'Orphan Black' creator on that crazy, twerktastic episode
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Saturday’s episode of Orphan Black, “Certain Agony of the Battlefield.]
It was the Orphan Black episode that truly had it all: A major death (R.I.P. Paul) a clone coming back from the dead (kinda), an enraged Felix, and a Hendrix twerkathon (see photo above). We spoke to Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett to get the inside scoop on all of that and more. (Also make sure to check out our exclusive interview with Paul himself, Dylan Bruce.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This was my favorite episode of the season and I thought was one of your best episodes ever. Did you guys have that same feeling as you were putting it together?
JOHN FAWCETT: We definitely did. There was a lot this season—and not just this season, but last season too —really pushing towards this episode. It was an important one for us. A lot of talk and thought had gone into this and I just think it turned out so great. We really wanted this to have a kind of an epic, almost end-of-season quality. Basically we wanted it to be like a mid-season climax, but we wanted to have all of that energy and emotion that a season finale would have.
You killed Paul. He takes a knife to the belly and then some bullets to the chest and he drops a grenade to blow up all the research. Now unlike Helena, I am going to assume he is really dead, correct?
That was a little bit hard to cover up, I would say. I think the thing that we can’t quite be certain about is—are Dr. Cody and Rudy okay? They got out of the room, are they injured? Are they dead? Are they maimed? But Paul definitely took one for the team and it was something that we had talked to Dylan Bruce about at the beginning of the season.
I know it’s never easy to say goodbye to a big character, especially one you’ve had since the very beginning. Tell me about the process of orchestrating his demise?
Well, listen, he kinda knew since Season 2 that the character was going to die. There was a lot of truth telling that needed to happen, we really wanted to get to the bottom of who he was as a person so that the audience could kind of…there’s been a lot of mistrust. There’s been a lot of hating Paul and then loving Paul and “Whose team is Paul on?” and “Why is he doing the things he’s doing?” and “Who’s pulling the strings?” And I think it was really important for this episode to lay those things bare and show why he was doing the things he was doing and allow him to step up and go out in a heroic fashion and a very emotional way. It was important. And Dylan knew that very clearly from the beginning of Season 2, but definitely from the beginning of season 3—it was all sort of mapped out toward this episode for him.
It’s interesting that you worked on the plan for this episode for that long.
Certainly the season finale of last year was all kind of gearing toward the answer—not just the new turn of there are male clones and here is the Castor project, but Paul’s involvement in that as well. These were all things that we were trying to tie together and drive it towards a really cool end. The great thing is here in this moment is that if he hasn’t ended Castor by blowing up all the stuff in their lab, he certainly stalled them out in a very, very substantial way to the point where their research has kind of been destroyed. The Castors seem a little bit like mayflies, you know? So maybe they’ll die out before they can re-spawn, as it were.
What was saying goodbye to Dylan like? Did you all have a special send-off for him?
Oh yeah, it was a big deal on set. That episode, therewere a little bit of tears shed, I would say. Everyone was so sad to see him go. He’s been such an amazing and important character for us. And he’s just the coolest guy, right? I can’t say enough about Dylan. And just with our show in general—being out there in the world with our fans and just being a part of our family—It was a sad one, I have to say. But I’m so proud of him. He just killed it. He was so good in those final scenes and the whole episode.
The folks behind Project Castor are trying to weaponize the defect in the clones in this human trial—what are we to make of this?
I think this is all part of a grander conspiracy. Whatever is biologically going on with the male clones, they’re sterilizing women. Whether they know it or not, they’re being used. This is that kind of that tip of the iceberg thing where you go, Oh my god, how deep does this go? Who’s pulling whose strings? Is Cody really the bad guy here? Are there people above Cody? How big is this? And this is just that other big clue in this season’s mystery. And certainly when Paul finds this information, he has to make a very big moral decision, and he does. He protects Sarah and it was a very emotional ending. To me, that’s what’s so great about this is we get a lot of answers in this episode.
You have a bunch of hallucinatory dream sequences, the most important involving the return of Beth Childs in this vision that Sarah has. What was it like for you guys and Tatiana to take this tool out of the box and play with it a little bit?
It was a tricky one because honestly with our show, we’ve never really gone heavily into dream sequences or using dream imagery—you know, a little bit, but not like full-on, like, I’m with someone who’s dead and communicating with someone that was dead. Essentially what it’s gone into is a hallucination/dream thing. And there was a part of me—and listen, I wanted to do it—but there was a part of me at script stage that was very nervous about doing it. Very uncertain about whether this was the right thing to do or not and whether the audience was going to go along with this. And at the end of the day, I wanted Sarah to have some connection to Beth, an emotional connection to Beth that she hadn’t had before. And there was one way to present that, and it was to do something like this.
And it was interesting in talking to Tat about it. Tat was like, is this Beth though? Because technically this is Sarah’s version of Beth. This is what Sarah thinks Beth was, which was interesting. When we talked about that, I mean that really is the reality. Who knows Beth? The only thing that we’ve seen of true Beth is the video tapes of her that we saw in Beth’s apartment. Beth’s still kind of elusive. But I love the feeling that she’s communicating with someone who is dead. And it was so wonderfully created and designed by Helen Shaver, who is the director, and Aaron Morton, the cinematographer, on this episode. They just did such a great job—it’s poetic. It’s actually poetic, I loved it. It’s beautiful.
And that’s a great point that it’s just Beth as Sarah has experienced her, which we see with the taking off of the shoes, the home videos….
Part of the emotional feel of a season finale is that it all kind of comes back around, to the train station. It all comes back around at Beth and Paul at the beginning of the series really. And I think it’s one of those big contributing factors to make this episode feel so emotional and make it feel like a mid-season climax.
We also have this super intense scene of Felix losing it on Rachel here, and grabbing her face and screaming at her. We’ve never seen this character go off like that. What is going on with Felix?
Everyone’s wound up—Sarah’s been missing. We don’t normally do this, but we came into this episode five or six days later, and Sarah’s been missing. And Felix is very distraught about that and really feels like he’s at the end of his rope. I think for Jordan, it was just a good chance to show how close he is to his sister and how much he cares about Sarah and how far he’s willing to go. Everyone in this episode really stepped up to it. I can’t say enough great things about our director Helen Shaver. She’s just so wonderful with the actors—I think everyone by the end of this was so tired because this was a big one for everybody and everyone gave 110 percent.
And then we have what has to be one of your most hilarious scenes ever with Alison and Donnie living out a twerktastic rap video by spanking and riding each other while making it rain in their bed. Were you able to sneak over to set for this scene?
Yeah, of course I did, it was so hilarious. One of the people I want to mention to in just the construction of this episode was Aubrey Nealon, who wrote the episode. I don’t know if it was Aubrey’s idea or if it was my idea—it might have even been Tat and Kristian’s idea, to be honest—this twerking idea with money, which is just idiotic and hilarious. They’re living out their gangsta fantasies. We love the suburban underwear—hey, anytime we can get these two in their underwear, it’s pretty good. That was a hilarious evening on set, no question. Kristian and Tat—it’s this weird thing because they connect a little bit in this kind of music and in the art form of dance, I have to say. Get these two together at a club…watch out.
I’ve seen them on set all of the sudden where they just start rapping, singing songs and being goofballs between takes.
Did you see them at the party? The party that you specifically threw, Dalton, at Comic-Con in San Diego—your big EW party? They went crazy! They were on the dance floor! I couldn’t get them off the dance floor.
But a big twist here, having Donnie in tighty blue undies, not white.
I know! Look, hey man, he has been living the dream these days. You see him wearing leather jackets now, he’s trying to be cool.
Okay, what can you tease up for next week’s episode?
It’s a tricky one—what do you follow this up with? To be perfectly honest, the thing that [co-creator] Graeme [Manson] and I talked a lot about was, what do you do, because this is such a big one? Where do you go next? What’s the next thing to do? And Graeme and I both looked at each other and said, “We just need to laugh our guts out now for a while.” So that’s all I’m going to say.