Get ready to start seeing Ksenia Solo everywhere, starting with tonight’s Season 2 premiere of Turn on AMC! She’ll be playing Peggy Shippen, the smart and famously beautiful daughter of a Tory family in Revolutionary War Philadelphia that later becomes Mrs. Benedict Arnold.
I was thrilled to chat with Ksenia about her role on Turn, her upcoming appearance on Orphan Black, saying farewell to Lost Girl, and beginning her directing career. Read our full interview below, but if you haven’t seen the first half of Lost Girl‘s final season, there are some spoilers.
First, look at you! I’m happy to see you’re popping up everywhere.
I keep joking that even if you want to not see me, it’s sort of going to be hard to.
It went from, “There’s this girl on Life Unexpected that you should really keep an eye on because there’s something about her,” to landing on Lost Girl and changing the female dynamic on TV the way Kenzi and Bo did. The second I saw that you were cast on Turn, I was so excited. What was it about the role on Turn that really spoke to you, besides a physical resemblance to Peggy Shippen?
Which I totally didn’t know I had any similarities to her until I was cast and I started reading about her and it was like her light blue eyes – I was like, okay, that’s weird; her blond curly hair, I was like, okay, that’s weird; her petite frame, her waist was like this and I was like, “Oh, my God, this is so nutty,” that I – that I resemble her so much. I am so excited that you’re excited about Turn. She’s such a complex intriguing woman and I mean, it was everything about this role that made me go, “Oh, my God, I have to play her.”
She was ahead of her time, too, in that she wasn’t content to just sit back and play the socialite. She has her hands in it all.
She’s willing to get dirty, yes.
Can you tell us a bit about how Peggy’s introduced on Turn?
We meet her at her home. John Andre goes there to, as we find out, to specifically meet her and ask her about Benedict Arnold. That’s his connection because it turns out that Benedict Arnold stayed at the Shippen home when she was about 14 years old. So we see her sort of in her environment, basking in her glory, and all these suitors trying to get her attention, they are all vying for her attention. And she’s very bored with all of these boys who shower her with love and no one really challenges her. So in comes Major John Andre who observes her and understands that this is probably a girl who is very different than all of the other women that he has met, and he’s quite the Casanova. He’s known for having lots of women and manipulating them and using them for his work, and so he tries a very specific tactic, which is to not give her that attention and to basically ignore her, and it definitely hooks her and she takes the bait. That’s how they meet, and in their first conversation, John Andre asks her about Benedict Arnold and she’s very put off by his question, but John is so charming and handsome that she can’t help but be intrigued by him.
On a less serious note … corsets. Are you ever going to escape wearing corsets?
I mean – come on. In comparison to Kenzi corsets, these are a whole other level. This is the real deal. I mean, we have everything — the corset, the petticoat, every single layer that a woman would have had back in the day we are wearing for 12 to 16 hours a day.
Do all of the layers help when you’re filming outside in the cold?
Not really. There was specifically a scene that Owen and I shot — Owen who plays Benedict Arnold — we’re in this garden, and everything is already wilted because it’s cold and there is ice on the ground, and there are goats. There was a farm by this garden and there are goats making their goat sounds. And we’re doing this two to three page scene and we thought, “Oh, my God, how are we soo cold?” He’s in a full wool uniform and I’m in however many layers, but that did not save us from the cold winter.
With Peggy Shippen being a historical figure, how much did you read up on her and the time period before stepping into the role?
As much as I could. I wanted to know everything and because I wasn’t very well versed with the Revolutionary time period, and I wanted to know about the war as a whole. I wanted to know about the politics because Peggy was very politically savvy; that was one of her charms. What she was famous for, besides her beauty and her wit, was her knowledge of politics. So, there was a lot I had to learn. I had to learn about who Peggy was; about her family; about her lineage; her and John Andre; her and Benedict and their life together. I’m focusing more on the time period that we are focusing in on the show because if I was to learn about her entire life it would just be very hard to focus on what I need to at the present moment. But I’m still reading. There are so many books and so much information. I would say I wasn’t that passionate about history until this project and now I just can’t get over how fascinated I am, specifically with that time period.
In addition to Turn, you’re also going to be on the upcoming season of Orphan Black. I’ve heard some grumblings that Shay may cause friction in Cosima’s world. What can you tease about yout character?
I’m already getting threats on Twitter and I’m like, “Guys, oh my God, it hasn’t even aired yet.” I could be like the crazy neighbor next door, maybe I’m not a threat at all, how do you know? Maybe I just want some sugar or milk and then I go away.
What can I say? I come in midseason, Episode 5 is where I’m introduced. Shay is the complete opposite of Kenzi, just say it that way. She’s very spiritual; she’s very open; and very different than the people that Cosima has had in her life and I think that’s all I can say. But I’m excited to be a part of it. I am so excited to work with Tat again; her and I did a series together when we were teenagers called Renegadepress.com, and we played best friends. And so to be able to work together again has been a real treat. And I get to come back to Toronto. We even had some Lost Girl crew members on the Orphan Black set, so that was very nice.
Speaking of Lost Girl, I really loved how this final season started, giving us some closure on Kenzi and a more bittersweet conclusion to that story. How important was it for you to come back and close that chapter? Although it is possible we’ll see Kenzi again before Lost Girl ends.
It was important for me to come back for the fans as much as I made the decision to take a big back seat in order to have time to pursue other things. That’s one thing I didn’t have because I was on set from morning to night every single day. It was very important to me to come back so that the fans got the closure that they wanted. Maybe it’s not the exact closure that they wanted, but just to have Kenzi’s presence felt, I wanted the fans to know that that meant a lot to me, to do that. And I have to thank Jay Firestone, who was so incredibly supportive of my decision and of bringing me back, finding a creative way to do it, and I have to thank our writers for that because, you know, she’s dead. What do we do now? So it all worked out and I’m very happy that it worked out the way it did.
Besides Turn and Orphan Black, what else have you been doing with the free time you have not being on Lost Girl?
I wouldn’t say I have a lot of free time. I’ve probably been working nonstop since August of last year. Although I’m not on set right now, I am traveling doing press. I’m also working on post production for a music video that I directed last year, for a Toronto artist named Craig Stickland. He was just on tour in the U.S. with Kat Dahlia and performed at Madison Square Garden for the NBA All-Star Game.
That’s exciting! Is directing something that you’ve wanted to pursue?
Yes. So now that I have time, that is something that I would like to focus a little more on. But, besides that, I’m preparing for the premiere of Turn, and making the next right step.
Photo Courtesy of AMC