Kevin McNally – Turn: Washington’s Spies
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) I finished doing “Turn: Washington’s Spies” in February and since then I’ve been preparing for my next role, which is King Lear on the stage in London.
Q) How became a part of “Turn: Washington’s Spies?”
A) It’s quite simple really. I went on tape in 2013 and I was over in England at the time. I sent it to the producers, they liked what they saw and offered me the role. It was great! It was the first time I had done an American TV show. So, it was a learning process for me, learning about how you do a show when you don’t have all the scripts the way we get them ahead of time in England. So, it’s been a very exciting four years.
Q) Was this a character you could do some historical research on?
A) That sort of research wasn’t really required because although he is based on a historical figure I don’t think he did any of the things that I do. So, my research was based more about the war and what happened during the Revolutionary War.
Q) What was it like for you to join the cast of “Turn?”
A) We all started together so we had to get know each other. We gelled very quickly and I’m very sad I won’t be seeing them again next November for a fifth season, but I’m sure we’ll all stay in touch.
Q) What have you found challenging about this role?
A) Really I suppose it was my first opportunity to play an American in America. So, that was quite a challenge knowing that all ears were on me. The other challenge was trying to give a performance that people would appreciate nowadays and at the same time having a sort of sense of the period. That’s often quite difficult to achieve.
Q) How were you able to master the American accent?
A) Well, fifty years of watching American movies is the answer to that. I’ve always loved American cinema and I’ve always had a good musical ear. I’ve played a lot of Americans on the London stage when I started out as a young actor. I was mainly known for doing American plays like Mamet and Arthur Miller. So, I had experiences being in America and doing the accent, but not doing them in front of Americans on the whole.
Q) You have done theater, film and television. Do you have a preference for one?
A) No. I think the great joy for an actor is you can move through all those mediums. They each have their attraction. I can tell you that after a couple of years I start to miss the stage so I’m very happy after a three year gap to be doing a stage play again because I miss it terribly.
Q) Is there someone you never got to work with that you were hoping to have some scenes with?
A) Yes, not until toward the end did I start to work with Daniel Henshall or Seth Numrich. I never got to work with the John Andre (JJ Fields) character or even Owain [Yeoman] who plays Benedict Arnold. I never got to work with our two society girls. I did get to work with Heather [Lind] and Meegan [Warner] a lot, which was good. I was definitely on one side of the cast and there were others being more active on the other.
Q) What have been some of your favorite moments from filming the series?
A) I can give you my least favorite moment. We built the town and we tended to film there on the coldest days of the year. So, that became a bit of a pain to tell you the truth. I had such wonderful experiences with the other actors that it really falls into insignificance.
Q) You are a part of social media. Do you like the instant fan feedback you receive to your work?
A) I do! Yes, it is interesting that you get such an instant response to what you do. On the whole, it is pretty flattering. Some of it isn’t. I remember the very first time on the internet my stepson was showing me how to use it. This is years and years ago. I said, “You mean I can look up myself and see what people think of me?” He said, “Yeah, yeah. Go ahead and type it in.” So, I typed in my name for the first time on the internet and I got a response from a man in Nottingham that said, “This has got to be one of the worst actors that I’ve ever seen.” I said, “I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. I don’t think I can take it.” [laughs]
Q) What have you taken away from your time working on the show?
A) I have taken away the fact that making television now in “the Golden Age” of television is very hard work and the hours are quite grueling, but I love the fact that we wait for the scripts to come in. And like the real people, we don’t know what is around the corner for us. The excitement of getting a new script and seeing what you’ll be doing next time is really good.
Q) Were you able to keep any momentos or souvenirs from the series?
A) No, but I wish I had taken my hat. I do like my hat. I should have taken the boots as well. It’s a very good point. I have no momentos from the show a part from my memories and a few photographs.
Q) What do you hope viewers have learned from watching “Turn?”
A) The thing I think I learned most from it…We call it the American War of Independence in England. It’s the American Revolutionary War here. Like a lot of people, I saw it as an international fight between the Americans and the British. What I learned about it was that it was actually the first civil war here and it was Americans fighting Americans. Obviously the loyalist side was strongly backed by the British Army. There were people who didn’t want to have an independent country and I think it shows that there is always going to be some sort of division and that past might help us understand the present a bit more, perhaps.
Q) You have been in all the Pirates of the Caribbean films. What has it been like working with Johnny Depp?
A) Well, it’s been fifteen years now. Five films. It’s been extraordinary. I love to say that I’m very loyal to Jack because it has brought me a lot of fun in the Caribbean. [laughs] Of course, they are a lot of fun to make. A lot of children ask me if it is hard work and I say, “No, no. It’s just like what you do when you play, only I’ve got better toys than you have.” It’s immensely fun and great working with Johnny. He’s always good for a laugh any time of day.
Q) What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?
A) Well, obviously Pirates has a very special place in my heart because it brought me to America. “Turn” is the first TV series I did here. That has a special place, too. I’m very lucky in that I keep working and I keep getting interesting work. I like to say that my favorite work is the one that is coming up. It’s the next job. The next job is going to be my favorite thing to do. With very few exceptions has that always been the case.
Q) Is there anything else about your time on “Turn” that you would like to share with fans?
A) Yes, he has a sex change in episode eight, which came as a big surprise to me. I must say, I didn’t think they did those in those days. [laughs] No, of course not, I can’t tell you anything! I can’t give you spoilers! You’re just going to have to wait like everyone else!