It is 1776 in Setauket, New York and the small town is surrounded by the British. They are looking for insurgents that are doing everything they can to declare war on the Crown. General George Washington’s army is in trouble as he needs information about the whereabouts of the British.
The rebels are in the woods as New York City is now the base of operations for the British. Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) sees what is going on around him and with the murder of his own cousin he makes a decision that will change his life.
Woodhull becomes a member of the Culper Spy Ring and does what he must to ensure the safety of his family and his nation. All around him decisions are being to be made that are dangerous.
This AMC series was brought about by the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose. An author and historian, Rose has written other books such as Kings of the North: The House of Percy in British History as well as American Rifle: A Biography about military firearms and how it shaped American history.
Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring caught the attention of creator Craig Silverstein. I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with him about the ending of last season, fans who are waiting and what we can expect in season two entitles TURN: Washington’s Spies.
Good morning and thank you for talking with us today about the next season of TURN Craig.
Can you tell us what drew you to the project initially?
For me it was after reading Alexander Roses’ book, I knew immediately it would be a television show unlike anything that was on at the time. I couldn’t remember a show that was set during the Revolutionary War and at the time I read the book I was doing different projects. I thought it would be so different. That was my first attraction to it but after reading his book I realized there were pretty unique and untold stories about American’s first spies that was just cool.
That is our response to it as well. TURN is amazingly original and I hope you are proud of that. Did you think it would be hard to shoot because it is so intense with so many storylines?
We try to make it as intense as possible. That’s what I really hoped for and that is to make it very immediate and very visceral and not empty or feel like a history lesson. Instead we wanted it to feel like you were there with the people of the times not knowing if they would win or not. It was a very chaotic time and we wanted to reflect that.
Jamie Bell, talk about an intense actor! I feel like when he is on screen he knows so much more with that look about him. Did you expect that when he was cast for the role of Abraham Woodhull?
It surprised me because Jamie is a star and what that phrase really means. There is a white hot center of a star with certain energy that comes up that is magnetic. He puts himself 110% into the role. A lot of actors do it but I feel he’s a star because he burns that much hotter. I’m not sure where that comes from in certain people but he definitely has that. In addition to his intensity, one of the qualities you look for is an intangible quality that you like and root for that person no matter what questionable thing they may be doing. He seems to have that as well.
There is a believability about him.
Yes, you know he’s trying to find the reality of any given moment and it’s difficult for him to play into something he doesn’t think is real. We talk about those moments and tweak them on the set before we shoot them as much as possible.
You have managed to put together such an amazing cast, did it surprise even you?
It’s definitely one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with. I think we cast a lot of people that weren’t familiar to audiences and tries to hold the mandate of who best fit the character. I think that’s how we wound up with this particular cast that is so great. If you turn to any of them they are good and it made it difficult for me to manage sometimes because it all gets bigger in the second season with our new additions to the cast. At some point I know I’m going to have to start killing people off the cast to make it all fit <laughing>.
You could always do a running pole to see who the audience wants to see get the ax.
Have the audience decide!
There you go! Leaving off in season one, all I know that fans wanted to know when season two would come. You had the audience immediately! The excitement is there and without giving too much away, what can you tell fans to look forward too in season two?
They can look forward to an even more active and thriller of a season. In season one we are meeting a lot of people like Abe before they got into the spy world and really pulled into it. Now Abe is completely inside it and the spy game that is being played is more front and center from the very first episode all the way through. We have our shocking moments like in the finale but they come a little bit earlier this season. We also have some bigger scale battles and a lot more spy craft this season – more gadgets and techniques.
Speaking of that how was the continuing research for the show?
We researched a lot for last year but wasn’t able to implement them until this year. There are clues and hints in the opening credits and title sequence to the show and you can spot some strange gadgets that we weren’t able to use until this season.
Was that a cool part for you to watch the technology change so rapidly then?
Yes, they become more sophisticated versions of the techniques of the time. The cryptography and the idea of the armed submersible and certain concealed weapons. It’s all the same basic principles of war, its just become more refined and it kept the soldiers safer as the technology got better.
What made you decide to call the second season Washington’s Spies?
I think there are two reasons; 1) Washington is a central character and we kind of held off a bit but made a few appearances in season one but he’s really a main cast member in season two. Now that the Culper ring has officially been used heavily he is much more a character because they truly are his spies. If you put that title in the first season it probably wouldn’t have made much sense since he wasn’t in it much. The second reason is to send a clearer message to those that are fans of military history and historical fiction that this is what the show is! The message is made very clear.
When I first started watching the show, every time I thought I had it figured out you twisted it up <laughing>
We will keep that up for you!
I’m going back to watch season one before the new season begins, it’s great to revisit the season.
I agree with you. When you get to that last episode of season one viewers become totally hooked.
I so appreciate talking to us today, you have done an amazing job with such authenticity with costuming and how scenes are shot you are doing such a great job.
That’s great to hear!
The tension left at the end of season one adds to the excitement of season two’s return. The cast brings such depth to a storyline that keeps your eyes riveted to the screen. If you thought last season’s cast was amazing, wait until the new cast members bring their characters in.
I am a stickler for period pieces and want to experience whatever era is being represented. TURN offers so much detail from the clothing and mannerisms to the sets filled with spinning wheels and grandfather clocks of the time. Just so well done adding all of this to the believability that brings TURN to life. Reading Roses’ book, Silverstein has done an incredible job and fans are thrilled.
The second season of TURN: Washington’s Spies will begin April 13th at 9/8 c with a two hour premier on AMC.
In the end – it’s the untold story of America’s first spy ring!