“Orphan Black’s” original clone, Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), and her sisters are not as unique as they expected. The clone club expanded its roster with Mark Rollins and his band of brothers: Seth, Miller and Rudy, collectively known as Project Castor. Played by Canadian actor Ari Millen, Rollins was introduced in Season Two as an anti-clone cult member. His priorities obviously shifted when he ran off with the group leader’s daughter, Gracie. The most recent gut-punching twist revealed Mark is Sarah’s biological sibling… and that even more male clones exist.
Millen spoke to Spinoff about “Orphan Black” conspiracies, Mark’s ongoing conflict with his brethren, the art of creating clones and answering season-long mysteries.
Spinoff Online: Mark wasn’t expected to live past Season Two. How stunned were you to discover he’d be back, with clones no less, and so heavily woven into the show’s mythology?
Ari Millen: In one word, very. It took me completely by surprise. As far as I knew, it was going to be a six-episode arc in the second season. Graeme [Manson] blindsided me towards the end of episode 209 [“Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done”] of last season. We shot the season finale and then I waited over the summer to find out what I would be doing. It’s been a wild ride this season.
Season Two introduced us to Mark’s clones: Miller, Rudy and Seth. How difficult was it wrapping your head around their distinctive voices and traits?
It was a process. My clone double, Nick Abraham, and I worked with acting coach Bryce Clayton. We pieced together what Graeme and John [Fawcett] were giving to me. I did a little thinking of who I thought they were. For the most part, my idea of them was they were raised together. Families have similar traits. It was more important for me to find these small little nuances that they had. It could be confusing at times. After a long day, I might get a little tap on the shoulder from our script supervisor and him saying, “Great work, but you’re a little too Mark right now. We need a little more Seth.” It’s a tough job, but I think they are paying off really well. I’m happy with what we did.
Tatiana Maslany uses different music to get into her clone characters. Do you have your own method?
It was more of a visual for me. Mark was developed in Season Two in the traditional way. For me, I was introduced to Miller and Rudy just like everyone else at the end of the second season. Then, I had these visuals. They hadn’t said anything, so I had these visuals of who they were. This season was putting the wardrobe on and going to hair and makeup and seeing that clone I was playing at that point. It was sort of outside in, which normally it might go from inside out.
We’ve spent the most time getting to know Mark. How much more will Rudy and Miller be fleshed out?
That’s one of the strengths of the writing on “Orphan Black.” As far as any of the series regulars or important characters that are on the show, they are never written two-dimensionally. They are always given their own voice and something for the actor to take a bite out of and really develop. Thankfully, these guys get fleshed out and were a lot of fun to explore. You’ll probably see the most of Rudy. I think he’s quickly becoming a fan favorite. The Mohawk and scar are so intriguing. I was really sad to see Seth go. I was just getting into that. He was a lot of fun.
Last episode, “Newer Elements of Our Defence,” ended with Mark and Rudy needing to “clean up some loose ends,” meaning Sarah. What can viewers look forward to in the coming weeks?
What has been alluded to up until now is Mark has been trying to get out for a while and trying to escape. He knew his brothers weren’t going to let him go, so now he’s been dragged back into this. He’s going to be put right back in the wolves’ den of his family. It’s going to be interesting seeing the dynamic of him and his brothers, him and his mother, and where his loyalties are. He’s found out Sarah is his biological sister. Gracie is still out there. Where does his heart lie and who is he loyal to? That’s the fun of what is to come.
Is Mark beginning to view Sarah as an ally?
I think just like we’ve come to expect on “Orphan Black,” you never know who is a good guy and who is a bad guy. You never know who you can trust. At this point, Mark is being pulled in many different directions. We’ll see in which direction he wants to go.
For the most part, Sarah and her clone sisters support and love each other. Are Mark and the Castor clones one big, happy family?
Any family has its issues. Every family is screwed up in some sort of way. But, when it comes down to it, it’s still family. You can’t hide from who you are and who your family is. I think there’s still love there. There are no easy decisions. They are still his brothers and she’s still his mother.
Viewers have continually wondered if there were more male clones. What did you make of Parsons and his lab rat predicament?
Oh, man. That was five hours of not moving. My back was so sweaty when I finally got up to go for lunch. That was really interesting as far as now we sort of know the motivation for what Project Castor is doing and why they are all of a sudden showing up and coming hard after Leda. Just like Project Leda, they have their own genetic dysfunction.
Parsons was the tool to demonstrate that, but also to show the ruthlessness of the military and turning lemons into lemonade. “He screwed up, but at the same time, what can we learn from him? If we have to sacrifice him to fix everyone else, then that’s what we are going to do.” For me, that was such a beautiful and punchy scene. Helena has always been my favorite character and that just developed her further and humanized her. And getting to play against Tat and getting into a different scenario… It’s interesting to play opposite someone who is playing multiple characters. Now I get to be different characters playing opposite characters in different combinations. That is quite remarkable. This is a dream job any actor would hope for.
Jaws dropped when the female clones danced around together in the last year’s finale, “By Means Which Have Never Been Tried.” What’s been the most technically challenging scene for you to pull off with multiple clones?
The scene with Paul, Seth and Rudy with the test. Not only was the camera not cooperating and we shot that over a series of days, it complicated things in remembering what you did. Once that camera finally worked, what’s so incredible about it is how interesting the shots can be. John Fawcett, who was the director in that episode, has this whole thing where the camera spun around the entire room, like it was 360.
The challenge in any clone scene for me was in planning both sides of the action. On a normal day when you act, you show up and understand who you are, what you are doing and you do it and you shoot the scene. On a clone scene, you do that and then you go and change, come back and do it all over again, but as a different guy. I have to have a strong connection with my clone double, Nick. We would discuss what the scene was and what both clones would do. We would map it out that way.
You were a fan of “Orphan Black” before joining the series. What questions are you excited to finally have answered?
A couple of them are coming this season, that’s for sure. What I really love about this year is we’ve been asking so many questions in the first two seasons and creating a deeper, darker mystery. Now, we’ll finally get some of those answers. Of course, those will open up new questions.
What’s really nice about Season Three is the plot is now being furthered by getting some of those answers. I’m really excited by how this season comes to a head in the finale. Like the revelation of Project Castor, there’s another one of those coming up.
‘Orphan Black’ airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America.
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