One of the surprise breakout hits of 2013, BBC America’s Orphan Black developed a small but passionate fan base of viewers who followed the show about a group of female clones caught up in a war between their evolutionary-obsessed creators who have been monitoring their every move, and the people who consider them an abomination against God and want them dead. In addition to women in general, who enjoyed seeing several smart and tough female characters portrayed, the LGBT community via fan groups like the #Clonesbians latched on to the show thanks to two characters in particular: Sarah’s gay foster brother Felix (played by Jordan Gavaris), and one of the clones, Cosima (played, like all of the clones, by Tatiana Maslnay), who developed a relationship with her female monitor, Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).
The show was praised for showcasing strong and complex gay characters whose sexuality was not their only defining characteristic, and I asked Maslany about that praise on the Felix’s loft set during a break in filming on season 2 (which premieres April 19). “Yeah, that one means a lot to Jordan and I both,” says Maslany of the support from the LGBT community. “I mean, I’m honored in any way to speak to that community and to be playing a role. We sort of embrace the idea of every human having the potential to be anything, and I think that opens the door for all kinds of dialogue about sexuality and about gender. And it’s exciting material that is not always on screen in a respectful way. And I don’t mean respectful in the sense of martyrdom, I mean respectful in the sense of flawed, complex performance and characters.”
Gavaris also appreciates the connection many LGBT fans have felt with the show. “I love it,” he says. “In Canada especially, since gay marriage has been legal since 1999, and in Ontario we tend to be more socially and politically liberal. We’re in a different place than the United States right now, from a civil rights standpoint. It’s a great place to operate from, to shoot the show here, because we shoot all the storylines with respect and with care. I think it’s important to show all sides of a minority. On television now we find a lot of characters are being portrayed in a very politically correct way — where they have great jobs and they aren’t effeminate. These are seen as the right way to do it. But that’s not necessarily fair. It’s not fair to the side of the community that doesn’t look like that. They can’t identify with those characters. It’s really great that we have people like Cosima and Felix and Colin and Teddy. It’s great that we get to show all sides of the minority as best we can and hopefully do it respectfully. It’s lovely that the LGBT community has responded so well. We take that really seriously and it’s something we’re really proud to do as a show. We have a social responsibility to be inclusive.”
Even while Orphan Black received praise for the diversity of its characters, there was some debate online about the decision to have Cosima be gay, because If she has the same genetic code as her clone sisters, does that mean the show is implying that she chose to be gay as opposed to being born that way (since other clones like Sarah and Alison appear to be heterosexual)? Absolutely not, says the woman who plays her. “By no means are we saying that Cosima chooses to be gay,” says Maslany. “It’s by no means that. It’s just that there are so many biological factors into the mother’s womb, into the conditions of the womb. So much of the research I was doing about clones was about identical twins, right? Identical twins would actually be closer in expression than clones because clones are birthed from different wombs. And there’s so much information that gets fed through the mother. I think we’re not saying anything about that in terms of choice and biology or whatever. We’re saying more that everyone could be anything.”
There’s also the matter that we are only 10 episodes into the series and are still learning more about the clones, how they were created, and whether there are actually small differences in their genetic makeup. So more answers as far as that goes could be coming. We’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.
Check out Orphan Black on the cover of the new Entertainment Weekly, and buy the issue right now by clicking on the cover to your left. And for an exclusive photo of Maslany as three of the clones, be sure to like Entertainment Weekly on Facebook. Plus, for more Orphan Black intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.