William & Mary

Our TURN

  • Grand illusion.
    Grand illusion.  It takes a filmmaker's eye to turn William & Mary's Great Hall into the throne room of King George IV.  
  • TURN
    TURN  Panelists included (l-r): Arthur Knight, Craig Silverstein, Karin Wulf, Barry Josephson, Joshua Piker, Cindy Hahamovitch, Jamie Bell, Susan Kern and Alexander Rose.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • On location.
    On location.  William & Mary's Sir Christopher Wren Building played host to a large cast and crew Oct. 1, 2014 during the filming of a scene for AMC Network's "TURN: Washington's Spies."  Photo by Suzanne Seurattan
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The grand scale and architecture of William & Mary’s Wren Building makes it a sought after location for campus special events. The producers and director of AMC Network’s "TURN: Washington’s Spies" had a different vision for the building’s Great Hall when they visited campus last summer, that of an 18th Century English throne room.  The scene they envisioned debuts Monday, April 13 as the opening of the show’s second season. That episode will air as a special, two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT.

“When we saw the Wren Building, of course we thought ‘we have to use this building,’” said TURN Producer Barry Josephson at a William & Mary event in February. “It’s so magnificent, the campus is so magnificent. William & Mary does such a fabulous job of preserving the building.”

{{youtube:medium:center|tWNrooCBGYY,Wren scenes courtesy of AMC.}}

"TURN: Washington’s Spies" filmed at William & Mary in October 2014. More than 100 cast and crew members were involved.  In addition to filming at William & Mary, the production also shot scenes at several locations in Colonial Williamsburg. That footage will be seen in episodes throughout the second season. 

"TURN: Washington’s Spies" depicts the story of America’s first spy ring, The Culper Ring, which helps George Washington turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. The show’s stars include Jaime Bell as Abraham Woodhull; Heather Lind as Anna Strong, Samuel Roukin as John Graves Simcoe; Owain Yeoman as Benedict Arnold and Ian Kahn as George Washington, among others.

{{youtube:medium|P1tWD0MTXn4,About TURN: Filming in the Wren Building.}}
Bell along with Showrunner, Craig Silverstein (Nikita); Executive Producer, Barry Josephson ("Bones," "Enchanted") from Josephson Entertainment; Alexander Rose – author of the book Washington’s Spies on which the show is based -- and other members of the cast participated in a panel discussion at Phi Beta Kappa Hall in February. The event, a discussion about television, history and revolution, also featured William & Mary's Arthur Knight, associate professor of American studies, English, and film and media studies; Joshua Piker, professor of history and editor of the William & Mary Quarterly; Susan Kern, professor of history and executive director of the Historic Campus; and Karin Wulf, director of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History.

According to the network’s website, season two will take viewers deeper into the battles of the revolution – both those waged by soldiers and civilians – and address the personal and societal sacrifices necessary to secure freedom. Viewers may recognize other Virginia landmarks in the second season episodes. The show also filmed on location in Tuckahoe, the Old Town area of the City of Petersburg and various historic sites and parks in Hanover County, Henrico County, and Charles City County. The show filmed extensively in Virginia for its first season as well, including locations near Richmond.

Setting the scene. Filming in progress at the Wren in fall 2014. Photo by Stephen Salpukas.“We were looking for a room that sort of matched the moment, to convey royalty and where royalty sits at that time,” Josephson noted during the February event about scouting the Wren location. “The Wren Building was perfect for us. That said, it needed to have a few other qualities given to it.”

Those familiar with William & Mary’s Great Hall may have to take a second look to recognize the space on screen. Post- production computer graphics added a few features to the space – a large chandelier, ceiling embellishments, a few tapestries – but the Hall’s magnificent windows, wood paneling, grand doors and brass sconces are all visible.

 “Although we could have potentially made an all 'CG' [computer graphic] room…it’s a hard thing to ask actors to work in a space that is just empty and green walls,” Josephson said. “To have the foundation of this magnificent building, that was great.”