Ksenia Solo, who plays Peggy Shippen on AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies, talks about dressing in period attire, her character’s love triangle, and which 18th century custom she wants to make a comeback.
Q: Peggy Shippen is a real figure in history, but she isn’t nearly as well-known as her husband, Benedict Arnold. What are some of the most interesting things you learned about her? Did you discover anything in particular that helped shape your portrayal of her?
A: What I learned about Peggy was that she wasn’t at all shallow like people thought she was. The image that everyone had of her was just of this party girl, but that was actually only a cover for the very well-educated, politically savvy, sharp and opinionated individual that she was. That was very unusual for a woman of that time, especially a woman her age. What was fascinating about her was that she really understood how men thought and operated and she used that masterfully to her advantage. I felt lucky that there was quite a bit of information available about her. It made for a very rich understanding of her.
Q: Peggy becomes an object of affection for both Major John André and Arnold. What can you tell us about their love triangle?
A: Without giving everything away, Peggy falls in love with the extremely charming and intriguing John André who himself is an extremely skilled socialite, heartthrob and total Casanova. She ends up with Benedict Arnold because it’s part of her and John Andre’s secret plan.
Q: Talk a little bit about developing your on-screen chemistry with JJ Feild. Did rehearsing the dance scene in Episode 202 help? How much practice and choreography was needed?
A: Chemistry is a very interesting thing and you either have it or you don’t. We barely had any time to practice or rehearse and it was quite a bit of choreography that we had to learn. I was surprised how seamless it looked on-screen because in the moment, we had to deal with a lot of elements – the dancing, the dialogue, the movement with the talking. That’s a testament to our director and to the editors who cut it together to make it look like it did. They made it look like we really knew what we were doing.
Q: Peggy was an 18th century socialite. What kinds of things did you learn about 18th century social mores and etiquette? Q: Are there any 18th century customs which have fallen out of practice in modern times that you’d like to see make a comeback?
A: Something that surprised me about that time was that women were not allowed to refer to their spouses as “my husband,” but only as “mister.” I thought that was very interesting. What I would like to see make a comeback from that era is definitely hand kissing. [Laughs] Don’t get me wrong, it still exists, but it’s very rate. It’s a very romantic gesture. Team hand kissing!
Q: The role of Peggy involves quite a bit of extravagant period attire. Did you enjoy wearing such ornate dresses, or do you remember the corsets more than anything else?
A: Peggy’s wardrobe is quite exquisite. Although painful at times, I do have to say I loved every part of it. If I could, I would totally wear it in my own life, but I don’t think people would understand me. So, I’ll forgo doing that. [Laughs] It was very interesting to learn about the process, the layers and everything that went into the way women looked during that time. I have to admit – some days I had a couple of Advil standing by because wearing the corsets for up to 12 hours a day got a little ouchy. [Laughs] I was trying not to complain too much because Heather [Lind] and Meegan [Warner] were absolute champions. They had a whole season under their belt, so I didn’t want to be the new kid on the block. I just quietly experienced the torture.
Q: Any personal favorite dresses?
A: The dress that I wear in the last episode – although every dress before that was extremely beautiful – had an extra pinch of pizazz. Just when I thought the dresses couldn’t get any grander, they always did. Donna Zakowska, our amazing Costume Designer, put work into picking fabrics that were not only beautiful, but also made sure we were 100% staying true to the time.
Q: You posted a number of photos on your Instagram page while filming TURN: Washington’s Spies. What’s your favorite memory from the Season 2 set?
A: I would have to say my first day because it was the experience of diving into that era with the sets, the makeup and the wardrobe. It was all so new to me and it’s an honor to work with such an incredibly talented team that created this world – and that’s exactly what it felt like – I had stepped into this completely new and fascinating world. It felt surreal to be able to play in it. I will remember my first day fondly.
Read an interview with Owain Yeoman, who plays Benedict Arnold.Read More