'Orphan Black': The creators discuss introducing Tony the transclone
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Saturday’s episode of Orphan Black.]
Orphan Black has never shied away from taking risks, and the BBC America drama proved it again tonight by introducing a new clone into the mix. But this clone was a little bit different from the rest. For one thing…FACIAL HAIR! Meet Tony the transclone. Born Antoinette Sawicki, transgender clone Tony burst upon the scene in tonight’s episode — taking testosterone injections one minute, and then making out with Felix the next. He was looking for Beth Childs (R.I.P.) to deliver a message, but stumbled upon Art (and then Felix and Sarah) instead. We spoke with Orphan Black creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett about introducing this complex new clone, along with other big plot points from the latest episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Obviously the big shock this episode is we meet a new clone, and it’s not just a clone, but a transclone named Tony. Tell me about when and how you developed this idea.
GRAEME MANSON: It really came about near the end of the first season. And I believe John and I and the writers had been mulling this idea of a transclone as, “Okay, that’s a really crazy and complex idea.” And then strangely, almost parallel at the same time, out in the hair and make-up trailer camp with Tat and Steven and Sandy and her team — who really work together on discovering character through looks — I think that they were coming up with the idea at the same time. So eventually when we brought it up with Tatiana it was like we had been thinking the same thing.
JOHN FAWCETT: We went out to dinner with Tatiana in March or April 2013 after season 1 had wrapped to just talk about some of Graeme and my ideas for season 2, and the transclone idea came up and Tat went, “Oh my God, you wouldn’t believe it but that’s what we’ve been thinking as well!” So she was very excited about the idea of doing it already, so it really was not a hard sell to say, “We want to try to tackle this.”
MANSON: And then through the early days of shooting season 2, John and I would be sitting at lunch or something, and then Sandy or Steven would come by and say, “Hey, we’ve got something to show you, can you come out back?” And we’d come out back and there would be Tat in the early guises of Tony — like, the smoke hanging from her mouth, leaning up against the truck. And they did that to us about three times before finding the look, and each time we’d go and we’d hang out with Tony for a little while and try to get a feel for the character.
FAWCETT: And Tat was doing those make-up things with Steven and Sandy, doing it on weekends and her days off because it was very, very top secret. The crew didn’t know; we didn’t want anyone to see her dressed like that. Nobody on the crew knew. We tried to keep that absolutely under wraps, and it’s still one of our biggest secrets of the season. We want this to be a massive surprise for the audience. And it really was a character close to Tatiana that she poured her heart and soul into. It’s really something that she wanted to do.
EW: And how nervous were you guys because this is the type of thing that if it doesn’t work, it’s can be a total disaster. So there’s a risk involved.
FAWCETT: It was interesting shooting that episode, because day 1 of shooting Tony, everyone knew what we were doing now because everyone had seen the script, and I remember waiting on set for her to arrive and it was very, very quiet. I’ve never seen the crew that quiet. And when she showed up there was excitement, but very quiet excitement. It was dead silent on set that day. Because there’s a lot of respect from the crew towards Tatiana, towards what she has to do, and this just commanded that much more respect.
MANSON: I don’t think we ever looked at it as risk. We looked at it as, okay, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it from exactly the right place creatively and story-telling wise and we’re going to commit 100%. And as long as we move forward with our hearts in the right place, hopefully the sexual politics rise above it. That’s sort of how we approached the storytelling, too. Throw the character in and treat the character exactly like you’d treat anyone else, and give them their dignity and respect.
EW: It’s funny because the scene that totally screwed with my mind was the Tony and Felix kissing scene. That threw me just for the fact that it would be creepy to make out with someone who looks like your sister, which you kind of referenced later with Tony calling Felix a “sister kisser.”
FAWCETT: That was one of those parts of the story that really solidified this concept for me. As we were trying to figure out how to use the character, that to me was the pinnacle of what made this so cool — to put Tony and Felix together in a very strange romantic way that left Felix very conflicted. And then the other aspect of these two kisses is that you have to go, “Wait a minute! That’s Tat and Jordan!” [Laughs] The reality of it is it’s not Tony and Felix, it’s Tat and Jordan. And when you go and think that, that’s even a bigger mindf—.
EW: We see Tony leaves town at the end of the episode. Is this a character we might see pop up again at some point?
FAWCETT: I think there’s a good chance.
MANSON: Yeah, there’s a good chance. We really like the guy and he seems like a resourceful person that could show up.
EW: Moving on, what are we to make about Ethan telling Rachel that the clones were all barren by design and that Sarah was a failure, not a success? Was that to contain the experiment?
MANSON: I mean, scientifically, Rachel almost understands it in the moment and Rachel says, “You couldn’t create a reproducing prototype, could you?” Which is approaching it from that very cold and scientific viewpoint, which is not where her heart is on the issue at all. I think we just found it interesting that that was a way to reveal the fact that Sarah and Helena — that their fertility is a true product of chance. It’s anomalous, it’s a natural selection amidst all this science.
FAWCETT: I think in that moment, though, for Rachel — someone who basically believes herself above all of these other clones — she realizes she’s just like everyone else. In fact, Sarah is more special than she is. There is kind of the bottom falling out for Rachel in that scene. And I think that Rachel really wants children somewhere down the line, and being told that this was done to her was part of the design of everything and she is just like those other girls is what really starts to thin Rachel out. And, as a result, we kind of hit a very emotional breakdown from her, which ends that act. It’s kind of an intercut where you see Rachel having a very outwardly fury of emotion and smashes a bunch of s— up. She’s on an emotional journey here, too, that began with the discovery of the fact that her father is still alive and that she’s been betrayed all this time.
EW: And then you have to go and screw with Cosima again at the end and have her coughing up blood and convulsing after she meets Ethan. She’s getting this treatment from Kira yet seems to be getting worse. What’s up with that?
FAWCETT: The treatment that she’s getting from Kira is a band-aid at best. As we’ll see, there may be more treatment options coming, but what she is getting at this point is not enough to counter the effects of what she’s been inflicted with.
MANSON: And the bottom line is, her situation is getting more dire and is advancing fairly rapidly. And this is the ticking bomb that we talked about way back when. But there is very much a ticking bomb, a ticking clock, on Cosima’s life. This is just a more aggressive, visceral display of what it might be to come if they don’t solve that problem.
EW: Okay, John, you huge board game nerd. How excited were you to work Runewars into this episode?
FAWCETT: Well I certainly helped kick that ball down the road. We loved the idea that Scott was going to come back and was going to join us at Dyad because it was character that we just loved and then it was like, “How can we have fun with Scott?” And we all cracked up at the idea that Cosima would come back into the lab late at night, she’s working late, and find Scott with all these super nerdy buddies playing some kind of geek ass board game. I’m a massive board game fan. I probably have a closet that has a good 80 or 90 really idiotically geeky board games and Runewars is one of my favorite games and was created by a company called Fantasy Flight games. And they’ve been so good to us that they allowed us to use this game. So we went all out and I had one of my geeky friends help as the consultant to make sure all the gameplay was accurate, all the dialogue between the characters in regard to the gameplay was accurate.
EW: What I don’t get is why you don’t have our own Orphan Black board game yet.
FAWCETT: Believe me, I would LOVE to do that!
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