When Orphan Black began, Donnie Hendrix was a clueless tool of Dr. Aldous Leekie and the Neolutionists, blindly passing on information about his wife Alison to the very people looking to exploit and destroy her and her sisters. Since realizing the truth about the dark side of his monitoring, Donnie has become an ardent ally to the clones and one of the best characters on a show packed full of them. The Hendrixes have had a rocky time of it in season four, but Donnie is ever reliable for some comic relief and emotional stability. We spoke with Kristian Bruun about his time on the critically acclaimed sci-fi show and what it’s like to be a member of Clone Club.
Donnie has come a long way since season one where he was more of a pawn of Dr. Leekie, and he’s really become the low-key MVP of the show. Did you have any idea where he would end up when you started?
I had no idea that was going to happen. It’s kind of an actor’s dream when something like that happens. They originally told me, you know, it’ll be anywhere from three to six episodes, but then it just kind of grew into its own thing which is a great opportunity for me, and I was, of course, more than happy to go along for the ride.
Another thing that’s so great about Orphan Black is how it sort of plays with gender expectations. Donnie’s a little bit more gentle and maternal than the average husband you see on television. That’s such a great thing to see, though. Did that sort of nontraditional approach give you more freedom to make the character your own?
I think it came out of Alison being such a strong personality first and kind of grew into that. I think it’s really been obvious since day one that Alison wears the pants in the relationship, but it’s been a really fun thing to explore with Donnie is sort of how he’s used masculinity or how he finds it on his own, or finds those times when he can sort of step up and be a traditional man of the house, but also just relinquish and just be a partner and not worry about that sort of thing.
It’s been something that I think the writers have done a really good job of exploring and, for me as an actor, just fun to tinker with. I fully support putting out the type of man that he is. In this day and age, I think men need to see more representations like that out there. I think that’s kind of an important thing to do, and I’m glad that the writers have sort of found just little nuggets of doing that, found ways of putting it out there.
How would you say that Alison and Donnie’s marriage has evolved this season? They’ve certainly had their fair share of ups and downs between digging up bodies and Donnie going to prison. That’s got to put a bit of a strain on things.
I find that their relationship this season has been stressful in some ways because a lot of this sort of investigation into Brightborn Institute and the fertility clinic has sort of brought back some buried stuff between the two of them wanting to conceive their own children. But it’s also kind of brought them together and made them stronger. Certainly watching Donnie get arrested and go to jail was tough for Alison, and also watching how he interacts with a pregnant Helena has also been a challenge for her, as well.
Their relationship has had challenges, but not in a way that makes it weaker. I would say in a way that makes it stronger.
Do you change your portrayal of Donnie when you’re interacting with each different clone? They’re all Tatiana Maslany, but I imagine you would interact with Helena differently than you would from Alison, for example. How do you adjust that as a performer?
It’s just like working with any other actor, in my opinion. I think Tat did such a good job of really delineating each character and, when you’re in a scene with her as a different iteration, it’s very clear that you’re working with almost another actor and so you just kind of treat it as such. That’s, I think, something that all the other auxiliary characters on the show do a good job of. We all treat it the same way. We all try and approach it as we’re working with different actors here.
The performances are uncanny like that. The first time you work with one of the other clones, it throws you for a loop at first because you’re just like, “What the hell is going on? I’m so confused right now.” It’s something that you just kind of accept, I think. That’s just a testament to Tatiana’s performance.
Yeah, definitely. Is there a particular clone that you wish Donnie interacted with at all or had more time with?
Definitely Rachel. She’s, I think, the most fascinating clone and has been since the day she showed up. You just don’t know what her cards are. She keeps them really close to her chest and you never know where she stands on things. She’s got a lot of pain inside her, I think, that hasn’t fully been dealt with. She hasn’t dealt with it and it hasn’t come out yet.
There was a scene in season two in the last episode that actually got cut where Donnie confronts Rachel with all his monitor receipts. It’s a really fun, comedic scene. It’s in the special features or, like, deleted scenes. You can find them online somewhere, I think, if you Google it.
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was something that I would love to explore more, and of course it doesn’t account officially in sort of the show bible because it never made it to air, so it can’t be counted, but it’s something that I would love to explore at some point.
I know it was last season, but I have to ask about the twerking scene because it was incredible. Was it awkward to shoot or was it as fun as it looked?
It was as fun as it looked. It wasn’t awkward at all. I mean, our crew is like family now, and they’re amazing and they’re supportive and make the work fun, and they treat any scene that requires nudity or kind of crazy situations like that with utmost respect. It was very comfortable to do. It wasn’t the first time I had to be in my underwear or naked in the show, so I was like, “Okay. This is an old hat for me.”
It’s just a fun thing that Tat and I were looking forward to because it was so ridiculous and we knew it was going to be so much fun. Tat and I are just buds now. It was just like, who wouldn’t want to roll around on a bed full of money and twerk around?
Right, I mean, it’s everyone’s dream.
It’s like a bucket list check mark right there, so it was way too much fun. Don’t tell BBC America. I would’ve done it for free.
Clone Club is such a passionate fandom and I feel like the Orphan Black team, you guys have gotten really involved in fan culture, going to cons and events and stuff like that. What’s it been like diving into that aspect of making a show like Orphan Black?
It’s so new to me. I’ve never really watched something like this blow up in the way it has, and it’s been so much fun to be a part of it and along for the ride. It’s amazing. You get fan art all the time online or people send things to you, or you’re showing up at a convention. People will show up just for you. It’s overwhelming, but it’s also absolutely wonderful because, at the end of the day, you just hope people like what you’re putting out there and to see that positive reaction and they’re very vocal. Again, they’re very positive. It’s going to spoil me for any other gig, I’m sure, but it’s a lovely added bonus that you don’t expect. You never expect it and when it comes, it’s very humbling.
Obviously, I know you can’t spoil anything, but if you could give fans a hint of what’s to come in the rest of the season, what would you tell them?
Well, there’s only a couple of episodes left.
I know, winding down.
I think it’s really safe to say that there’s a lot of danger heading all of our way. The water is starting to boil and it’s all going to come to a head very soon over the next couple episodes, so just hold on for the ride because it’s going to be a wild one.
Orphan Black airs on Thursday at 10 p.m. EST on BBC America.