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TURN: Washington’s Spies Q&A – Kelly Farrah (Property Master)

Kelly Farrah, Property Master for AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies, talks about some of the props that were built from scratch for the series and hunting down an original coin from 1605.

Q: As the show’s property master, what are your first steps when you receive a script?

A: I go through it and find everything that’s mentioned in particular. If somebody reads a letter, eats a meal, fires a gun, looks at a map, or anything like that, that’s my responsibility. I also find incidental things that aren’t in the script — all of the unseen items you have to take into account, too. For example, every time you’re dealing with a soldier, there are muskets and things like that. Then you get them or make them or do whatever you have to do to obtain the items.

Q: How challenging was it to find period-specific props? Were there any you had a lot of trouble finding or were unable to find at all?

A: If you’re a historical type of prop master, which I have always been, you have a general idea of where to get things from. A lot of items are still made for reenactors, and there’s a lot of original stuff out there still. Sometimes you look online and see something interesting, but don’t realize how hard it is to actually find.

Q: What are some examples of props that had to be built from scratch for the show? Which took the longest to create? Which were the most satisfying to build?

A: One example is the puppets of George Washington [seen in Episode 103, “Of Cabbages and Kings”, when Abe and Richard arrive in New York]. And we had a lot of effigies. Back then, if you didn’t like someone, you burned them in effigy. I had to make an effigy of the Pope [seen in Episode 102, “Who By Fire,” as the townspeople prepare for the Harvest Festival on the Setauket village green] that turned out pretty cool. Unfortunately, like some things you build for the show, these were made to burn, so they didn’t last very long. I don’t know how satisfying that is. [Laughs] It happens a lot with props.

Q: Were any authentic items used on the show? Were they purchased, borrowed, or rented? Were there particular vendors or collectors who turned out to be invaluable resources?

A: The writers asked for a specific coin from 1605 and there wasn’t anything we could do but hunt for the original coin. And we found it! A couple of the swords and pistols were also from that period. We had to rent them from a good friend of mine.

Q: Did any of the cast members get attached to any of their character’s props?

A: We upgraded Major Hewlett‘s military gear at one point, and Burn Gorman was very happy. He looked like a commander instead of just a regular British guy.

Q: What are some props that the audience might not notice at first glance?

A: Probably all of the background stuff — there are always people doing things like carrying fish. Anytime someone carries something in the background, it’s a prop. Also, there’s all of the food and drink on the show. I think it’s something you don’t notice, but it’s there all the time.

Q: Is there anything you’ll be keeping or would like to keep but can’t?

A: Maybe a couple of the clay pipes because I smoke them sometimes, but I have enough stuff of my own that there’s not too much I actually want from the set.

Read an interview with Donna Zakowska, Costume Designer for AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies >>

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