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W&M campus doubles as set for AMC's 'TURN: Washington's Spies'

  • Ready for her close-up
    Ready for her close-up  William & Mary's Sir Christopher Wren Building played host to a large cast and crew Oct. 1 during the filming of a scene for AMC's "TURN: Washington's Spies." More than 100 cast and crew were involved.  Photo by Suzanne Seurattan
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It’s not unusual to see folks clad in Colonial-era costumes roaming the William & Mary campus; it's just a stone’s throw from Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. But the volume of costumed revolutionaries may have gotten your attention this week when the William & Mary campus doubled as a television set for AMC’s Revolutionary War drama TURN: Washington’s Spies. The show filmed scenes for its second season on campus Wednesday.

“Part of the excitement of opening our buildings to film crews is seeing their creative use of William & Mary’s unique resources,” said Susan Kern, executive director of the Historic Campus. “Our role at William & Mary’s Historic Campus is to understand how the College has used these buildings over three centuries. When the location scouts show up, they get to imagine how these spaces can be transformed for their projects. It’s quite fascinating to see the process – the equipment, the long setting up, shooting, and tearing down, how our buildings can offer something special to their work."

TURN logoTURN: Washington’s Spies premiered in spring 2014. The show, based on Alexander Rose’s book Washington’s Spies, depicts a story of America’s first spy ring – The Culper Ring. The show’s stars include Jamie Bell, Seth Numrich, Heather Lind and Daniel Henshall.

Equipment, crew and cast for the production could be seen in and around the Sir Christopher Wren Building where all of the filming took place. More than 100 cast and crew members were involved.

“The authenticity that Virginia brings to the story we’re telling in TURN: Washington’s Spies has been an enormous part of the series,” said the show’s executive producer Barry Josephson in a press release.  

While the Wren Building was certainly in existence during the Revolutionary War, the space was not portrayed as itself. The scenes instead depicted an English castle.

TURN: Washington’s Spies filmed a number of episodes on location in Virginia for their first season, including locations near Richmond. This week was the show’s first visit to Williamsburg, however. In addition to its time at William & Mary, the show also filmed at Colonial Williamsburg.

“We’re thrilled to be back for season two and honored that Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary agreed to allow us access to these amazingly beautiful and historic locations,” Josephson also said.

This week’s film shoot was not the first time that William & Mary played host to production crews. The College Yard was used for scenes in the History Channel’s Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson’s Pursuit of Knowledge and in 2010 for the independent production, “Alone Yet Not Alone.”

Additional production locations in Virginia for the second season include 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.

“This industry creates high-wage jobs, and a positive economic impact in almost all sectors of our economy,” said Andrew Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office. “The demand for content worldwide is on the rise and these jobs are essentially ‘content manufacturing jobs.’ Virginia already possesses natural advantages in terms of providing a perfect palette of locations for filmmakers. Access to the stunning campus of William & Mary, and the great partnership we enjoy with the staff is a great example of how we can all work together to bring this work to the Commonwealth.”

TURN: Washington’s Spies, is an AMC Studio production. The show’s executive producers are Craig Silverstein (Nikita) and Barry Josephson (Bones) from Josephson Entertainment. Look for scenes from the Wren in the opening scene of the first episode of TURN’s new, 10-episode season next spring.