Tatiana Maslany has us obsessed with her performance on Lifetime’s Orphan Black. She spoke exclusively with SMtv
Imagine having to play four characters on one TV show? It’s enough to make you go crazy. Yet Tatiana Maslany makes it look so effortless. Orphan Black is on Lifetime (DStv 131) Thursdays at 8pm.
The Canadian actress, who has won two Critics Choice Television Awards for her portrayal of Sarah Manning and her sister clones – Cosima, Allison, Helena (and a couple of dead ones, plus a few more coming up before the finale)- it’s a performance that has not only impressed critics, but also viewers. Fans of the show call themselves The Clone Club and we count ourselves as part of it. She spoke to us about why she couldn’t say no to the show, her body double and the different accents she needs for each character.
What was the key element of the show that got your attention? Was it the characters or the script or the challenges that would come with the job?
It was definitely a combination of all those things. It was definitely the script that made me so excited about the project because the writing was so compelling and the characters were so well developed on the page, it was a world I hadn’t seen yet in a TV series.
And the challenge of playing all these characters. I didn’t know how that would be done and it was something that as an actor really excited and inspired me and made me a little bit obsessed with trying to get the job.
Despite it being categorised as a drama there is a particular sense of humour to Orphan Black. Do you prefer more dramatic scenes or more comedic scenes?
I love the combination that we’re able to play with on Orphan Black. I think the series has its own dark sense of humour and to me that is so much fun to play. I think in life the darkest moments have humour in them, I think that’s just the nature of being alive and the humorous moments can have a dark side to them.
I think there is something fun in playing with drama and comedy in the same moment, in the same scenes, within the same characters. Those are my favourite shows to watch like Breaking Bad which balances that tone so nicely.
Each character has a different physicality and accent. Which clone is the most difficult to maintain physically during a long day of acting and which accent was the most challenging?
I think the London accent was the most difficult for me and remains so. It’s so specific to neighbourhood, specific to area in London so that one is a bit of a hard one, the Sarah accent. As far as physicality, I’ve been playing a lot with Rachel, the clone we meet later in the series. She’s quite difficult to maintain throughout the day because her posture is impeccable and she’s always in the most painful of high heels so she probably the most difficult.
How lucky do you feel to have the opportunity to play such different individuals?
I’m so happy that this role exists. I hope that women playing lead roles that are complex, difficult and weird will just become normal. I think it’s happening more often. Robin Wright in House of Cards plays a fascinating character and Laura Dern (in Enlightened) played an incredible leading woman who wasn’t necessarily the strongest woman, she had so many flaws and weaknesses but I totally know that woman and believe her and I root for her. There’s a lot of for room for it to be normal for women to be leads in shows. It’s about time.
Watching the show, these characters are individuals not defined by anything….
One of the things that makes me the most proud about the show is that these women are individuals. They’re not just the girlfriend and they’re not looking for male approval in anyway. They’re so autonomous and their life it their own. It’s exciting for me.
They’re not objectified by the show…
I’m so grateful to be on a show like this because it can so easily fall into that trap where we need to see more naked bodies, the characters need to be sexier etc. The great thing about our show is that the four lead characters are weird as hell and none of them need to be pretty. It’s extremely refreshing for me to get to play people like that.
You have an actress double on the show called Kathryn Alexandre. She must have the most ungrateful job in TV as we rarely see her. How important is she during filming?
She is so important, I can’t stress that enough. She’s so incredible. She’s the most generous actor because like you say we don’t see her on screen but everyday she comes to set knowing all the lines, having prepared a performance, having memorised what I’m doing on my side so she can mimic it back to me at the same time as technically not showing her face. She does so much but gets no credit for it. I am so grateful to have her and so beyond lucky to have such an amazing actress to play opposite in those scenes because it could be so lonely if I didn’t. Half the time the time I’m talking to a tennis ball or an x on the wall so when I do get Kathryn in there it’s a total dream. She’s an amazing actor; she’s going to do such great work.