and kept his head down."
The rapper-turned-actor also said that there are similarities between his character and himself.
"I definitely can see the correlation since you bring it up. The truth of the matter is, I do speak up for certain social issues," Common said. "But I think my character, he had even more of an energy for fighting for justice.
"Because I speak up for a lot of things, but man, your life is in jeopardy when you speaking up during that time. Your life is really in jeopardy. There are certain things that I can speak up for [today] that can jeopardise things - somebody can retaliate against me, against Common, and I do have that courage.
"But living during that time, just to even say certain things, just being able to express yourself the way Elam is expressing himself... you never know when you gonna die."
Hell on Wheels will premiere on AMC at 10/9c this Sunday (November 6).
Watch the trailer for Hell on Wheels below: