Last year’s breakout series Orphan Black returns for its second season this Saturday on Space. I was on set before they wrapped filming and was able to speak with the show’s star Tatiana Maslany about what drew her to this project, what’s ahead for her characters this season and what it’s like filming a Clone Club scene.
What drew you to this project?
This part is an insane gift. I could see that when I read the pilot and the outline for what the series was going to be. I saw the challenge in it and it’s possibility. That’s really what drew me in at first and then the characters. The writing was so incredible. Even if this had just been a story about Sarah, I would have wanted to do it. It’s just so compelling. Then, I also get to play Alison, Katja, Cosima and it’s just like this buffet of acting deliciousness. It’s so exciting. The writing is so smart and it’s kind of become this cult hit. We didn’t expect that!
Was there any hesitation? You weren’t just signing on to play one character here. While there are supporting actors involved, you pretty much are Orphan Black. I can’t imagine how many pages of script you’d have to memorize per day.
The memorizing thing becomes this muscle. You kind of just show up and you know the lines just because you know the characters. The daunting thing for me was just he creation of the characters and then just seeing that through have having to juggle the arcs in my head because I’m not a plot person at all! I’m so stupid when it comes to plot, especially the sci-fi or cop stuff. I’m like, “I have no idea whatsoever!” I kind of have to play in the moment, which is what they all are doing. Sarah’s making it up as she’s going along.
Sarah was pretending to be a cop. Cosima’s a scientist…
With the cop stuff, I was like, “There’s no way anyone is going to buy me a a cop! Which is perfect, because I was pretending to be a cop. If I actually had to be a cop [as Beth], I don’t think it would have worked! The cool thing with Cosima is being able to speak with Cosima Herter, our science consultant [and who the character was named after]. She took me through it. I was fascinated by how she talked about it and how emotional and passionate she was. It was like how my favourite artists talk about their work. That’s what I really grabbed on to there. It wasn’t like “Oh, now I understand the mechanics,” because I don’t! It’s more of the fascination with the world and the fascination with not knowing. That’s what science is – we don’t know. We don’t know where it’s going to go. We don’t know what the answer is and that’s why we have to keep existing.
Do you have a favourite clone to play?
I like all of them! There’s not a favourite, but I really do like Rachel this season because she’s new flesh and blood to play with. They are giving her some really cool stuff. We’re kind of peeling her apart. We saw one side of her last year and our show kind of likes to show you an image and then destroys what you think of that person – or destroy what your presumptions are.
One of the first photos that came out for this new season was a photo of Sarah holding Rachel down to the floor.
As you would do to somebody who you are not fond of! [Laughs]
What was it like pinning yourself to the floor like that?
It was funny because I couldn’t do it. They had to digitally insert my arm, so I was doing the stuff with the gun, but without an arm. It was very surreal. Of course there was nobody lying down there. It was a really fun scene. Those two are really at odds this season, Sarah and Rachel… There’s a war brewing.
How have the clones evolved since the first season?
They have all shifted a lot last year and ended up in this intense place. They can’t go back. None of them can go back. Cosima is facing her own mortality. Helena’s dead. Alison is head deep in denial – she’s lost her best friend. What’s going to happen with Donnie? Sarah’s alone. I think that’s Sarah thing, though. That’s her journey. She’s always going to struggle with being alone and losing people. Paul (Dylan Bruce) disappeared. Kira (Skyler Wexler) disappeared. Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) disappeared. Felix (Jordan Gavaris) disappeared. She’s in this same kind of thing that we saw her in at the beginning of the first season – she’s running and searching. She’ll destroy anything in her path to get to Kira. But she’s a different person than she was last year. She’s a lot more desperate.
Will the journeys be at a bigger scale this season?
Yeah, it feels like it has legs this season. We saw people within their own environments last season, which was usually their house. Sarah got out a bit more, but this season, the whole thing is blown apart. We’re in the worlds of each of the clones in a really intense new way and their worlds are kind of going past what we know about them and what they are comfortable in. It’s much bigger this season. There’s a broader scope.
Fans loved the Clone Club meetings. Can we expect to see more of those, even though each clone is off doing her own thing?
Yes – there is a lot of individual exploration this year, but we do have clone scenes. They are always a joy!
You actually work with a performance double for the clone scenes.
Yes, with Kathryn Alexandre. She’s amazing! She’s one of the most amazing people on the show. She is absolutely essential – the show couldn’t be anything without her. The trick of filming the clone scenes is that it will only if I’m getting to work off another actor, or else, what do we have? Acting is about listening and responding. It’s give and take. So, if I don’t have an actor with me, I would be totally lost. Kathryn is just as invested in the characters as I am. She comes up with new ideas, concepts and emotional beats for the scenes. We discuss things. The way she plays a scene can inspire me. I really couldn’t do it without her.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Space.