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TURN: Washington’s Spies Q&A: Kevin R. McNally (Judge Richard Woodhull)

Kevin R. McNally, who plays Judge Richard Woodhull on AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies, talks about the tension between Richard and Abe, filming in historic Richmond, Virginia, and what he enjoyed most about Season 2.

Q: The tension between Abe and Richard continues to rise this season. How do you and Jamie Bell go about preparing to portray such a contentious father-son relationship?

A: Well, that’s a very interesting question. The wonderful thing is I am a father, and he is a son, of course. So, we rapidly fell into our relationship. We sort of have that on set. I certainly, as a father, believe people find their own way. That makes it enjoyable to play, because I find playing people who have qualities that aren’t like mine much more interesting than just being myself.

Q: When we spoke back Season 1, you mentioned Richard’s loyalty to his family and to the people he believes are in the right. Now that he knows Abe is a Patriot spy, those two loyalties are at odds. Which do you think is most likely to win out?

A: I think what’s wonderful about playing this part is that these are two very strong people. When something like that happens in your family, it’s very, very difficult for him to resolve. I think it creates some very dramatic behavior from Richard. I don’t think Richard can see it from Abe’s side. He’s a very old-fashioned father in that way, but I think the actions of the opposition are making him question the justness of the war. On a personal note, what I really enjoyed about the second season was the way the world opened up. I love that we see more battles and are getting to know the generals and Washington himself. It’s got a very satisfying feel to it.

Q: Despite their polarizing differences in viewpoints on the war, are there any ways in which Abe and Richard can find some common ground?

A: Well, we’ve never seen Abe’s mom, but I always try to play it as if he reminds me of her in every way. He is really his mother’s son. They have so little in common that I think it’s a wedge that’s going to drive them even further apart.

Q: Is there anything Abe can do to change or soften Richard’s Loyalist beliefs?

A: I think if you’re in a position of authority, you’re so deep in it. I do think Richard believes he can change Abe though, whether through blackmail or sheer force. It’s a very bad thing. He’s only ever going to fight with his son if he does that.

Q: Season 2 shot in and around Richmond, Virginia. Talk a little about the house and sets that were used for Whitehall, Richard’s estate.

A: It’s wonderful. I see parts of the world I didn’t know before I started this show. In fact, the exterior of Whitehall was one of Thomas Jefferson’s private homes. It’s sort of a museum, and that gives you a tremendous sense of period on the show. The reason we shoot Long Island in Virginia is because Long Island is, of course, very different nowadays, but Virginia is still steeped in that wonderful colonial architecture. It has history of not only the Revolutionary War, but the Civil War. Being a bit of a history buff, that makes it so fun. The weather in Virginia is probably the most challenging, though, we had much milder weather this season.

Q: You previously told us how big a The Walking Dead fan you are. How would Richard fare in a post-apocalyptic world?

A: [Laughs] I could see a spin-off series with Judge Woodhull, so executive producers at AMC, please take note! I think personally, I would hole up and wait for it to pass over, and if it didn’t, I would just offer myself to the zombies and get it over quickly. I think that’s the easiest way.

Read an interview with Burn Gorman, who plays Major Hewlett.

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