Gob­bling up screen time

Ris­ing Sun man’s turkeys land TV ap­pear­ance on ‘Veep’


— The first time Don Gif­ford, owner of Gif­ford’s Farm Mar­ket & Feed Store, got an email about his turkeys be­ing fea­tured on a tele­vi­sion show, he didn’t think much of it. “I thought it was silly,” Gif­ford said. Then he got a call in early spring from JoAnn Daw­son, who op­er­ates Fair­winds Farm & Sta­bles and “wran­gles” an­i­mals for show busi­ness, telling him that the pro­ducer of the HBO se­ries “Veep” was on the hunt for two tom turkeys that looked like a cou­ple he owned. He obliged, and soon Daw­son came by to pick up the an­i­mals — named, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, Tom and Tommy.

“The whole thing caught me off-guard,” Gif­ford said. “I thought, ah, noth­ing will re­ally come of it. But it did.”

In the spring of 2015, Gif­ford bought six turkeys as chicks — three male, three fe­male — from a cus­tomer of his store; not for any par­tic­u­lar rea­son, he said, just for the heck of it. They’re Nar­ra­gansett turkeys, hail­ing fro­mom the North­east and named af-


jan­toshak@ches­pub.com ter the Nar­ra­gansett Bay in Rhode Is­land. The toms can grow to be nearly 30 pounds, while the hens top out around 15.

As it hap­pened, Gif­ford’s turkeys were a per­fect fit for “Veep’s” needs. In their episode — sea­son five, episode five, called “Thanks­giv­ing” — fic­tional U.S. Pres­i­dent Selina Meyer (played by Ju­lia LouisDrey­fus, of “Se­in­feld” fame) par­dons Tom and Tommy, pay­ing homage to the play­ful pres­i­den­tial tra­di­tion that re­curs ev­ery year around Thanks­giv­ing.

The film­ing took place back in March, and the episode aired in May, but Gif­ford didn’t know about it un­til Daw­son sent him a screen­shot of his turkeys a cou­ple weeks ago. She ran­domly stum­bled upon it while flipping through the chan­nel­sone Fri­day night — when she se­lected it, she saw “Thanks­giv­ing” in the cor­ner. “It was such a ran­dom chance,” she said. Daw­son, a mem­ber of the Screen Ac­tor’s Guild, boasts a for­mi­da­ble list of Hol­ly­wood cred­its, in­clud­ing work on “The Sixth Sense” and, more re­cently, “House of Cards.” She’s es­tab­lished her­self as some­one to call for pro­duc­ers look­ing for an­i­mals to fea­ture.

When a pro­ducer on “Veep” con­tacted her about the turkeys, she called all around the tri-state area, to no avail. She was some­what shocked to learn that Gif­ford, a fel­low Ce­cil County res­i­dent whom she knew be­fore­hand, likely had what they were look­ing for.

So she stopped by the farm and sent some pic­tures to the pro­ducer, who sent back that Gif­ford’s turkeys fit the bill. Daw­son then took the birds to Wash­ing­ton for film­ing, and brought them home af­ter their scene was shot.

Be­cause that scene took place on the steps of the DAR Constitution Hall and not in an en­clo­sure, Daw­son tied strings around the turkeys’ an­kles, just in case they tried to fly away. To her sur­prise, they didn’t act up at all. They’re well-man­nered crea­tures, al­beit not very in­tel­li­gent, Gif­ford said.

They were so po­lite, in fact, that af­ter the first take, Daw­son re­called Louis-Drey­fus turn­ing to her and say­ing, “‘Now can you make them mis­be­have so it looks funny?’”

She could. For the sec­ond take, she told Louis-Drey­fus to pat the turkeys on the back as she ap­proached them, and when she did, Daw­son tugged lightly on the strings at­tached to their feet, which prompted them to fan out their feath­ers. (The turkeys were not in any way harmed.) Louis-Drey­fus was pleased.

Now as be­fore, Gif­ford’s turkeys are set to live a life of com­fort and ease in their house and en­clo­sure next to the feed store. Re­cently, Gif­ford sold one of his toms, so he’s down to five, but that’s no mat­ter. He’s hop­ing for chicks in the fu­ture.

As far as “Veep” goes, Gif­ford has never watched a sin­gle scene of it — he still hasn’t seen “Thanks­giv­ing.” And does he plan to? “Not re­ally.”


Don Gif­ford, owner of Gif­ford’s Farm Mar­ket & Feed Store, tries to get his two tom turkeys to chase af­ter him in their en­clo­sure around noon Mon­day.


Gif­ford holds one of the tom turkeys that was used in a film­ing of the HBO TV se­ries “Veep.”

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