Based on the book, “Washington’s Spies” by Alexander Rose, AMC’s “TURN: Washington’s Spies” tells the story of Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), a farmer living in British-occupied Long Island during the Revolutionary War who bands together with his childhood friends to form the Culper Ring — America’s first spy ring.
“TURN: Washington’s Spies – The Complete Second Season” (now available on DVD), moves deeper into the battles waged by soldiers and civilians in the pursuit of freedom and the sacrifices they’re willing to make to secure it.
Heather Lind plays the role of Anna Strong in “TURN: Washington’s Spies” – a smart, headstrong woman and tavern owner who goes through a dynamic transformation over the course of Season Two. Lind’s powerful and empathetic performance as Strong and the deep feelings she emotes as both caretaker and spy leaves viewers with a sense that Anna’s own inner struggle is about to get worse.
I recently spoke with Lind about the upcoming season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies” as well as her new play, “Incognito”, which will premiere in May at The Manhattan Theater Club.
James Wood: How did you first become involved in “TURN: Washington’s Spies”?
Heather Lind: It was through a very traditional process. There were several auditions where I got to meet the creator, Craig Silverstein and executive producer, Barry Josephson. I also got to meet Rupert Wyatt (the director of the pilot) in one of my creative sessions as well as Jamie Bell, who plays Abe. I could tell right from the beginning that everyone involved wanted to tell a great story but was also interested in the history and courage of all of these people.
JW: As an actor, what attracts you to a project?
HL: I have a theater background so for me, the character is usually what attracts me first. I was really intrigued by Anna and her attention to Abe. In the pilot, we know very little about her. She comes into her scene with a lot of backstory but we don’t really know why. I thought, what a challenge it was going to be to get to answer all of these questions about this woman – and then, having the bonus of finding out that she was actually a real person! Her story was one that needed to be told and I felt I could really stand up and expose her to people who may never had heard of her and didn’t know what a hero she was.
JW: Did you have to do a lot of research on the real Anna Strong to develop your character?
HL: There really isn’t a lot of information about Anna. We know that she was a woman and that she was part of a spy ring, but we also know that people during that time period weren’t involved in spying or politics in a very public way. Although a lot of her backbone has survived all of these years, I knew that we’d have to make some educated guesses as to who Anna really was. That was tempting because it gave me the chance to fly undercover and just under the surface of history and invent [with knowledge and with help from other people] what her life was like.
JW: Over the course of Season Two, everyone seems to go through a transformative period of change. What are your thoughts on this dynamic and how it relates to Anna in this chapter of American History?
HL: The great story about Anna right now is that she’s had a fall from grace. In the beginning, her status in the community was pretty high. Her husband was starting to say and do the wrong things but he was still very respected, and the tavern was very successful, but we very quickly see all of those things individually taken away from her. What’s interesting about playing Anna is that she begins from a place of real moral servitude. Maybe she’s suspected the war was wrong but she’s never had to “walk the walk”. She was always an observer watching it from afar. So when the war really hits home, she’s forced to stand up for what she believes in even though it destroys her life. Now that she’s lost it all she has more liberty to risk everything, and that – ironically, makes her a better spy.
JW: What can fans expect from the new season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies”?
HL: This season is one of my favorites. It’s gotten incredibly complex now. We know the characters so well and we know what they’re after. The games are nuanced and the tension is extremely high. Everyone’s become better at spying and fighting. For Anna, there’s even more intrigue between her and Major Hewlett, [Burn Gorman], and a little more manipulation in playing the game. It’s dark, thrilling and incredibly fast-paced!
JW: Let’s discuss another one of your upcoming projects, “Incognito”. What can you tell me about it?
HL: I’ve been close to this play for a while now and am so excited to work on it. As an actor, it’s a layered tour de force. I get to play four different characters with four different dialects. There are three other wonderful actors attached to the show and we all play a combination of 21 characters. It’s a treat to strip down all of the production value and just use text in a really interesting way. The play; brilliantly written by Nick Payne, is an interesting study about memory, human behavior and brain injury. It ties these 21 characters together in a really smart way. It’s a philosophical, fun, fast and really cool play. We start previews May 4.
JW: Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment?
HL: I’ve always known that I wanted to do it. I just wasn’t sure why. From a very early age, I remember being really curious about behavior and my place in the world. So I approached it in a big picture sort of way. I grew up studying dance and trained six days a week in ballet. But even though I loved dancing, I always wanted to “talk” [laughs]. I was very interested in telling the story of people and doing something a little bit different in the performing arts. My parents had taken me to theater to see plays that had a deep history and language and I followed that through school. There are many avenues to becoming an actor. For me, I really wanted to study it and become skilled. Because once you become skilled you can do anything. That was the plan.
JW: What are some of the differences between doing theater as opposed to television and film? Is there one that you enjoy doing more?
HL: The challenges are so different but I love both. TV and film is a fantastic collaboration and it’s great to feel like a piece in a huge puzzle. Theater is also important to me, because it’s a great way to get back in touch with what I’m in control of. On stage, there’s this active, immediate sense of empowerment. You’re under lights and have this beautiful audience giving you their attention and hoping to be shown something beautiful. That’s a great source of inspiration. But I really do love it all. I love good scripts, stories and characters and have been lucky to work with so many amazing people.
JW: What excites you the most about the new season of “TURN”?
HL: The next season is about a lot of things but it’s also the story of the buildup to Benedict Arnold’s betrayal. I’m excited to see how that develops. I’ve also recently seen a few post-production clips that just blew my mind. I was watching scenes between me and Hewlett, [Burn Gorman], who’s one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with. It was so moving and beautiful and I had almost forgotten that we had filmed it. This new season is really going to be one of the best!
TURN: Washington’s Spies Season 2 is now available on DVD
Season Three premieres on AMC Monday, April 25.