Congrats on TURN. Tell me a little bit about how you first got involved in the show and about your character Peggy.
It was an old fashioned audition. I couldn’t go in the room to meet with Craig [Silverstein, creator] for casting because I was filming Lost Girl. I got the script and put myself on tape. After sending it in, I Skyped with Craig and he gave me notes on Peggy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Peggy Shippen is a very fascinating young woman, a socialite that people refer to as the Paris Hilton of her time. That was really a façade though. She was politically savvy and very well educated. For the time, she was very ahead of the other women she was around.
When I first read about the character, the name Peggy made me think immediately of Peggy from Mad Men who is also very much ahead of her time and a strong woman in a man’s world.
Absolutely. And Peggy Shippen is very opinionated and will tell you what she thinks when she thinks it. She almost seems like she was born in the wrong era because she was so forward thinking.
Peggy has an interesting storyline where she’s kind of in a love triangle with Major John Andre and Benedict Arnold. Do you have any experience with love triangles?
[Laughs] Do I? Well, actually! Oh my god, I can’t believe you asked me that! In high school, maybe briefly, there was a bit of a triangle. But we definitely don’t have to get into that. [Laughs] In Peggy’s case it’s interesting because she meets and falls in love with John Andre and she unwillingly gets tied into this triangle when she and Andre try to turn Benedict. I think it’ll be an interesting ride for her to want to be with someone but not be able to because of the circumstances. She has to put her feelings aside and it can’t be easy.
Everyone knows the name Benedict Arnold and that it has only negative connotations. It’s what you call a friend who betrays you! Have your opinions changed about that namesake since being in this role?
For sure. I think what TURN does so brilliantly is it explores what made these people do what they did. We get to see the behind-the-scenes of what the war was like. I think it’s great that we can show where these people came from and what happened to make them do what they did.
You get to wear some seriously amazing costumes on this show. Tell me everything you can about the costuming process.
I’m so lucky. We have an incredible team. Donna, our costume head, worked on John Addams on HBO so she has an incredible grasp of that time period. We have so much fun with Peggy. Every dress is more grand than the last. The choices of fabric stays true to what they had in 1777. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever worn before. The gowns are so big, they definitely took some adjusting to. The corset, something I’ve never worn before, was rough. The first time I put it on I thought it was fine and literally five minutes later I was gasping for air! You get used to it though. They’re made out of leather so they mould to your body.
When you’re in the dress and you have to change the way you walk and move to accommodate it, does it help you get into character a little better?
It’s hard not to get into character. It changes the entire way you feel in your body wearing that corset. I’d be like ‘Um, how do I go to the bathroom?’ It always makes for embarrassing bathroom trips. Not only was it this new image, but also the accent. All of those pieces put together really helps you get into that world. I worked really hard with a dialect coach because many of my cast-mates are real Brits, so I wanted to be on par with them and not embarrass myself.
Between this and Orphan Black – a show that’s pretty futuristic – do you feel like you’re hurdling back and forth through time?
Absolutely. It’s been a crazy winter filming both shows at the same time, going from 1777 to this futuristic science world full of clones! But to be honest, the hardest part about it was travelling and flying. Going from Richmond, Virginia, to Toronto was the most exhausting part of the process.
You’ve played a lot of characters that are outside the usual realm for young beautiful actresses. Is that something you look for?
That’s been a conscious effort to constantly try to do different things and play different roles. I get bored and don’t want to do the same thing again and again. It’s not the kind of actor I am. For me to be happy and creatively satisfied I need to do things that scare me. I played Kensi on Lost Girl for a while and loved it and learned so much but there came a time when I thought okay, what’s the next chapter? I put work into making sure I’m always expanding myself.