Orphan Black PaleyFest panel: What we learned
Three seasons in, Orphan Black has cemented itself as one of television’s most imaginative, multi-faceted shows. This isn’t just because of its premise, which calls for star Tatiana Maslany to portray roughly five clones every episode, but also because of the series’ thematic beats. The BBC America hit is about identity, but it’s also about evolution, big business, family, sisterhood, and sacrifice.
“What I love about it is just the capacity of any human being to be multiple versions of themselves,” Maslany told EW on the red carpet before the show’s PaleyFest panel Sunday afternoon at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. “The complexity is what differentiates us and connects us.”
Of course, Orphan Black is also known for spawning more than a few GIF-worthy moments — think the rat tail or the twerking or the male clones — and its popularity led groups of fans to arrive at the panel dressed as their favorite clones. Some donned Helena’s yellow curls, while others sported Cosima’s glasses. (It was too cold for anyone to arrive as Krystal.) All wanted to learn more about season 4 and to tie up some loose ends from last season’s finale, beginning with…
What happened to Delphine?
Actress Evelyne Brochu didn’t appear at the panel, but fans couldn’t wait to hear more about Cosima’s seemingly departed former lover. Before the audience questions, viewers watching the livestream flooded the event’s hashtag on Twitter with requests for more info on Delphine’s fate. When the panel finally opened up to audience questions, the first fan implored the panel for their thoughts about Delphine’s popularity and whether we’ll see Brochu again.
And there just might be hope yet for those calling for Orphan Black to #SaveDelphine. “Where’d she get hit, the liver? It looked like that’s not necessarily fatal…” the series’ co-creator and writer Graeme Manson trailed off, shrugging. So does that mean Delphine can recover from that gunshot wound? Not quite, Manson was quick to counter. “We need the story to drive itself and we need to stay true to that,” he said. “So that’s the bottom line there.” In other words, fans will have to, as always, wait to find out.
Speaking of waiting…
Here’s what we know about season 4
Manson and the cast made sure to reveal little about the plot going forward into the fourth season, but did talk about the broad strokes of what’s coming up. Ari Millen will definitely be back as one of the male clones (“We will be getting our Ari on,” Manson assured the fans, to which the cast responded, “Grande?”), and Kevin Hanchard will “be big this year” as Detective Bell.
Plus, the show will be diving into stories that tie “back to the beginning” of the entire series. What that means isn’t made clear, but the cast did share where they hoped their characters’ stories would go. Kristian Bruun, who plays the hapless Donnie, just hopes he’ll survive the season (#SaveDonnie?), while Jordan Gavaris, who plays Sarah’s fabulous foster brother Felix, divulged some intel about Felix’s path while on the red carpet. “I know that there is going to be a bit of body horror, but I think we’re going to see the idea of biotechnology and big business a little bit more and hopefully get a face on neolution,” he told EW. “In terms of Felix, it’s going to be mostly an exploration of how it feels to truly be the odd man out, because he doesn’t have the biological blood type of Sarah or [Mrs.] S… so it’ll be interesting to see how that affects their relationship.”
On a lighter note, Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays the enigmatic Mrs. S, said at the panel that the writers should inject more humor into her character. “Mrs. S should get into standup,” she said, which prompted Gavaris to imagine Felix in a lighter way as well, saying Felix should have a fashion line of products he actually found at Goodwill. And as for everyone Maslany plays, well, the actress prefers not to spoil the show in any way. “That’s what was exciting for the show in the initial stages, [that] nobody knew it was even about clones,” she told EW. “It was able to surprise people and that element of surprise is what keeps people coming back.”
There is one thing Maslany would like to see, though, and that’s…
An Orphan Black video game?
When an audience member pitched the idea of turning the show into a game, Maslany sat up and nodded, enthusiastically accepting the idea and suggesting they make it a first-person game in which players can switch between clones. Gavaris thought it would be hilarious, considering the shifts in tone, as Helena would be a first-person shooter, for example, while Alison would ask the player to do crafts.
But then Manson chimed in. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “There is some talk about a video game.” And that’s all he’ll say for now, it seems. Still, a game isn’t all Maslany would be excited to see, as the actress spoke about…
Single life for Cosima and what the series means for women’s rights
When Manson wondered whether Cosima would find a new romantic partner, Maslany chimed in to ask whether the character really needed one, resulting in the crowd cheering heartily for her comments. “What I’m also interested with Cosima is just outside of relationships, who is she?” Maslany asked. “Because we’ve always seen her romantically linked with somebody… I’m interested in that because it is a thing, that often women are paired with somebody and that’s how we define them.”
Maslany also elaborated on what the show has taught her about women’s rights, given how much fans have written about the show’s focus on female empowerment and identity. One fan even gifted Maslany with a T-shirt during the panel that read “Strong Female Character,” which the actress promptly put on:
She pointed out that the show never explicitly stated its thesis centered on women; instead, it just naturally told the story the way it was told, and people picked up on it and interpreted it for themselves.
“I think I knew it somewhere, subconsciously, that we were talking about body autonomy and ownership of your story and your identity,” she said. “What I love about it is with the writing, does it feel preachy to me? It feels like we put women at the center, they’re the default… it’s not exceptional, it’s just the way the story is, and that is so awesome, and I just hope for more stuff like that. I feel like we have such a responsibility to continue to tell the story and to explore it. And there’s so much going on right now. It’s everywhere: reproductive rights, it’s at the forefront, transgender rights, LGBT rights. I’m glad we get to reflect that.”
Naturally, as talk turned to where the show was headed, the panel reflected on…
Whether the series is prepared for an ending
To Manson, the show hasn’t begun to think about that just yet, because the story continues to get reshaped from script to script. “Every day, every week in the writers’ room… [is] constantly changing and evolving as we see the episodes come together,” he explained. “There are elements that we like and fall in love with that we push forward.” One of those elements was actor Ari Millen, whose character was supposed to be killed off and instead became the eventual male clone that Manson and co-creator John Fawcett wanted to introduce.
Other ideas that once sounded cool never stuck. “There was some, like, very early incarnation where the clones told each other apart by wearing color-coded bracelets,” Manson revealed, prompting roars of laughter from the audience. At least the name “Orphan Black” did, despite the loss of the bracelets: Manson said he and Fawcett simply thought it sounded cool and kept it.
Most important, the panelists spoke of the camaraderie among the cast, the creators, and the writers — a camaraderie that clearly manifested on stage in the form of, well, fart jokes. While Maslany explained her favorite moments, she mentioned Helena’s transformation. “We started to dismantle this trained killer thing a little and see her farts a little more,” she said, leading to giggles from the rest of the cast.
As the conversation turned to their interactions off screen — Kennedy, according to Maslany, throws the best parties, and even Gavaris’ parents have agreed to attend the next one — Bruun said, “We get along, we love to work with each other, and then we go a long period of the year when we don’t see each other because we’re working on other gigs.” At that, Kennedy quipped, “And ‘smell ya later’ has a special meaning.” Well, then: It looks like Mrs. S really should do some standup comedy in the future.