Orphan Black creators break down the Alison flashback episode
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Saturday’s “Beneath Her Heart” episode of Orphan Black.
After the dark and depressing death of a clone we experienced last week, it was time for a lighter touch on this week’s episode of Orphan Black. Enter a drugged out dancing Donnie! But the installment was not without intrigue as we got an Alison-centric hour that featured flashbacks that brought the dearly departed Aynsley back into the fold and showed us the first-ever meeting between Alison and Cosima.
We spoke to show creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson to get the scoop on this fun and frantic episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had a lot of flashbacks last season which enabled you to bring some characters back from the grave, and you did it again here in a big way with Aynsley. Tell me about the decision to bring Aynsley and Chad back?
JOHN FAWCETT: This episode is obviously very much more of a personal, character-based episode for Alison, and it’s kind of the first of a number of more character-based episodes to come. And it was just fun for us to go back into the past, to open with Aynsley alive at the dining room table having dinner with her husband and Alison and Donnie, and reveal we’re back in time at the beginning — right around the time that Alison was discovering she’s a clone and has not met Cosima yet. That was just sort of a fun element for us to kind of embrace and to use in kind of this character study of Alison, where we’re kind of moving between the past and the present.
Yeah, about that Alison meeting Cosima scene — what was it like to be able to show that and have Tatiana Maslany not just play Cosima, but play Cosima through Alison’s eyes… with those eyes being impacted by mind-altering drugs?
GRAEME MANSON: Those are the kind of meta-layers we love here at Orphan Black. I mean, that just was a really fun thing for Tatiana to drill down on, and you know, Alison is John’s favorite clone, of course.
MANSON: So John was right in there, particularly going back to the Aynsley stuff, which is a part of the first season that we just loved — the dark turns that Alison’s suburban world took in that first season. We thought that that was the real jumping off point for who that character was coming into this series and we wanted to look at those early moments again and reconsider Alison in a certain way. That’s kind of the modus operandi for maybe each of the main clones this season, is to give them an episode with that kind of flavor and that kind of insight.
FAWCETT: Yeah, this episode really kind of digs into Alison’s self-worth, her worth as a person to herself, and her worthiness in this group of sisters that she has created. She feels kind of like a fifth wheel. She doesn’t feel particularly useful. She’s very down on herself.
MANSON: Of course, with Alison it’s also how she is viewed in her community, which has always been so important to Alison, and it’s nice to see her sort of step outside herself and look down and see what that need for acceptance within that community, what that’s done to her as a person.
FAWCETT: Plus, I think the Aynsley storyline brings back a lot of guilt for Alison, and that’s just so important as we kind of dig into her own issues, her own self-esteem, and this journey that we take the character on.
Well, it’s interesting because Alison can be a mess sometimes, but when she needs to step up, the woman can step up. We see that with her bringing Dr. Leekie’s head to Rachel, right?
FAWCETT: Yeah, absolutely. It was important to us through this journey that at the end of it she does something awesome, and has a kind of victory moment, and that was really critical to the storytelling, that it culminates in a dangerous meeting with Rachel where she throws down Leekie’s head and basically threatens her. And Rachel backs down, so it is this beautiful kind of, ‘I did it,’ and it’s also fun. The episode is always kind of meant to be a fun episode.
Yeah, well, last week was a very heavy episode with M.K.’s death and Kira dropping the bomb on Sarah that she wanted to work with Rachel, but this week you guys had a lot of fun, and that includes Kristian Bruun as a drugged out Donnie dancing in a kilt and exposing himself. This must have been quite the day on set.
MANSON: It was hilarious. Again, another one of the pleasures of taking a TV show with a core group of actors over five seasons is you learn things about the actors along the way. Last year I was at a party at Maria Doyle Kennedy’s house, and there were a bunch of musicians playing in their kitchen — as one does at an Irish party — and who stands up and does a reel but Kristian Bruun! We had no idea. The minute I saw that I told him, “Oh, that’s going in the show. Oh, we’re going to love this.”
FAWCETT: And then he ended up playing mandolin at the end. So not only did he highland dance, he actually played live on set — played his mandolin and sang a duet with Tat, which is obviously super beautiful, right at the very end of the episode.
MANSON: Kristian went to a military school, so he has these strange talents.
FAWCETT: He has strange talents, and he has a strange talent for being able to fall down repeatedly take after take after take and hit the ground in a very believable way. He must have been in a lot of pain the next day because I think David Wellington, the director, made him do it like, 20 times.
RELATED VIDEO: See Bruun and Kennedy talk about this party
Worth every take, by the way. Let’s shift gears a little bit. I want to ask you about Art, because there’s a pivotal moment for Art where he’s got his gun out, he appears ready to shoot if Rachel does not order her people to stand down in Alison’s garage. How long can Art sort of straddle both sides like this?
MANSON: It’s been one of Art’s real talents, to be able to work in the shadows, but the noose has been tightening on him over the last couple of seasons. It’s harder for him to play both sides. Last year he really stuck into it and he crossed the line, and I think Art knew he was crossing a line back then. He ended a life to keep the sisters safe. So Art is all in.
We love that because we love Kevin Hanchard, and we were really looking for a good story reason to have him more active this year. Again, it’s kind of going back to our first season and some of our core groupings. Art was there at the very beginning, Art has grown to be invested, Art has proven himself again and again to be trustworthy. So now we’re putting that ally to the real test. They’ve threatened his daughter and it’s going to be very, very hard for him to help now that he’s under mad Maddy Enger’s finger.
FAWCETT: Yeah, it’s nice to see him having to make a very, very dangerous decision. I think as a viewer we’ve been kind of going, “Whose side is Art on right now?” And in this moment, we can see that Art is very firmly still on our side. It’s a tough decision but he is ready to do it, and he is ready to protect the clones, and he is very firmly on our side, and you see that within that scene.
We end with Helena at a convent. What is that about and what can we look forward to as we keep moving on in this season of Orphan Black?
FAWCETT: Well, this is one of the strangest places that we could find her, in some kind of convent. We certainly know all of Helena’s checkered past in regards to nuns and convents and so forth, and it’s kind of and interesting place for her to hide. So we’re going to dig into that in episode 4.
For more Orphan Black intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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