The upcoming AMC series “Turn” is a spy thriller, but with a twist: It’s set in 1776 at the dawn of the Revolutionary War.
The series, which stars Jamie Bell as a member of a makeshift spy ring working for Gen. George Washington, is partly based on the book “Washington’s Spies” by Alexander Rose. Executive producer Craig Silverstein (“Nikita”) says one of the things that got him interested in the material was the fact that the story of the Culper Ring, as Washington’s spies were known, is “the first spy story.”
“The birth of modern tradecraft was worked out here through trial and error,” Silverstein said Saturday (Jan. 11) at the TCA winter press tour. “Aliases, cover stories, dead drops, the idea of a black budget, a lot of cryptography — these things were invented by the Culper Ring, but out of necessity, not because they came in as experts. What surprised me when I read Alex’s book was it wasn’t anachronistic. It was the start of it all.”
The time period also intrigues Silverstein, who notes that despite the central role the Revolutionary War plays in American history, not a lot of popular entertainment (at least in the past few decades) has dealt with the subject.
“My theory, which started after I read Alex’s book, is that they’ve never really seen the true story. It’s really only taught — my memory is it’s kind of in sixth grade, and then we’re done,” Silverstein says. “It’s a very black-and-white, red vs. blue, David-Goliath tale. … The truth is much more complicated. There’s a real seamy underbelly to the war. There wasn’t just an invasion force against scrappy guerrillas, it was neighbor vs. neighbor, and families split right down the middle.
“You hear the war invoked in recent years a lot politically, at both ends of the spectrum. … The vibe you get is it was so pure then, how did it get so complicated now? What we’re saying is no, it was complicated then. That’s an America I can recognize.”
AMC has also released a new trailer for “Turn,” which is scheduled to premiere Sunday, April 6. Take a look: