Tatiana Maslany on ‘Orphan Black:’ Cool clone scenes ahead
“Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany says her workload has been lightened in Season 3.
Maslany still plays Sarah Manning and her clone sisters just as she has for two seasons on BBC America’s hit thriller. And while the story has focused on five main Project LEDA clones—Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena and Rachel—Maslany has portrayed nearly a dozen others as well.
In the new season, airing at 8 p.m. Saturdays, she isn’t the only cast member playing multiple roles. Ari Millen, who joined the cast in Season 2 as Prolethean thug Mark, has added Mark’s Castor clone brothers to his job description.
“They did take a little bit of the brunt of the work off my shoulders,” Maslany said recently, adding that “cool guest stars” and supporting cast members also get expanded scenes this season. “So there’s a divvying up of the responsibility, definitely, of carrying the storyline.”
After watching the first few episodes of the season, I’d say Maslany is being modest. Sure, Millen is everywhere on screen. But so is she. Which leads to another question for fans of the Season 2 clone dance party.
Will we ever see all multiple LEAD clones and multiple Castor clones on screen together—all at once?
“That would be super fun,” Maslany said. “I won’t spoil anything but yes, I’ll just say there are some very cool clone scenes coming up. Definitely.”
Maslany spoke with writers before the new season began. Here is an edited look at the conversation, broken up into subject sections.
Did you offer any advice for Ari about playing multiple characters?
We definitely talked about the challenge of it. Ari is an amazing actor and definitely had his own take and his own process in terms of what it was for him. But, yes, I think when you’re facing something like this, it’s always nice to have somebody as an ally. We definitely have kind of an open discussion going any time there was something that came up.
When I saw his first clone scene, I saw a rough cut of it, and it was unbelievable. His understanding of the sort of technical side of it while still being able to be present and be relaxed and just not make it about the technical was really [amazing]. He was kind of a natural at it. It’s very cool to watch somebody else go through the same process that I did.
What was your reaction when you learned that there were the male clones of Project Castor coming into the mix and how have they affected the whole mythology of the show and the universe?
I was really excited about the prospects of it because I think Ari is such a strong actor. And I think what they offer us is another exploration of nature versus nurture—a different perspective, a different kind of experiment.
The Leda clones were raised in disparate circumstances, separate from each other. For them to discover each other is kind of their journey. … But the Castor clones were raised self-aware and sort of in the unit. So there’s a very different experience that they bring to the question.
The rest of the cast has experienced being fixed points while you transform from character to character. How was it for you just, as an actor, to now get to experience that with Ari Millen?
It’s great. It’s awesome to watch the process from the outside. And Ari has a totally different way of going about it than I do and that’s exciting to see because it’s such a unique challenge. It’s such a cool kind of uncharted territory thing. It’s not really a common thing to get to play so many characters on a series. I’m just really happy that we got him and that he was willing to take on the challenge.
THE LEDA CLONES
After last season, how is Sarah’s relationship with Mrs. S and Paul? Can things ever go back to how they were after they betrayed her?
I think what Mrs. S and Paul did to Helena definitely changed the game in terms of who Sarah can trust. I think Paul was always somebody that Sarah was wary of and, at this point, he’s really kind of sealed the deal on how she feels about him.
Mrs. S offers definitely a more complicated thing because I think Sarah had really started to take on this idea of Mrs. S being her mother, being part of her family and being somebody she could trust and this betrayal is so enormous and that it sort of forces Sarah into some of the most difficult decisions she’s had to make so far on the series.
Is Alison and Donnie’s marriage the strongest romantic relationship at least at the beginning of the season?
We definitely have seen [Alison and Donnie] kind of come together by the end of Season 2 and there’s a sense of like understanding why the two of them get each other and why they work. We’d only ever seen them sort of in conflict before this, so it’s really nice to kind of get to explore their romantic sort of feelings toward each other and the sort of sense of being a team. Yes, and we definitely get to see that a lot more in Season 3.
Rachel had such an important Season 2 finale in terms of her getting to meet her father, Duncan, and what that did for her. Was that a really important episode for her in particular?
Yes. It’s always cool to kind of take a character that has been sort of seen in one way and get to expand them in a different direction. Rachel has always been sort of buttoned up and aloof and difficult to access emotionally. So its fun to get to push her in a new direction and let her kind of unravel and [see] that kind of austere facade crumble a bit.
I think a lot of these clones are dealing with identity and I think family has a lot to do with identity. So any time we get a little glimpse into the back story of any of them or learn something that we didn’t know about them, it’s always exciting to see them sort of be shaken up by it, especially somebody like Rachel who is so buttoned up and so seemingly together and seemingly untouched by any kind of pain or any kind of fears or insecurity.
Since Delphine is doing a lot of Rachel’s duties, what does that mean for that relationship between Delphine and Cosima?
Well, I think Delphine and Cosima have always sort of been on the opposite sides of the equation in terms of Delphine really being her monitor and sort of having to pull the wool over Cosima’s eyes a little bit. Yet Cosima continually trusts Delphine and continues to love her and sort of romanticizes what they could be … together.
But unfortunately, Delphine has to cover herself and Cosima has to protect her sisters, so they sort of end up being again on opposite sides of the equation. And, yes, it’s an interesting season for the two of them. I won’t say too much about what happens but yes, it’s definitely a lot of conflict.
I loved seeing Tony as a trans character. Any chance we might see Tony again? And what would you like to see him kind of get embroiled in if he does come back?
I won’t spoil too much. But yes, Tony was an awesome addition …in Season 2. I would just like to see him and Felix [together] and sort of continue to explore what that relationship could be and to get more back story on who Tony is. I think there’s a lot to mine there and I think we barely scratch the surface.
Jordan [Gavaris, who plays Felix] has talked about how he gets to develop a friendship with Cosima in the upcoming season. How does that develop?
The two of them had sort of been a little bit at odds for some reason and not because of any kind of overt thing but I know Jordan was just like, “I don’t think Felix trusts Cosima,” and I’m like, “All right, that’s interesting.”
We got to kind of explore a more slow burn sort of relationship between the two of them and they have so much in common in terms of being lonely and sort of—I think there’s like a heartache in the two of them. We really get to see that a little bit at season end. And Cosima sort of trusts Felix because she’s living at his place and he kind of can’t get rid of her. So another kind of unlikely coming together of two people.
Felix seems to have those kind of unlikely friendships with the clones—Alison and him kind of came together even though they sort of despised each other. They’re sort of like an interesting two sides of the same coin in that relationship.
The showrunners have expressed interest in doing a flashback into Beth’s life. What aspects of that would you be most interested in exploring?
There’s a lot to her that is unknown and sort of has been hinted at. I think she was going through a lot of turmoil and pain and I’d love to kind of get to the root of that, what that is and her relationship with Paul, her relationship with Art. … I would love to do that. I think that’s so cool that they said that.
How will your characters interact with Art this season?
Art has always been this moral center of the show and has sort of fought for the sisters for some reason. We’ve never really understood why and we get a lot more insight into him this season. And I was so happy for that because Kevin [Hanchard] has been an actor that I’ve watched for years before I got to work with him on the series. I’m a huge fan of his work in theater and he is such an amazing, amazing actor. I watched him play Martin Luther King this last year in two separate performances. … He’s just so incredible. And we’re really lucky to have him and it’s great to get to mine his talent and expand that beautiful character that is Art.
GUEST STARS AND MORE SEASON 3
James Frain, Justin Chatwin and other guest actors are on this season. What was it like having them on the show?
Totally awesome. I won’t say too much about the characters because I don’t know what I can say and what I can’t say. But they are definitely awesome characters. James was such a blast to work with. He’s such a compelling actor and kind of has this darkness to him that’s so fun to play opposite. Justin, too, is hilarious and offered like a real great comedy to the series. We’re really lucky and sort of honored that these people want to come and do the show with us and are fans of the show.
The stakes keep rising each season, almost like each episode. Besides Dyad and Topside and Castor, what are the other threads this season?
There are loads of threads. There are so many threads that I don’t even remember all the threads. It’s a huge season. It’s an absolutely enormous season. The mystery continues to unravel. And like in seasons past, as soon as you get a little bit of a clue into what’s happening, the rug gets pulled out from under you and you have 1,000 more questions. So it’s going to continue to be a mystery.
There are so many great moments of humor. Is there more of that coming?
Oh for sure. Any time you have Felix in a scene, you’re going to get some amazing one-liners and Donnie, too, like, Kristian [Bruun] is such an amazing improviser and has created this hilarious character and gives me so much to work opposite when it’s Alison and Donnie. So yes, there are hijinks.
Kira has been handled as being special, as being different. Will she have a bigger role?
Kira, definitely, has been such a driving force in Sarah’s world. The stakes of her relationship with Sarah continues to be a big driving force. Sarah has to make some really difficult decisions this season and those will affect Kira. We’ll see this unit be compromised, this family unit be compromised. So I won’t say too much about it but that’s sort of a little spoiler.
APPROACHING MULTIPLE ROLES
Do you have a favorite scene?
There are so many. It’s hard to pick one. But Helena’s slow dance with Jesse in the bar was really nice. It’s a totally different thing for Helena to get to do. Alison in Season 1 getting to sort of rip up everybody who’s been judging her in her community and sort of have her big blow-up was really fun.
That scene between Sarah and Cosima in Season 2, it’s in the finale, it was just a really fun scene for Kathryn and I to do together. She’s my clone double. She’s so incredible. And to get to just like, you know, not have to act to the tennis ball and get to act with an actress who gives me so much. She and I have a real sisterhood between the two of us. So to get to just say those lines together and explore those characters together in this kind of intimate, quiet moment that Sarah never gets and that Cosima sort of gives her and allows her to have was really beautiful and really fun for us to do.
I know it gets really complex with you playing multiple clones trying to film a scene with more than one clone in it, but now that Ari is in the mix with multiple clones as well, has it increased the complexity and the time of filming some of these scenes?
I think what we tend to do on the show is that as soon as we get comfortable [with] one way of doing something, we sort of try to screw ourselves up a little bit. We sort of like to push the boundaries of what we’re able to do and the limits of those clone scenes. So, yes, you’ll definitely see more complex clone work this season and that’s just because we’re getting more comfortable with the technology and we’re excited by getting to sort of further complicate things.
And John Fawcett, who’s the showrunner of our series, he’s like, crazy about adding new challenges. … We never sort of get used to them. I mean, we get used to what we’ve done [with those scenes] already. But then we add things like pouring wine or five clones in a scene or whatever, like it’s really just we want to kind of make it more interesting for ourselves and for the audience.
Did you discover any new acting challenges with your respective roles this season and how do you feel you further grew and developed as an actress overall this season on the show?
I’m so lucky to get to have this challenge of playing multiple characters and sort of revisiting them every season and growing them. The writers are amazing. They constantly expand the characters and give me more to play with and more to explore. So I feel really challenged every season.
You can’t help but kind of change as an actor as you grow and as you learn more and as you get to work opposite people like James Frain. Every day is like a learning experience for me. So it’s hard to even kind of pinpoint what it is that I learned exactly. But I know that I’ve learned so much in terms of what it takes to lead a series and the kind of stamina that it requires to play these many characters.
When you’re playing a character playing a character do you kind of slump shoulders and try to figure out how you’re going to dig in to something like that?
I don’t do a lot of figuring out. I love those scenes so much and they’re such a confusing, disorienting sort of experience. But I love them. They’re so much fun to play. I always feel a little bit like out to lunch—out to sea, not out to lunch. A little out to lunch as well. There’s a lot of room for mistakes and a lot of freedom to play and a lot of room to kind of experiment with the sides of things and how bad somebody’s impersonation of someone else is or how great it is or who’s a good actor and who’s not. It’s really fun. And to play with how the clones see each other—what Alison’s version of Sarah is versus what Sarah’s version of Alison is or Rachel is—is really fun.
Producers don’t always tell the actors what’s coming ahead of time. But you play so many different characters. Do you feel like you get a heads up on what’s coming up or do you still kind of learn when you read the script?
There’s a lot that I learned when I read the script which is nice for me because I can’t keep too much plot in my head. It doesn’t compute for me really. So it’s nice to kind of be in the dark a little bit. But John and Graeme, the creators of the show, have always kept an open door policy in terms of, like, what’s going on and where we’re headed. They have asked for my input and asked for my ideas about the characters and about new characters. And so it’s a really collaborative thing. I don’t think that every TV show can kind of say that. And it’s a really unique position to be in as the lead actors to have that kind of say. I really appreciate it.
Is it gratifying to see at fan conventions how your characters have become an inspiration for so many young women and so many people?
Yes. Yes. Those events are kind of like the most exciting part of the job. I mean, it feels amazing to get to go and meet the fans and get to interact with them in a personal way and for them to sort of get to tell us how the show has impacted them is unbelievable. …
And we’ve always been really humbled and really inspired by our fans and by their dedication to the show and their knowledge of the show and their analysis of the show and also just how it changes their own lives, their own personal journeys. It’s incredible.
You don’t expect that when you’re doing a TV series, to have that kind of impact. We’re lucky to be in the world right now where we’re able to interact and discuss things, important things with our fans. It’s totally gratifying.