Clone drama “Orphan Black” became a surprise hit for BBC America last year, due in large part to a virtuoso performance from lead actress Tatiana Maslany, who’s up for a Golden Globe tonight for her role as small-time con artist Sarah Manning… and soccer mom Alison Hendrix, and PhD student Cosima Niehaus, and more. Maslany, her co-star Jordan Gavaris (who plays Sarah’s foster brother and bestie Felix Dawkins) and co-creator and executive producer Graeme Manson appeared at the TCA winter press tour in front of an adoring crowd of TV journalists and critics to talk about season two of the series, which is nearing the end of shooting in Toronto now and will premiere on BBC America on April 19th.
Speaking of the multiple characters she plays and the “very tense places” at which they were left at the end of the first season, Maslany said it was “daunting to come back to it because I knew what to expect, and I knew how much work it was going to be — the physical and the emotional challenge of it. But at the same time there was a sense of, okay, we’ve done this, so there’s not that pressure of ‘will this work?’ or will people buy the gimmick of it.” She added of the clones that “I know these women now so it’s just about going deeper and challenging and stretching them.”
The show poses obvious technical challenges, and Maslany explained that the scenes with multiple clones were blocked out ahead of time and shot one character at a time, and she will “preempt what the response might be on the other side in order to block that character as well.” “It gets even more complicated when you add another character like Felix or Paul in the scene,” Gavaris added. “Because we’ll establish my coverage and my takes with only one of the characters, so if there are three clones in the scene, I would still have to respond to two other clones not having them there.”
Manson said that we wouldn’t be seeing clones of other characters in the near future, that they hadn’t determined how many clones were out there and that right now they’re concentrating on digging deeper into the characters they already have. One of those will be Felix — Gavaris said that the new season will “establish him outside of the clones, as an individual with his own identity and as a multifaceted human, not just a plot device or someone who’s there to facilitate whatever Sarah’s crazy idea is that day or be the person that she calls when she’s in trouble.” Manson mentioned that Felix’s “relationship with Sarah is tested in our new season as well, as well as he creates new friendships and allegiances with some of the other clones,” citing the Alison/Felix dynamic from season one as one they really enjoyed. “He still gets all the best lines,” Manson assured.
As to what else we can look forward to in season two, Manson promised “we are going to take some risks with our premise in the second season, and we are going to push technically what we have done in the first season. Our actors are really pushing the limits as well.” The character of Cosima, who was revealed to have a illness causing her to cough up blood toward the end of season one, will be forced to face her mortality: “The one who appeared to maybe be the lightest, the most buoyant and the most full of life is now facing the science gone wrong,” said Maslany. Manson noted of the series that he and co-creator John Fawcett “have a long term plan that’s pretty elastic, conceptually,” and “have a Bible that spun it out for at least three seasons.”
As for favorite clones, Manson said he likes Cosima best. Maslany said that “the one who scared me the most was Alison when I was doing the auditions because for some reason I wasn’t willing to admit that she is so much a part of me. She was a hard one to dig into or find the sympathy for initially and, now, I love her.” She added that she found new addition Rachel “to be really daunting as well because of her entitlement and her wealth and her quiet power. It terrified me, but that’s what’s so awesome about this show.”