Orphan Black creators on Beth's emotional goodbye and Sarah's gnarly implant
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Thursday’s “Transgressive Border Crossing” episode of Orphan Black.]
It was another episode that contained that classic Orphan Black mix of humor, heart, and horror, as deliciously odd couple Donnie and Alison went for an ultrasound, Beth and MK had a tearful goodbye in flashback form, and Sarah discovered one of those gnarly Neolution tech implants moving around inside of her cheek!
We sat down with Orphan Black creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson to get all the scoop on the latest installment, “Transgressive Border Crossing.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Well, you guys have certainly made up for the severe lack of naked Felix we had last season. We got a lot of Felix in the apron and not wearing a whole lot else in this episode, and I’m sure fans liked seeing that again.
JOHN FAWCETT: You know, it’s a new season, and we haven’t seen Felix listening to opera and working on his art naked in quite a while, and I think we were all feeling a little bit lonely.
So now the sisters are hiding out in the basement of a comic book shop. John, you super nerd, how much fun did you have dressing this set? Was it hard for you to stay on top of all of your other directing duties, because you just wanted to be dressing this comic book shop?
GRAEME MANSON: It was very, very hard for John. In the puzzle game of how to fit our sets into the studios, John planted his flag in the comic book store and was not leaving it. And it’s a fun set all year, for sure.
FAWCETT: Yeah, at the end of the day we had to fight long and hard to keep that set. They were like, “Why do we have to spend money building the comic book shop?” and I was like, “Because we want free stuff!”
John’s like, “We don’t need any multi-clone scenes this seasons, we just need a comic book shop. That’s where our money’s going!”
FAWCETT: We managed to get it by promising a climax in the comic book shop down the road. Spoiler!
MANSON: Spoiler alert, yeah.
Graeme, we had the big prequel episode last week with Beth, and we have some more flashbacks of Beth this episode. So are these going to extend throughout the season, or are they just to get the ball rolling?
MANSON: They’re a little bit peppered, yes. Heavier in the front to get the ball rolling, but it’s part of the real narrative fun of the season. It’s something we haven’t really done before, and despite the complexity, for the writer’s room, of linking all of these things up, it sure paid off for us this season, I think. Episode written by Russ Cochrane by the way.
We get Helena and Donnie at the hospital together. You do this thing where you sort of mix and match characters, and occasionally you get a pairing that just really works; Helena and Donnie are one of those pairs.
FAWCETT: I love doing those scenes, you know. It’s a really kind of heartwarming/heartbreaking story because Donnie’s there with sort of his wife. Well, she’s dressed in her clothes anyway, and looks a little bit like her, and is pregnant having kids that Donnie and Allison couldn’t have. I love watching [actor Kristian Bruun’s] face in this scene because he’s so excited about the fact that she’s having twins, and he’s in a room having an ultrasound, and that there’s actually real babies coming that you just can feel his excitement. So, it’s sort of a nice bit of emotional drama around Helena being the unwanted houseguest at the Hendrixes.
Yeah, and definitely unwanted by Alison a little bit. Right, Graeme?
MANSON: Tat did a great job of showing Alison’s growing resentment of Helena that might be based in her appetite and her food-raiding missions and her messing up the craft room. But at the heart of it is a very deep story between Donnie and Alison, and being unable to conceive on their own.
There’s a line inside club Neolution where Felix says to Sarah that it’s been six months since the video was taped of the pregnant Neolution woman in Beth’s apartment. That stopped me dead in my tracks because that puts a timeline on the series, that everything we have seen over the past four seasons, has only been six months. I never realized that.
MANSON: I know, it’s crazy when you actually break it down. I think we have one full-time writer dedicated entirely to keeping the timeline straight.
FAWCETT: That’s right. That’s all they do. Of course, you know, six months, but there’s been, like, three different winters in there somehow. Winter has definitely come a number of times.
MANSON: Winter happens when you’re shooting in Toronto. There’s nothing we can do about that, and we just hope that fans suspend their belief a little bit.
No global warming here on Orphan Black. This whole season has a clear link to season 1, not just in terms of specific people but in terms of tone and feel, like with Club Neolution being back. Would you agree with that?
FAWCETT: Definitely. I mean, that was the goal, was to have this feeling of Sarah returning to season 1 Sarah, where she was kind of playing Beth and grifting her way into certain scenarios, and using her wits to get by, and that’s something that we really wanted to feel again — that first-person mystery where we’re really with Sarah, and we don’t know what’s going on, and we don’t know what she’s going to encounter next. You get a little sense of that when Dizzy at Club Neolution grabs Sarah and mistakes her for MK, and she just kind of goes with it. That’s something that we saw her have to do a lot of in season 1.
That’s the feel that we wanted back. Not that we lost it, but we kind of did — just by the nature of the story as we bloomed from season 2 into season 3, and now we’ve come back and managed to get it all small again, hopefully.
When you just talked about season 2 and 3, your arms went out like an expanding world, and you say in season 4 it’s going to be very stripped down. We started this story talking about, “Okay, what is Neolution?” And then we learned about Dyad, and Topside, and Castor, and Proletheans, and all this stuff. And not to say there won’t be elements of all these people there, but we’re back to where we started with this one thing, and let’s start there again, right, Graeme?
MANSON: Yeah, and that’s pretty conscious world-building for us through seasons 2 and 3. And now as we come into season 4, it’s really nice that we can look to our own mythology to generate story, and it becomes easier then to go back to the beginning, to look back, to crack open Neolution again, and say, “What did Sarah miss? What went by?” We always knew we’d be coming back to this, and those large tentpoles that you talked about of Dyad, and expanding it and meeting Castor — those were all tentpoles that John and I had very early on. So now we’re beginning to loop back on ourself, go back to the beginning and dig down.
Okay, let’s talk about these gnarly tech implants. We first saw one at the end of season 3, then we had the dead person last week with his cheek cut out, and now we see a video of one spreading gunk all over some dude’s face, and the episode ends with Sarah finding out she has one implanted in her. What can you say about these things and what they are and where they come from?
MANSON: It’s Neolution tech. And what they are, and what they are doing is part of the mystery of what we’ve got to uncover. But as we know now, there’s one in Sarah.
FAWCETT: A little body horror’s good for people once in a while, you know? Let’s keep them on their toes.
Brutal. John, you directed a multi clone scene here. Obviously, you do a lot of these, but this is a very important emotional one between MK and Beth, basically saying goodbye to each other. Talk a little bit about the emotion in that scene and also how you blocked it.
FAWCETT: That scene was challenging on a whole bunch of fronts. That’s the first time Tat got to play MK on screen, and we threw her right in into a really heavily technical process. We had rehearsed the sequence, but it was a very, very complex camera move, and it ended in this incredibly emotional place between Beth and MK. As we go through these flashbacks with the Beth character, we realize this was the night that she killed herself. And as she walks out the door on MK at the end — you know, it was really emotional watching it back. It worked better than I ever thought it was going to, but it was very, very technically challenging. Maybe you can’t see it when you watch it, but it was very, very complex.
You’re right, I didn’t notice it, and that’s really the ultimate compliment, in a weird way, is that you can’t tell. It just flows so naturally. And obviously that’s Tatiana too, who can be two actresses in the same scene and you’re not even blinking.
FAWCETT: Massive testament to her abilities. And at the end of the day nobody cares what the mood was like on set, or how complicated it was. All they want to do is watch it, and be sucked in, and engaged to it. But I tell you, for her, that was like getting pushed off into the ocean. It was really hard — brand new accent, having to go through all of the little technical challenges that go into shooting one of our motion-control clone scenes, and a very, very complex one at that, and she just did so, so good.
All right, what can you guys say about what is coming up in the next episode, written by Aubrey Nealon.
FAWCETT: Well, we may or may not get to find out what Rachel is up to next week, so we’re excited about that. In fact, that got left hanging at the end of season 3, and we haven’t touched it yet in the first two episodes. That’s a big one for the next episode, so it’s going to be good to meet her mother, Susan Duncan. That’s a big part of the mystery we’re going to follow.
Graeme, anything you want to add to that?
MANSON: More Hendrix high jinks for next week. Hold on to your handguns because the Hendrixes are coming back with a vengeance.