April 19, 2014 7:30am PT by Philiana Ng
'Orphan Black' Stars and EP on Shady Allies, Clone Crushes and Season 2 Secrets
Orphan Black is an underdog no more.
BBC America's critically acclaimed sci-fi clone drama toplined by Tatiana Maslany makes a splashy return for another 10-episode run. As the new season kicks off, Sarah is desperate to find her missing daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler), whom she believes has been kidnapped by pro-clone Rachel. What ensues is a race against the clock for Sarah, an ill Cosima, and Alison, still guilty over her part in Aynsley's kitchen death, as they seek the truth. (What is Project LEDA? Is Helena dead?)
The new season also welcomes a trio of new characters played by Michiel Huisman (Cal, Sarah's former lover), Peter Outerbridge (Henrik, leader of the Proletheans) and Ari Millen (Mark, one of Henrik's loyal followers), as well as key guest stars Patrick J. Adams (a self-proclaimed Clone Club member) and Michelle Forbes, who add to the deepening mystery.
In a wide-ranging chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Maslany, Jordan Gavaris and Graeme Manson talk about their whirlwind year, "niche" crushes, getting political, the fear of maxing out on clones and "back cocks." (Seriously.)
What has your experience been seeing the fans and the critics embrace the show so passionately?
Graeme Manson: It's amazing. It was totally unexpected. When we finished airing it was like, "Oh, well, oof, the whole airing thing was just exhausting." It's great that we have this audience and the snowball kept rolling. For all of us, we were all at Comic-Con and that was our shocker. That was one where we were like, "Dude. Connected."
Jordan Gavaris: Yeah, welcome to the trip, man. Nerd HQ, we almost cried.
Tatiana Maslany: Because it was this wave. You hear about it and Twitter sort of gives you a sense of what's happening but I don't think -- until you're viscerally confronted by it -- you understand.
Gavaris: It was this wave of appreciation and energy, and not to sound like a total existential wanker, but it was an incredible force. I got choked up onstage.
Was there a turning point during the filming of the first season where you thought, "This might be something special…"?
Maslany: I thought when I read the pilot script, when I was auditioning for it, I thought, "I need to be a part of it. I want so badly to be a part of this." I always thought it was special and not in any way that I'd seen before. I said, "This is new, this is weird as hell, risky…"
Gavaris: It was the weirdest concept on the page, wasn't it?
Maslany: Yeah, like super weird.
Gavaris: (to Manson) You're really, really weird. But you never see weird. You see conventional and safe and politically correct and it was refreshing to get something where you were like, "Whoa, this is really going there."
Manson: For [co-creator] John [Fawcett] and me, there was a moment. I think it was the Alison and Sarah clone scene in the shed. We had done the quick one with Katja but that was outside, that was kind of fast. But that one in the shed, that was introducing Alison, and seeing how Tat embodied Alison and against Sarah, that was lightning in a bottle, these two … that are one. (Laughter.) That was when John and I went, "You know, people might have favorite clones." Go figure.
Gavaris: I've talked to people who have crushes on Alison but not on Sarah, and who have crushes on Sarah being Beth, but not Sarah. (Laughter.)
Maslany: That's a niche crush.
Gavaris: And Helena being Sarah. Rest in peace, Helena.
You mentioned Beth. Will we ever learn more about her history, or is that chapter done for good?
Manson: She does affect the season, yes. But I wouldn't say we're doing a flashback episode or anything like that. But who Beth was and what Beth was doing does come back into the show a little bit.
If season one was about Sarah scratching the surface on these new clones, what is season two about?
Gavaris: If season one was about conception, season two is about evolution.
Manson: I think one of the themes is we are stronger together.
Gavaris: Otherwise known as unity. (Laughter.)
At the end of last season, you introduced this idea of patenting clones and ownership over DNA. How political does season two get?
Manson: It's not a current affairs show, but that stuff is really interesting and it's important. It's not important to make an episode about that. Patent laws are more important than people think, but it's kind of boring. It's an undercurrent for sure.
Maslany: For me, it's always kind of spoken to this idea of ownership of who you are in yourself and autonomy. It's not really political but just human rights and women's rights. There's so much about women's bodies that are owned by people that aren't the people who aren't the women who have the bodies. Everybody has a piece of the image, a piece of your soul and it's your value. That to me is the political thing.
Gavaris: And way outside of the Supreme Court ruling. But that's not to say we're a political commentary either, because we're still very much just a conspiracy thriller.
Do you have a number of new clones you're looking to introduce in the season?
Gavaris: Eight hundred and five!
Maslany: It is a clone show …
Manson: You mean, how many can the premise handle?
How many clones could we see in one scene?
Maslany: I wonder how far we could push that.
Gavaris: If anyone's going to push it, John will push it.
Manson: We did three last year, he's going to want to do four in the finale. But I think the answer is, probably less is more in a sense. We're never going to walk into a room and see a hundred Tatianas in stasis tubes.
Maslany: Aren't we, though?
Manson: Spoiler! OK, you walk into a room and there's a hundred clones! The nature-nurture themes and who these characters are is very important, so we don't toss them off.
Maslany: And it's that thing we said last year was what makes it a unique clone show is they're not expendable. They don't die without consequence. They're not cannon fodder. It's like introducing a new character in any capacity. What is their important story? How do they shift things? Why are they there?
What's interesting about the clones are they are so distinct from the other in representing different slivers of life and points of view …
Gavaris: With some of the clones like Alison, they sort of begin almost like a stereotype, like you're watching this portrait of suburbia, then slowly become textually layered, more multidimensional. I'm sure there's of course more women to explore. It's amazing how far we can stretch convention. It's amazing how far we've been able to stretch a cliche or a stereotype or an archetype, and diversify that character without actually changing the character completely. I'm sure there are many more faces of humanity that we'd love to tackle.
Is there a shade of someone you think would be interesting to introduce on the show? (A new clone, Jennifer, will be introduced early in the season.)
Manson: The answer is yes and I'm not going to tell you what.
We can't not talk about the tail from season one. Will there be comparable sci-fi specific moments like that in season two?
Gavaris: It was a huge deal!
Manson: A little bit.
Gavaris: It's so funny because the tail was so memorable because it was so gross and so unexpected, but in reality, it was just a very small little blip in that episode and in the entire season, but it was that impactful. There are a couple of little nods that will probably be as impactful that should people remember. That tail was so gross, my god. It reminded me of a rat's tail. Well, it reminded me of a lot of things …
Manson: It was a back cock.
Gavaris: That was the term that was being thrown around the office was back cock. (Laughter.)
How trustworthy is Paul this season? We've seen in the previews that Rachel has recruited Paul in her war against Sarah.
Gavaris: It's safe to say that Paul's loyalty is up in the air, it's very much at odds right now. We see that at the end of the first season. We don't quite know what Paul's game is or who he's working for. I don't know that Felix trusts Paul enough to be quite so quippy with him. Paul could very easily enter into enemy territory, so Felix is aware of that, as is Sarah.
Manson: Other characters too, but certainly Paul. Do you not trust him? Do you trust him just enough to use him? It's those kinds of degrees of trust that we play with.
Gavaris: And that's something that we play with a lot in the second season. Is anyone good or bad? Does good or bad exist or is it a big, shady, gray territory?
You've mentioned that Sarah and Felix will be more at odds than ever before. What can you say about how rocky their road is?
Gavaris: Sarah's in a war with Rachel, and her objective is to get her daughter back. Whenever Sarah breezes back into town, Felix is used to being the priority in her life and he's sort of grappling with the fact that she's used him to get what she wants over the course of the first season. And he without question, without objection, very politely went along with it and said yes to everything. He's grappling with the fact that he's not her priority. He's just said yes a lot and what happens when he says no, if he says no. There's a lot in the relationship that's broken, that was broken from the get-go when she abandoned him, and it's never been repaired. Those latent issues will resurface and their relationship will come to a head, and a decision needs to be made.
Will Felix gravitate toward other clones?
Gavaris: In the wake of having a lot of those issues with Sarah, he makes new allegiances and makes new friends inside and outside of the Clone Club -- some of which may turn out to be allies, some of which may turn out to be enemies. But you can't turn down a Laurel and Hardy comedy duo like Alison and Felix.
Manson: You'll get a lot of Alison-Felix. I love those guys.
Gavaris: Some "Falison"?
That sounds like a terrible 'shipper name!
Gavaris: It's just close enough to phallic.
Manson: Is that what they call them?
Gavaris: No, I just deemed that now and I was like, I don't like that. I don't think I like that. (Laughs.)
Manson: I think it should be! I'm going to tweet that now.
Orphan Black premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. on BBC America.