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SDCC | Meet the Many Personalities of BBC America’s ‘Orphan Black’

by  in TV News Comment
SDCC | Meet the Many Personalities of BBC America’s ‘Orphan Black’

For two seasons, fans have wondered at the world of Orphan Black and the clone conspiracy that drives the BBC America sci-fi drama. Star Tatiana Maslany has wowed audiences as she brings to life such diverse characters as protagonist Sarah Manning, soccer-mom clone Alison, science clone Cosima, crazy-haired killer clone Helena and cold-hearted corporate clone Rachel.

With viewers still shaken by the startling events of Season 2, the cast appeared at Comic-Con International in San Diego for a gathering of the ever-growing Orphan Black fan base, called the Clone Club. Maslany was joined for the panel by Jordan Gavaris, who plays Felix, Dylan Bruce, who plays Paul, Kristian Bruun, who plays the hapless Donnie, Ari Millen who plays the recently revealed male clone Mark, Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays Mrs. S, and creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson to talk about the past, present and future of the BBC drama.

Moderator Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly and Sirius XM showed off his copy of The Island of Dr. Moreau, saying he read it from cover to cover, but it didn’t tell him how to save Cosima – an inside joke only Orphan Black fans would understand. After showing a sizzle reel of the highlights of Season 2, Ross introduced the panel as the crowd grew louder with each successive cast member, building to a crescendo when Maslany walked on stage.

When asked by Ross whether she wants a lighter load, with fewer characters and fewer scenes in which she has to play more than one part, Maslany replied with “Screw that.” When the moderator brought up the already-famous dance-party scene in the season finale, the actress said it “was kind of a dream.”

Ross also had a question for Emmy voters on behalf of Maslany, who was snubbed in this year’s nominations: “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“We are at a point where television is extremely exciting,” the actress said. “I feel really lucky to be at this point in history making a show like this. It’s more the response from the fans and seeing the fan art and being in this room, that’s why we do this.”

Ross moved on to another clip, and each time Helena appears on screen, the audience went ballistic.

He then moved on to Gavaris’ character Felix, Sarah Manning’s stepbrother and confidant. Gavaris said fans last season saw some new dimensions to Felix’s character and some cracks in his relationship with Sarah. “We wanted a divide, a fracture in the relationship,” he said. In regard to creating the tough scenes where there’s a break between Felix and his sister, Gavaris said there was ”no acting required.” “I just felt so bad for this guy who put himself on the line for this girl he cares so much about,” he said, adding that the audience got to see “Felix without the masks, the theatrics.”

Fans also got a taste of Mrs. S’s mysterious when she was betrayed by her old political comrades, whom she summarily and systematically took down. A clip was shown of Mrs. S putting a knife through the hand of the woman who threatened her family. Indeed, the clip proved what Ross indicated, that Mrs. S is not a woman to mess with.

A fan on Twitter asked whether Mrs. S will “get any action next season,” leading Kennedy to joke that many viewers are fascinated by Paul and Mrs. S’s tea sessions. She said she doesn’t know Mrs. S’s romantic future, but she trusts in the show’s creators to make things exciting and unexpected.

The panel moved on to Millen and his character Mark, an ex-member of a techno-religious cult who was revealed to be from a separate strain of male clones. It seems that next season, Millen will join Maslany in playing multiple roles. When asked whether Maslany helped him prepare for the task ahead, Millen replied, “Tats is the most generous actor you will ever work with, and I know if I have any questions, she will be there to answer them.”

The creators revealed that Mark was originally supposed to have been killed last season by Paul.

Ross asking whether the morally ambiguous Paul can be trusted. Bruce joked, “I don’t trust myself.” They discussed Paul’s attack on Felix, one of Season 2’s most disturbing moments, with Bruce confessing that he was afraid the Clone Club would start hating him and the character would become irredeemable. Devaris told Bruce he was “so brave for showing that nasty part of yourself.” Gavaris repaid Bruce by kicking him in the shin during each take in the attack scene.

Turning to Donnie, a clip was shown of the season’s most shocking moment, when the character accidently killed Dr. Leekee in grand Pulp Fiction style. The Comic-Con crowd went nuts as the bullet cut throw Leekee’s brain. It was revealed there was a scene cut in which Donnie attempts to blackmail Rachel, which will appear on the Season 2 DVD.

Asked by a fan on Twitter which dead clone she wishes she could’ve fleshed out more, Maslany said Jennifer and Beth. In response to the prospects of a flashback episode featuring Beth, who provided the inciting event for the series, the producers replied that “Beth’s story has been part of the mythology from the beginning,” and teased that “at some point there is a definite chance” of a flashback.

The next questioner called for more scenes involving Tony, the transgender clone who causes such a furor in the middle of Season 2. Maslany said she “would love to explore him further. He offers so much regarding identity and gender identification and exploration that it’s refreshing, and our show is about that.”

She said Tatiana never appeared in a scene with Tony, but she loved his interactions with Felix, even if they were polarizing. Maslany added that she wants to see more trans characters and stories on television.

“Who says art has to something that you are comfortable with all the time?” Gavaris asked. Maslany added that Tony’s inclusion and the moments that Felix and Tony shared changed Felix so much. Kennedy chimed in that “Mrs. S would understand his spirit and rebelliousness, but she would have to have a lot of conversations with him about his table manners.”

A girl dressed as Cosima first begged the showrunners not to kill Cosima, and then presented Maslany with “The Greatest Actress in the World Award.” With tears in her eyes, the fan hugged the actress, who said the award is “way better than an Emmy.”

Another fan dressed as Cosima fought back tears as she told the panel that before she started watching the series, “I was really in

the closet and was totally ashamed of what I was, I hated myself.” “When I first started watching the show and seeing Cosima and seeing everything was not about her sexuality and seeing that she was more than her sexuality,” she continued. “My parents were not OK with me being gay, and I started watching the show with my mother, it started to show my mother that it was OK, that [Cosima] was OK with her sexuality, and I wanted to thank you for that”.

The applause was deafening. She then asked, “What is like to have this effect on people’s lives, and saving lives like you did for me?” The panel was speechless, and Maslany openly wept. Gavaris said that, “We like to be reductive in life, sometimes, I don’t know. It’s a social construct a social trend … to reduce people down to things like sexuality or things like cancer or MS or their race, or their sex or their gender. Or whether or not they like Game of Thrones, but that is not who people are. People are complex as we say on the show; people are more than just their sexuality.” He then thanked the young woman for her comments.

The next fan asked, “Now that Alison and Donnie have bonded, will they have a healthier relationship?” Donnie himself, Bruun answered, “There are different ways of spicing up a love life, but I don’t suggest murder.”

Another young woman dressed as Cosima said, “My mom has never sat down to watch a TV show, but she watches the show, which never has happened in the history of ever.” She asked Maslany how she would like to see each of her characters’ die, Maslany laughed, answering that Helena would “eat herself to death,” Rachel would die of “something clumsy,” and Alison would “panic herself to death” or die from “sniffing glue because of too much crafting.” Manson interjected that “Sarah would refuse to die.”

The next fan asked whether fans will see any more of Helena’s love interest. Fawcett said that, “One of our favorite moments of Season 2 was getting a little romance for Helena.” Maslany added that the man Helena had a brief fling with saw “her as a person … and gives her a moment of a normal life.”

Asked which clone is most like Maslany, the actress replied that while each possesses parts of herself, “Cosima is most like me.”

When asked their characters’ guilty pleasures, Kennedy said 12-year-old whiskey, Gavaris suggested RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bruce joked that Paul loves interior-decorating shows, and Millen said that Mark enjoys fixing his haircut.

Asked by a fan whether any of the actors had advice for their younger selves, Maslany replied, “Just breathe and don’t panic. Be present in every moment and enjoy it.”

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