Hey Clone Club, the first second-season scene of “Orphan Black” was shown at press tour, and I think it’s safe to say that the pressure is not letting up on Sarah and the rest of the clones as their story continues. First, a recap of the scene, then we’ll get into what Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris and co-creator Graeme Manson had to say (and after press tour, I’ll be writing up my own one-on-one interviews with Manson and Gavaris, which hint at some big picture shifts ahead). Hold on to your hats. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride when the show returns Sat. April 19 at 9:00 p.m. on BBC America.
Press Tour: ‘Orphan Black’ to feature ‘tough decisions’ in season 2
Interestingly, a BBC America executive made a point of referring to Kira’s disappearance as an “apparent kidnapping.” As we know, we’re still not sure what’s really going on with Mrs. S., but we do know she’s coming back to the show. But everything else is, like so much on “Orphan Black,” an enticing question mark.
[This is a recap of the first scene of season two. If you don’t want to know, just skip ahead to the next bracketed section in bold]
Then, after a montage of greatest hits from season one, we launch into the new scene. We see Sarah, having just discovered Kira and Mrs. S missing, running down the street in the rain, then pulling out her phone to call one of her many lifelines. Felix isn’t home, so she leaves a message telling him that “they took Kira and Mrs. S.” Next she walks into an empty diner, where the guy behind the counter offers her coffee (she requests tea instead). It should be a moment of solace, but no dice. As she tries to reach Alison, the man behind the counter gives her her tea, tells her it’s on the house, and hands her a beaten-up, old photo of what might be Mrs. S. (though that’s just a guess) and a man, both in lab coats. On the back, it says Project Leda, 1977.
Sarah calls Paul, but Rachel answers the phone. She suggests Sarah “simply surrender herself,” then hangs up on Sarah as she yells at her. We see Rachel standing in her office with Paul next to her, looking defeated.
If all of that’s not enough for Sarah to worry about, two creepy guys walk into the diner (one with a massive belt buckle that I’m pretty sure we should remember) and start asking about free range eggs. When the diner owner says he just has regular eggs, they smirk. “Your chickens have been interfered with,” one growls. “They’re not normal.”
They go to Sarah’s booth, and when she tries to draw her gun, the larger man takes it off of her. The men are about to lead Sarah away when the man behind the counter draws a rifle. “You sure, Sarah?” the belt buckled man asks. “We’ve come here to take you to Kira.” As Sarah thinks this over, he shoots the diner owner. Fatally wounded, he lands a lethal shot on the other man. In the ensuing chaos, Sarah runs, and we’re left with a barrage of images from, I’m guessing, other parts of the season — including one in which Rachel purrs to Paul, “You’re the only one who seems to know what makes Sarah tick.” Yes, indeed.
There was a lot to digest in this scene, but clearly the Big Bad has two new foot soldiers (well, one, as I don’t think the tall guy is coming back) and the diner owner suggests there are those looking out for the clones we haven’t met yet (unless he’s just the unluckiest guy in the world). I’m also a little worried about Rachel’s focus on Paul as the most effective tool to control Sarah. And let’s not get started about all of the disconnected numbers Sarah tried to call…
[End of recap and back to panel]
But back to the panel. The show is midway through filming the season, but Maslany was able to take a quick break from filming for the Golden Globes tomorrow night (Gavaris must head back to Canada tomorrow morning to shoot scenes in her stead). The nominee addressed a question about how her process in creating so many characters has changed in the second season. “It was daunting to come back to it… because I knew how much work it was going to be. At the same time, there’s not this pressure of, will this work or will people buy it. So it’s time to go deeper with it. I love all these characters so much and Graeme and all the writers have continued to deepen it, that to me was what was so exciting. It’s just about going deeper with it, challenging and stretching it. We left them all at very tense places, so there was so much to work with. The challenge of it continues every day and keeps me absolutely obsessed with the show and the job.”
On a lighter note, a journalist asked about the porno found in the stash of Alison’s husband – “Big Boob Blowies.” “I must give credit where it’s due,” Manson said. “I believe that was Alex Levine’s title. And it really works with big slaps,” he said, swooping a hand back and forth to demonstrate. “Big, boob, blowies.”
As for a raft of new clones joining the mix, Manson said, “It’s not like we haven’t thought of it, but it’s not territory we’re treading. Like Tat said, we’re really enjoying digging deeper into them. We’re shooting episode eight and it still feels like we have a long way to go with all of these characters… as long as we don’t exhaust Tat.”
When asked which clone has been the most difficult, Maslany said, “The one who scared me the most was Alison. When I was approaching the character for the first time, I wasn’t willing to admit she was so much a part of me. So she was a hard one to dig into or find sympathy for and now I love her. I found Rachel to be really daunting as well because of her entitlement and her wealth and power. But that’s what’s so awesome, because I get to try things people wouldn’t cast me as otherwise.”
“Power CEO, that’s her general day to day vibe,” joked Gavaris. “That and psychopath.”
Maslany helpfully explained how multiple clone scenes are created from a technical perspective. “We do it one character at a time. So we have to block it all out before hand. It’s such a technical, structured sort of process. I’ll block it as one character, make sure it’s all good… then do all of Alison’s stuff, then go leave, change for an hour and a half, and do Sarah.”
“It gets even more complicated when you add another character, like my character or Paul,” Gavaris added. “I still have to respond to two other clones, which is when the tennis balls come into play. Those incredible, artistic tennis balls.”
Gavaris also spoke about how Felix is going to be expanded as a character in season two. “[We’re digging] hugely deeper. That was something I think we talked about, the rumbling of what would happen. In season one, he was an integral cog in the mystery, and now what happens in season two is it establishes him outside of clones, as a multifaceted human, not just a plot device or someone to facilitate whatever crazy idea Sarah has that day. It’s really important, because he’s a living breathing person.”
“His relationship with Sarah is tested,” Manson added. “He [also] creates new relationships with some of the other clones.”
“There’s a really tough decision that’s going to be made,” Gavaris said. “A lot of relationships are tested, especially Felix and Sarah’s.”
But will Felix ever find love? “At the bottom of a bottle,” Gavaris joked.
But has Maslany learned anything she can apply to her daily life from playing so many clones? “You know, when you hit people in the head with golf clubs,” Gavaris said, smiling.
“I think I’ve learned a lot from Sarah, from her strength, and she’s such a survivor and she’s so gutsy about getting what she wants. I’ve learned a lot from her. She comes up in life when I need her, which sounds really arty but it’s true. Because you’re really revealing something about yourself in a more fleshed out way.”
“You never want to ask Tat for a favor when she’s in character as Alison,” Manson quipped.
Now that the show is in season two, has Maslany gotten comfortable with her clone duties? “No, I think that’s what kept us, I think we’re still discovering it, and as writers it poses challenges too. Getting comfortable with it would be dangerous. As artists, you always want to push yourself… what’s the next thing? Maybe technically I’ve become more comfortable in the tech scenes.”
“We are gonna take some risks with our premise with the second season and push technically what we’ve done, and our actors are pushing the limits as well,” Manson said.
“We have asked ourselves if we’re going to be able to pull this off, which is the best place to be. We’re scared every day,” Gavaris said.
“It’s such a risk,” Maslany added. “The initial concept of it, it’s what drew us to it. It’s so scary… but you go full force.”
Of course, it was only a matter of time between the issue of the Golden Globes was broached. Has this recognition changed Maslany in any way? “She doesn’t return my calls,” Garavis joked.
“First off, we were completely blown away, or I was, to the critical response we received,” Maslany explained. “Everyone who promoted it by discussing it, analyzing it… we’re a niche, odd little show that could have fallen under the radar, [but] people were talking about it and got it out to a larger audience. It’s wild to be seen differently, to have more visibility. I’m an actor, I like having attention, I guess. There’s a reason I like being on camera — that feedback, [in today’s world] the response, it comes at you pretty fast. It’s rewarding to hear people say they enjoy the show. The Golden Globes thing is wild. I’m blown away by it. It’s totally out of my league.”
When Garavis accidentally spoke over a journalist in adding his comments about the huge fan response, he couldn’t stop apologizing — or joking. “I’m so Canadian. Sorry, sorry! The endless list of people who championed the show, it made a big difference. A huge, huge difference.”
When asked if she ever borrows wigs from the production on her off hours, Maslany sighed, “I wish.” But Manson was quick with a joke.
“I do. I got to take over the Helena wig. Helena, rest in peace. I get to forever rock the Helena wig.”
The Cosima clone was brought up, and Maslany admitted her fondness for the sickly scientist. “Cosima has always been the one most fascinated with life, so it’s interesting for her to be facing her mortality. The one who appeared to be the lightest and most buoyant is now facing the science gone wrong.”
“She’s my favorite clone,” Manson easily admitted. “We’re putting her in this heartbreaking position, but she’s almost as brave as Sarah in a lot of ways. Naratively, examining her illness and looking into her own science is part of her own mystery. She performs a real story service as well.”
As far as the revelation that Donnie was (spoiler alert) Alison’s monitor, a journalist asked if it was always planned to play out the way it did. Unlike other shows (“Lost” comes to mind) that seemed to meander toward an unsatisfying end, Manson firmly stated that “Orphan Black” has always “had a master plan.” But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been room for a creative riff here and there. “The first season wrinkles with Aynsley the neighbor, when we were doing the craft room torture scene, I don’t think we knew how it would wrinkle at the end, but we all really loved that storyline, the way it played out.”
As to when he found out the show would be getting a second season, Manson said, “We got the nod on episode 4. We were just going for it. We have a long term plan, that’s pretty elastic conceptually to go with the elastic premise, so when we were initially pitching the show, we had to tell the [suits] why the show would keep going. We had a bible that spun it out for at least three seasons.”
So, in season two, will there be repercussions (as in jail time) for Alison sitting on the sidelines watching Aynsley die? “Alison, she’s certainly, she’s a tense person to begin with, so the secret she’s keeping will eat at her in an interesting way. She’s got some explosions coming up. The number of clones, we haven’t said how many are out there. Part of the wonderful process of this is… who can we meet without exhausting the concept. It’s not a clone of the week show… the first thing we do is talk to Tatiana and have rally involved conversation. We said to her, so, we have this Rachel character. And we work on these characters together.”
As the panel progressed, a few more silly questions got tossed into the mix. Will we ever see a Felix clone? “Everyone wants a Felix clone,” Manson said.
“I think the world can only handle one Felix,” Garavis added.
The final question was one for Maslany, who was asked about her approach to many, many characters. “I’m fascinated with psychology and why someone walls the way they walk… and it’s not exclusive to the psychology of a character, these characters are so vastly different, for me going to the furthest reaches, so they’re all from different environments. I think that stuff is interesting to me as an actor. I love writing notes, I try to go back to read them as much as I can.”
“Looking at one of Tatiana’s shooting scripts is mind boggling, because it has at least four colors and a lot of notes,” Manson said, clearly proud of his rising star.