For AMC's Turn Richard Blankenship oversees set building based on models.Photo by Antony Platt/AMC
From an unmarked workshop on West Broad Street near North Boulevard, Richard Blankenship's company creates scenery for theater, opera, film and television sets, then ships it away. But when a film project is shooting in town, you can often find him on the set, overseeing construction, paint crews, carpenters and greenery, and making sure things are camera-ready.
From October to March, he's performed that role as art director for Turn , a new AMC series based on a real spy ring during the Revolutionary War, whose first episode airs April 6. Though much of the story takes place in New York, the series has been filmed in Virginia, where the property of the James River Correctional Center in Goochland County became the village of Setauket in Long Island as well as Brooklyn harbor; the James River stood in for the Long Island Sound; and several area plantations served as characters' homes or a Colonial jail — among them, Shirley, Tuckahoe and Kittiewan, as well as Patrick Henry's Scotchtown home. Indoor shooting was done in meticulously re-created rooms — complete with working fireplaces — built inside a warehouse near Richmond International Raceway.
Compared with other recent projects Blankenship has worked on, such as Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and the television mini-series John Adams , he says Turn is more fast-paced: "We shoot an episode every eight days." When one ends, "the very next day, we're shooting the next episode." That means quick adjustments when a new script comes out. "We built a few sets we knew we had to have, but as the scripts are written, suddenly we're building another bedroom or dining room, or going on location and building New York City in Petersburg," says Blankenship, 56.
For this and other recent projects, his wife, Roslyn, has been involved as a buyer of construction supplies. Virginia officials estimate a $45 million economic impact from the series' first season, and everyone involved, Blankenship included, seems to be hopeful it will continue to subsequent seasons. He says, "We feel good about this one."
MORE: Go behind the scenes with our exclusive slideshow of the Turn set .