A new 'TURN' brings crowds to spy on filming, meet stars in Colonial Williamsburg

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlaroue@vagazette.com

A few good spies were lurking Monday around the Capitol, some climbing a nearby tree and standing on benches lining the walls trying to get a peek at the filming of TURN: Washington's Spies, an AMC show filming scenes from its fourth and final season.

But for hardcore fans of the show — some of whom waited the four hours before the actors took a lunch break — they simply wanted to see and meet some of the stars from one of their favorite shows.

During filming Monday, AMC camera crews also shot scenes around the Governor's Palace and the Green, areas which were transformed, like the actors, to the appearance of the Revolutionary War period. Eight horses were on the set at the Capitol, and cameras there were shooting at wide angles, forcing passers-by to pause or divert their course.

Williamsburg Police secured areas and directed traffic around the film sites, including the south side of Francis Street and Waller Street between Francis and Lafayette streets, which were closed for 24 hours beginning 9 p.m. Sunday. It also affected bike and pedestrian traffic in the Historic Area and the Governor's Palace.

Elisebeth Tegenborg was one of those fans, as the 19-year-old Williamsburg resident shared show tidbits with other fans standing in the grass beside the Capitol trying to get a glimpse of the filming. She began watching the show to see the actor, JJ Feild, who plays John André on TURN, but also became captivated by the plot and the rest of the cast.

"It's amazing. It's an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Tegenborg said. "These people probably won't come to Williamsburg again. These guys are such great actors. How many times do you get a chance to meet such a great actor or even see what they're doing and what it's like to be on set."

Connie Gianulis, 61, of Williamsburg, like Tegenborg, has watched the series from the beginning. She said she enjoys Colonial history and likes seeing places she recognizes when she watches the program.

"It's always a treat to see Virginia being recognized and used in filming and these kinds of things and productions," Gianulis said. "Location filming is always better than Hollywood sets I think. It tells a story that I think a lot of people didn't know about."

The crowd watching peaked at about 50 people, with more than 100 taking in at least a part of the filming in during the morning and early afternoon at the Capitol. The show, based largely on historian Alexander Rose's book, Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring, also filmed in other parts of Colonial Williamsburg Monday, including the Palace Green and the Governor's Palace.

TURN's plot of the series follows Abraham Woodhull, a Long Island farmer who gets together with friends to form a spy ring, eventually helping Gen. George Washington's military forces change the outcome of the Revolutionary War and win independence.

For David Peterson, 51, of Chesapeake, he had a personal reason for spying on the filming. His son, David, was an extra Monday, playing a redcoat.

The younger Peterson was an historical interpreter in Colonial Williamsburg last summer and applied online for a part as an extra in TURN over a year-and-a-half ago. He found out he got the part about six months ago. The Peterson family is hopeful to catch a glimpse of the younger David when his scene airs sometime in the final season.

"We're such big fans of the show," the elder Peterson said. "We're also home schoolers. He loves American Revolution history, so there's just a natural draw for our entire family."

Those who lingered got to meet and take photos with some of the series' stars as they broke for lunch, some dashing toward Jamie Bell, the actor who plays the key role as one of George Washington's most important spies, Woodhull, as he emerged in front of the Capitol.

Samuel Roukin, who plays John Graves Simcoe, also greeted fans before getting into a white van taking the cast across the street to a tent for lunch.

"We're all just la-la over the celebrity of the players themselves, and they're just real folks too," Gianulis said, "but they bring these characters to life so that's always a treat for those of us who follow their performances."

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

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