The second season of Orphan Black ended with a pretty solid cliffhanger as the audience was introduced to a whole new set of clones played by Kingston, Ont. native Ari Millen. The actor was originally set to appear on the show for six episodes as Prolethean Mark and then get killed off but Millen impressed show creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson so much that they decided to not only keep his character, Mark, alive but decided to base the show’s male clones, Project Castor, around him.
The TV Watercooler caught up with Millen in Toronto on the eve of Orphan Black’s third season premiere to discuss the responsibility of taking on a few new characters, learning about these new clones and what he’s learned from “clone pro” Tatiana Maslany.
You went from almost being killed off in the second season to playing four characters. That must feel pretty cool.
It’s like I won the lottery! It’s such a joy and I’m just so excited for this season to start airing and for everyone to see what we accomplished this year.
What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to play your own set of clones?
I started off as a fan of the show. I was excited to see the progression of the storyline, but I also had a personal interest. I think I’m still taking it in stride. [When I found out] I sort of just sat on it and kept it a secret from my family and friends. I was more excited to see their reaction to it. It’s a rare opportunity that an actor gets to be on a show that they love, but also be able to create multiple versions of themselves.
Tatiana Maslany’s been doing this for two seasons now. What were you able to learn from her on set?
I just like to watch people who are great at what they do. Tat is killing it on the show. She is just getting nominated for huge awards and rightly so. So, to see how she does that and act alongside a tennis ball with an ear bud in her ear and realize that you are not speaking to a face anymore and that you have to imagine talking to yourself on a take which hasn’t even been shot yet. It’s weird! It’s wacky. Thankfully I had her to fall back on when I got lost.
She’s got a double, Katherine Alexandre. Do you have one?
I’ve got Nick Abraham, a friend of mine. I knew him from Ryerson theatre school and he was my first choice when I found out. I said, “Nick’s got to be my double because we already know each other, have a relationship and there’s no ice breaking that needs to happen. He’s very talented and so much of these characters are what he brought to them as well.
How did you get into these characters? Were you involved in their creation process?
Well, I mean yes and no. I wouldn’t want to take away from Graeme, John and the writers’ room. I think that we all feel very safe in their hands and their beautiful character creations but what is great for me was the fact that there was this cliffhanger at the end of the second season and then there was about a five or six month hiatus where I got to think about who these guys are in my head and them and learn it slowly and then once we did start shooting and it’s one of the things that makes this show beautiful and why it’s so great and successful is that the writer’s room is putting them in peril and huge stress levels because they are only writing one or two episodes before what we are shooting. I think that’s so that they can take in what the actor’s are putting out and watch the dailies and see, “Oh, this is that or Tat did this… I never thought of Alison doing that! That opens up a whole new plotline. Mark did this! Let’s make him a clone! I think it keeps things fluid and everyone is just listening and collaborating. That certainly makes everyone involved feel appreciated.
You must feel a special connection to Mark since you’ve planned him longer.
Yes, in some ways. There’s definitely a comfort level with him. There are certain things about him that I admire. I got to rediscover him this year as one of the brothers of Project Castor. There were different parts of his personality that I got to discover this year.
If you could say one thing about each of the clones what it be?
Rudy is the peacock. He is the alpha male. Miller is reliable. Seth is the wildcard and I don’t think you could predict who he is or what he’s going to do. Then there’s Mark… He’s a mystery. We’ll peel more layers of that onion later this season.
There’s an illness that runs within Project Leda. Cosima got very sick. Is there a similar problem with Project Castor or all these guys healthy?
Project Castor is very much interested in Project Leda because they have something that we want. It is something that is going to benefit Project Castor and without Leda, Castor might be in peril.
While the Project Leda clones were all separated, the Project Castor clones were raised together in the military as brothers.
I think that one of the overall themes this season for Orphan Black is family. And yes, Project Castor is very self-aware. It’s a wolf-pack. A brotherhood. So just like any group of guys or family, there’s always infighting or jockeying for position, but if anyone gets or says a bad one about one of their own, you’ve got four others to deal with, you know?
Gracie (Zoe de Grand’Maison) had strong feelings about Helena and the clones. Now she’s married to one. How do you think Gracie will handle finding out that Mark’s a clone?
Marcie and Gracie this season, although their love is young, they are going to face some challenges that are unimaginable.
Does Felix (Jordan Gavaris) get himself a Castor?
I would love to do scene with Jordan in any capacity. That would be fantastic. But, we’ll have to wait and see on Castor’s interaction with Felix.
Cal (Michiel Huisman) did some work with the military (he designed weapons)… Could there be a connection with Project Castor?
Michiel is back this season for a couple of episodes and he’s keeping Sarah in check. That family of him, Kira (Skyler Wexler) and Sarah is becoming stronger.
The names Leda and Castor both stem from Greek mythology. Could there be a connection? Biological perhaps? Leda was Castor’s mother.
Graeme Manson along with the rest of the writers are brilliant and nothing that they put out there doesn’t have some meaning within the show. If they choose to allude to something, then there’s going to be some kind of payoff. It’s not so much fun as “That’s a cool name! They are brilliant.
Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. PT on Space.