The hardest-working woman in show business hardly ever gets a break. That’s what happens when you’re playing five-plus characters on the same TV show. But for Tatiana Maslany, that’s been her normal for a while now. Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) sat down with Maslany (quickly!) on the set of Orphan Black in Toronto earlier this week (the morning after she won the Canadian Screen award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role) to get some thoughts on her show, her characters, her fans, and what is coming up in season 3.
EW: We’re sitting here on set while you’re filming the season 3 finale. I remember at the end of season 1 they worked you hard. Some might say too hard. Then they eased up on you a bit, but by the end of season 2 you were doing four clone dance party scenes and it was crazy again. So, how are you holding up right now?
TATIANA MASLANY: I’m okay, I didn’t sleep much last night because we were at the CSA’s but after a while I think your muscles get stronger in terms of knowing when to sleep. And I’m off caffeine, so that’s helping me a lot because I’m not having those crazy spikes or heart palpitations. And we have a nicer spread as far as storylines—Ari’s storyline taking over the content and also just other characters we’ve come to love over the seasons have really been able to step up and take a bigger position in the show. So [Donnie’s] storyline is bigger and Felix is doing a lot more stuff and [Mrs. S’] world has really expanded in a really exciting way so I think it’s sort of evened out a lot more.
You mentioned Ari Millen, who is playing the male clones of Project Castor. I know he came and watched the clone dance party scene last year and you gave him some advice on how to manage playing different characters. Once he dove into it, how did that go?
I watched the first clone scene he did before most people had seen it—just a rough cut. And even in a rough cut I was so impressed with how still he was in those clone scenes and how much he just allowed them to play out like a regular scene and wasn’t trying to indicate that he was looking at himself. He had a real ease with it and I was really impressed by that and kind of shocked that his first time out he was so easeful with it.
I remember at one point when we spoke last season you told me how you were really feeling Rachel at that point. I’m sure at different times you get excited about playing different clones. Is there a clone in season 3 that you’re really excited about?
Like you said, every time it feels like we’re shooting a different movie on set because every character has her own sort of genre that goes with it. And what’s really cool about this season is as disparate as the characters are, they start to crossover in this really unprecious way and worlds sort of start to collide. And my favorite thing is taking the characters out of their world and putting them into someone else’s world and that’s exciting. And that’s all of the characters, really, in this season. All of the clones have that intermingling—just sort of new friendships with unlikely people, like Alison and Felix in the first season. The sort of thing that organically kind of happened between Jordan and myself and those characters—that happens a lot more in this season and it keeps it really fresh. So I still can’t pick which one is my favorite to play.
Which clone would you say has changed or evolved the most from when this journey started?
Without giving too much away—there are two of them that have really shifted.
That we’re going to see shift in season 3?
Yes. And I don’t want to really speak too much about how they shift, but it’s both external and internal influences. It’s things that are changing within them and it’s circumstances changing on the outside that change them forever. And I think they’ve all gone through that—all of the clones—but there are two in particular this season that were so exciting for me to dig into because it was so out of their environment and out of their comfort zone. I won’t say whom, but you’ll see.
I spoke to co-creator John Fawcett about this and want to get your take. There have been some characters that have died and there have been some clones that have died, but they haven’t been the core clones. Sometimes shows kill off their big characters, but you’ve been to Comic Con and seen how fans relate to these characters and dress up like them and how much they mean to them. So is killing off one of the main clones even a topic open for discussion? Because this is not necessarily like a normal show because of the strong relationship people have with these characters and the devastation that would ensue should something tragic happen.
Yeah, that loyalty to the characters is what excites us so much—the fans’ response to them and taking on of their personality as how they identify themselves. But I think what also keeps the show fresh is that all of the characters are up for grabs. As much as they are loved by the audience, and people have their favorites, they could go. They could easily go. And that threat keeps it interesting, and the potential for that makes it feel real and the stakes feel important. And we don’t just expect them to always be there.
The reaction you personally get from fans and the stories they tell—like the one young woman at Comic Con who stood up and talked about her parents not being accepting of her sexuality and how seeing Cosima on screen really helped bridge a gap between her and her mother—that kind of stuff does not happen on a normal television program. I know you are honored when you hear these things, but how do you process all that and know that you are doing things that are going to impact viewers in a way that goes way beyond just a television show?
I’ve never thought we were special in that way. I always just assumed that shows had that emotional connection to them or that life-changing to them. I assume there are other ones out there. Like you say, I am so honored that our show does that. To get to go to Comic Con and experience that first hand and see the fans and remind ourselves why we do this, why you’re an actor, why that job exists—whether it is one person who is moved by it or a group of people or whatever—it’s really bolstering. You know, our job can sometimes become about other things that have nothing to do with the work and nothing to do with the communication of it and the connection with an audience, because when you’re doing TV it is about whatever the award shows are or the press that you do or these other things. But ultimately getting that connection with the audience and making that impact—its unbelievable. We’re so lucky that we get to do this job where we get to play and connect with each other and ourselves and this collective psychology of people and empathize with people—and at the same time make real connections with fans of the show. It’s ridiculous.
For more ‘Orphan Black’ intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
In a related video, the cast is here to refresh your memory on everything that’s happened on Orphan Black so far in just thirty seconds: