When Tatiana Maslany reported to duty for season 1 of Orphan Black, she didn’t know if anyone would even take notice. After all, it was a new show from Canada airing on a channel (BBC America) that had only recently jumped into the original programming game. She could only guess what the reaction would be as she filmed that first season. That was certainly not the case when the cast and crew reunited for filming on season 2 (which premieres April 19). Rapturous reviews and a devoted #CloneClub let them know that there was indeed an audience following their every move. So how did that change the vibe on set for the second go-round of episodes? We asked Maslany that and more when we sat down on the Felix’s loft set during a break in filming.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how is the mood on set different now with the acclaim you guys have gotten as opposed to last year when you guys shot season 1?
TATIANA MASLANY: I think initially it was really daunting to come back to it because of that response. Because it feels like there’s more freedom when you can work in a vacuum and you don’t know what it’s going to be and it could’ve been a huge flop. So there’s a huge risk that you can take without the public eye. And now it’s like, we take the risks with the knowledge that people are watching it and with the knowledge that people have an investment in these characters, and that they’ll feel upset or they’ll feel excited and their reaction is so visceral and so present and so immediate, too, with Twitterverse and all that stuff. But as we get deeper into it it’s just like, oh, right, it’s about the storytelling and that’s why people respond to it. So just silencing that noise on the outside was the trick in the first month, for me, because it’s such a loud noise, and a great noise, but as an actor, you have to tell the story. You can’t think about every single’s person’s opinion or alliances with characters or whatever.
EW: What’s it like to hear praise and accolades not just from fans and critics, but from peers and people in your field?
MASLANY: It’s really surreal, and in a way I feel kind of disconnected from it. Because I can’t kind of believe it. In one moment it feels normal, but it’s so baffling to me. Like even being on Parks and Rec feels like a dream that I had — talking to those people and hanging out with those people. It’s a strange thing to marry that world that I kind of put on this pedestal and my life. It’s a very strange thing, and a huge honor obviously. It’s nice to be seen as an actor. As shy as you are, you want to be seen. I think that’s why we go into it. So it’s nice to have that feedback.
EW: It must have been nice to go on Parks and Recreation and be like, “I only have to play one person!”
MASLANY: But you know what? When I got that, I was like, this is probably the most scared I’ve ever been for a job in a long, long time. Because comedy scares me and those people are people I look up to so highly and it was like, immense, and people are watching now, so that was the scariest. But being on set was the most relaxed environment I’ve ever experienced. It was awesome.
EW: Is there anything that you think you can do better in season 2?
MASLANY: Oh, God, every single second. And I’ve watched it once through, but it’s never fun to watch yourself. I think we’re all really critical. I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot and changed as an actor and I should hope that kind of informs these characters. And even though we’re starting with Sarah at the same point in a way, she’s kind of on the run and alone again and running. She’s a very different person. She’s older, she’s lived through some s—, and we’ve seen that s— that she’s lived through. There’s a different quality to her maturity and her knowledge, and they’re just grown up and I think I’ve grown up and I think that translates, hopefully.
EW: When I was speaking with creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, they made a point of saying how collaborative the process was with you. I want to get your take on what that means.
MASLANY: I think it became really collaborative as we went — and I think intrinsically it’s a collaborative process because they’re working with one actress for all of these roles so there has to be some kind of interplay. But it really became very collaborative, also with Steven and Sandy, the hair and make-up guys. We’re forming these different variations of one person, so you really have to have to have all these ideas. Steven and Sandy have their ideas, which are totally out of left field, and John and Graeme give their ideas, which are probably more in line with the story, and then I have my instincts or my knowledge of the characters from a different point of view. So we really had great dialogues about it, and this season feels even more collaborative because we really learned a lot and there are certain things that I’m interested in exploring, and they’re interested in exploring, and kind of coming together. And it comes down to dialect stuff, and it comes down to backstory stuff, and relationships between the characters. And I’m not super crazy about dictating where stories go. I have no interest in that. I just know for me what feels real or honest or interesting in a moment — what’s the interesting place or go or the scary place to go. That’s kind of a good indicator for me that we’re heading in the right direction. But it’s great, and it’s so open. I never feel like I’m being puppeted by something, it feels like we’re making this thing together.
EW: How many times do you have to read each script before you fully understand what’s going on?
MASLANY: I don’t have Cosima’s brain. [Laughs] I know in my gut what it is but I don’t necessarily know what it is. But I think because there are so many arcs to deal with I sort of have to rely on my own instincts more so than otherwise. You know, your gut knows before your head knows so I try to rely on that more than a clinical understanding of what’s going on, and just of an instinctual side, which is maybe more where Sarah operates from, or Alison.
EW: What’s your mental headspace when you’re playing 2 or 3 different clones in a day?
MASLANY: I kind of have to think about all of them. As much as I can I try to block them out, but I do block the scene as all of them first off, so I have to think about what maybe the impulse might be on that side or who I want to have move into the space at that time or how something is gonna play out. I kind of have to direct it ahead of time in a way and have it all in my head. I try to sort of forget it, forget, forget, forget. And then just be there. Simplifying it in my head as much as possible is the way to do it. Just breathing and being there as that character, and letting that come out, with an awareness that I do have to move on from that person at the end of it.
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