How one women plays over 5 different clones (and counting) Orphan Black

Illustration for article titled How one women plays over 5 different clones (and counting) Orphan Black

We're crazy excited for BBC America's new clone drama Orphan Black, starring Tatiana Maslany in over five different characters (that we've counted thus far). It's a predominately all female cast, played by the same woman. Check out how she does, and get a sneak peek into the many minds of the clones she impersonates in our exclusive interview.


Maslany plays Beth the young adult street brat who stumbles across her own twin (Beth) just as the poor girl is committing suicide. Figuring this was an easy payday Sarah takes over Beth's life, but then she realizes this twin was actually her clone. And then things really start to get complicated. Truly the best part of this series isn't just the fantastic version of Maslany in various wigs and different wardrobe get ups, but the fact that the main character is kind of a terrible person. We're hooked. Here's everything we could get from Maslany about the new series without spoiling any details for you.

What sort of headspace do you have to get into to play all these different characters.

Tatiana Maslany: For me, you have to approach it with an openness first off. A playfulness, that kid thing that we have when we really believe that we're an alien or an astronaut, or a dinosaur. As kids we can always believe that, and as an actor that's what I strive for, that openness. But also to help differentiate the characters I looked at their world view. Their point of view, how a person sees a world determines how they walk in that world. How they approach people, if they approach people, how they are approached. What kind of energy are they putting out? What kind of weapons to they lead with, what are their defense systems? That was the way I differentiated between the characters. And from there I played with different physicalities that I brought out through playlists that I made for each character. Music that I thought either resonated in them or made me move in a different way. Or made me feel a certain energy. Then lots of dance work. Different kinds of dance for each character, different ways of moving for each character.

That's pretty cool, was the dance work something you wanted to incorporate or was that the show runner's decision?

No this was just me in prep, in my apartment. Putting on different playlists and dancing around. I rented my buddy's studio and allotted some time for myself to just move and experiment and not worry about the cameras rolling or the pressure or anything. It was just me getting to physically explore the characters.

But it's not as simple as you just playing different characters, in the pilot you play a character pretending to be another character. What are the challenges with that?


It's bizarre. It's not that I was imitating somebody, I was imitating myself, this other character I created. It was bizarre. I had to think how does Sarah [the main character] sees Beth [the person she was imitating]. And then, how does use portray that in her body, and letting some of Sarah come out through that, because it wouldn't be a perfect performance. There would be cracks that would show Sarah's aggression and her sexuality. I don't think Beth had that but Sarah, that was one of her weapons, she leads with that. I think Sarah is adaptive and has an amazing ability to read people, so I think that comes in happy.

We've only seen a bit of Beth and Sarah, but both of these ladies are pretty damaged. Actually most of the versions we meet of your character appear to be kind of bad people.


I think they're all surviving as best as they can. Not all of them, on the surface, are as damaged as Sarah or Beth. But they all definitely have their demons. Some of them are more well off then Sarah, but I think the cool thing about them is that no one lives in the world of good guy or bad guy. Moral or immoral. They're all just survivors, they're all just trying to survive. Whether they know what's going on with them or not. For me it's exciting to play real people, we all have real joy.

Well it seems like the women who are vaguely aware of this clone conspiracy (if that's what it is) are all kind of messed up a little. But when we meet Sarah (who isn't aware of her clone kind) she's also pretty damaged. Was Sarah destined to behave this way? Are all the clones a bit messed up?


That's interesting. I always played with the idea that if you have a sibling that you never met or a parent that you never met, sometimes it can feel like there's something missing inside of you? There's something in you that doesn't feel complete. That doesn't necessarily mean that's true for everyone, but for me that's an interesting point. Sarah has abandoned people her whole life. For feat that they're going to abandon her first. She grew up an orphan, was raised in foster homes, never had any solidity. As much as she doesn't want much to do with these women she meets, there's a sisterhood there, a belonging. There's something about being apart of somebody else's life. Somebody who needs you, somebody who looks just like you. As far as being destined to be broken, I think her circumstances are just that way.

It's revealed in the pilot and in the description of the show that Sarah sees Beth commit suicide at first meeting, and then decides to take over her life for a bit to steal all of her cash. Obviously, things become a bit more complicated then that, but are we ever going to see Beth's life? Will there ever be an episode where you're playing Beth straight, right now the only time we see Beth is in old videos?


We get to know Beth's life a lot through Sarah's impersonation of it. Through the interaction she has with people and through her own discoveries. Beth is still a mystery. But you will get to know her better, and the more Sarah gets to know Beth the more she empathizes with her.

There's a lot of emphases on drugs and pills in this show. What are the significance of all these drugs?


Beth was definitely struggling with an emotional condition. We don't know what she's responding to. If it's her life or the clone's life.

What is the significance of the title Orphan Black?

That is still up for debate. I don't even know....I have theories about it, my own reasons for it. I hope people have their own theories for it.


Clones are often used to demonstrate the disposable nature of humanity (to the extreme) is that a big theme on this series?

Yes, but I would say this is counter to that. In an interesting way. The clones in this show aren't cannon fodder. They're not disposable, we can't just kill them off. They're given individual voices and we grow to care about each of them. They are their own people, they have their own lives. And it's only because they're clones that they are linked to each other. I'm sure it does speak to the kind of fragility of humans but it's definitely not like the drones, that you can nail off in a big slew.


Do their creators actually care about them, or do they consider the clones to be property?

We don't know anything about them yet. Or if there is a them, or whose done anything.

Orphan Black will air on March 30th on BBC America.




But who are they the clone of? I guess that's the big mystery surrounding the first show?

I'm surprised Tatiana Maslany is Canadian. From what I've seen of the previews her English accent is deceptively good.