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TURN: Washington’s Spies Q&A – Daniel Henshall (Caleb Brewster)

Daniel Henshall, who plays Caleb Brewster on AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies, talks about driving the Turtle, shaving off his beard, and the ways in which he’s similar to his character.

Q: It’s been in the opening credits for two seasons now, and in Episode 8, fans finally get to see it: The Turtle! How excited were you when you found out Caleb is the one who gets to drive it?

A: Very excited! It was something I was looking forward to since Season 1, because Craig Silverstein had mentioned that the Turtle would come into play and also that I would be the operator of it. I spent three quarters of this season asking, “Are we there yet? Are we doing it?” It took me eight episodes, but I finally got it! [Laughs]

Q: How much research or coaching was necessary to convincingly portray “driving” the Turtle?

A: It took a bit of coaching and a bit of practice. The interior shots that you see of Caleb in the Turtle are inside a model that was made by the wonderful craftsmen on our show. I sat inside it for a couple of days before we shot it, to practice the motions and see what worked best for the cameras. The art department had loads of images and scribbles from throughout history about what it was like to be inside. Between those and the scripts, I got a sense of what it would be like. These guys who went in the Turtle had very little oxygen, and they had to do what they had to do in a certain amount of time. It was all manually operated while underwater, which was not common in those times. All of those things went into how we portrayed it on camera.

Q: Could you ever imagine driving one for real?

A: Absolutely not! It would be terrifying. There is so much chance for something to go wrong, and then no one would ever see you again. You’d either suffocate or drown – it would be a horrible death. Also, there’s the potential for the dislodging of the explosives, which were so archaic compared to today’s technology. You could easily blow yourself up. I respect and admire the men who did it. It blows my mind.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges while filming the scene? For example, are you at all claustrophobic, and were you while you were filming inside the Turtle?

A: The biggest challenge was when we were out shooting the exterior shots of Caleb coming out of the Turtle and the British soldiers catching him at gunpoint. It was challenging in that the replica we had was filling up with water at a relatively fast rate. The water was cold, and I would pump it out in between takes. Then, as soon as the cameras were ready to go, I would put the hatch down and bunker in, and the water would come up to my knees, depending on how long the takes were. It was a challenge, and it did give me a sense of claustrophobia, but it also gave me a sense of the desperate need Caleb would have had to get out of the Turtle, and the relief he would have felt when he did.

Q: Also in Episode 8, fans get to see you clean-shaven for the first time. How long did it take you to grow Caleb’s long beard? Do you miss it? Do you plan to grow another one?

A: I started growing it in June of 2014, and I didn’t cut it until January when we got back. I’ve had to shave it off and grow it back a number of times now. My beard comes and goes. It takes a few days to adjust, but it’s no great loss.

Q: After two seasons of playing him, how much do you identify with Caleb? In what ways are you the most similar, and in what ways are you the most different?

A: I couldn’t be a spy because I’m not quiet. I also don’t believe in violence, and I’m not a very aggressive person. We’re both impulsive, and we both like to have fun. We look forward to an adventure. We both like to have a drink, have a laugh, and take the world on, rather than sitting back and waiting – which causes both of us to make mistakes. [Laughs]

Q: In the Season 2 premiere, there’s a scene in which Caleb is drunk. Kevin R. McNally (Judge Richard Woodhull) previously shared his tricks for acting intoxicated on screen. Do you have any?

A: I’m not sure if it was Kevin, but someone told me that when you’re drunk, you’re trying not to be drunk. I just pick up the level of intensity. If someone calls you drunk, then you believe it!

Read an interview with Ian Kahn, who plays General George Washington.

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