Writer’s Room: A Page from the Script

Writer Kevin Deiboldt shares historical script notes from an upcoming episode of ‘Copper.’

A period show is, by definition, filled with history. Copper is no exception. The entire creative team – from the actors to the designers to the writers – spent months (in some cases, years) studying research to ensure that the world of Copper was imbued with authenticity. With the aura of 1864 New York.

For a writer, that research can be intoxicating – scores of factoids and tidbits gleaned from sources (personally, I spent entire days sifting through the archives of the New York Times, which go all the way back to 1851) at your fingertips. The urge to plug as many as you can into a script is strong: “Knowledge! I must share all this fascinating knowledge I’ve discovered!” Ultimately, though, there isn’t much room for them. We’re a drama, not a documentary… and while history adds color to the world of Copper, it’s the characters who breathe life into it.

That said, you still want the reader to get a sense of what it was like to be living in 1864 – of what was happening in the world. One of the tricks we used on Copper was to put a historical page in the beginning of each script; a timeline, where we listed some important (or interesting) events that all took place around the date our episode was set. (My favorite historical note from the script of Episode One? September 17: Mary Todd Lincoln comes to New York for a shopping spree, spends $27,000 on clothes, hides the bills from her husband.)

With Episode Three airing in just a few days, I figure I’d share the history page from that script, “In The Hands Of An Angry God.”

Copper – Episode 3: “In the Hands of an Angry God

September 23
Archduke Maximilian is made Emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III of France in defiance of the Monroe Doctrine; Lincoln offers a mild protest, fearing that the French might support the Confederacy.

September 24
General Philip Sheridan burns fields and barns in the Shenandoah Valley to eliminate the Confederate grain supply.

September 25
“In God We Trust” appears on newly minted U.S. coinage for the first time.

September 26
The Central Park Zoo opens; one of the camels on display is used to pull the park lawn mower.

Have questions or comments for Kevin? Leave them below! And for more of Kevin’s ‘Copper’ musings, check out his personal blog, Ithaca Mafia.