'Orphan Black' Star Tatiana Maslany Breaks Down Surprise Return and New Clone

"It all felt like a nice, big leap for us to do, to go back, and hopefully it will be quite rewarding for the audience who knows the show really well too," the actress tells THR about the season premiere.
Courtesy of BBC America

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Orphan Black's season four premiere, "The Collapse of Nature."]

For three seasons, Orphan Black fans have longed to know more about Beth Childs – the clone who kicked the whole series off when she stepped in front of a train to her death in the pilot, leading Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) to take her place literally and figuratively in the fight for the Leda clones.

Viewers got their wish with Thursday's season four opener, in which a Beth-centric episode kicked off a new run that promises to return the show to its roots.

“We had been talking about a Beth episode since season one,” co-creator John Fawcett tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We’d been talking a lot about the character, wanting to know as much as we could, like filling in and making up our own backstory of who she was. I remember being at Comic-Con in July 2013 and [I] mentioned the concept of a Beth episode and the room went crazy. It was really at that point that we started to think about where could that work.”

“One of the exciting things for us about this season is that to open it in that shocking fashion with a little clone slide/pan,” adds co-creator Graeme Manson. “The viewers has to find their feet on which story they’re in and what time period they’re in. We really enjoyed that.”

The showrunners weren’t the only ones excited to dig into Beth’s backstory and return to the Neolutionist storylines from the first season. Series star Tatiana Maslany, who has portrayed 11 clones to date, admits it was nice to figure out a character that has only ever been previously alluded to.

THR caught up with Maslany to discuss honing in on Beth, the character's ongoing relationship with Art (Kevin Hanchard), stepping into the shoes of new clone M.K. and what else to expect in the show’s fourth season.

What was it like stepping into Beth’s shoes after alluding to her for so long?

It was a bit bizarre because we had only sort of talked about her and any time I’d played her, it was Sarah playing some version of a girl that she didn’t even know. I was getting to know her too in doing this first episode. But the writing itself felt so mature and kind of scary and dark. Also getting to do those scenes with Kevin too — he and I have had so much contact on this series, but always in different circumstances and he knows Beth better than anybody. They have a really special relationship so it was a lot of fun. It all felt like a nice, big leap for us to do, to go back, and hopefully it will be quite rewarding for the audience who knows the show really well too.

Did playing Beth’s relationship with Art give you new insight into his relationship with Sarah?

Oh, totally. Absolutely. That stuff is sort of teased out a little bit in season three, where we see him admitting to his relationship with Beth, but then we really get to go to the depths of it when we see them together. It’s so cool learning about characters that you think you know already and getting to expand on them.

Was it nice to focus mainly on one clone for an episode?

It was really fun actually. We had two weeks prep before we shot that first episode so there was a lot of time that you don’t often get in television, it’s really breakneck and it was really nice to just get to spend time with one character, absolutely.

Beth was talking a lot about wanting to be “seen.” What did that mean for you and how did her drug abuse fit in?

Being seen means a lot of different things, there’s sort of a cry for help in there. She’s hiding so much so it’s almost like she wants somebody to draw her out, she wants somebody to do that and hold her accountable. She can’t really admit to Art what’s going on in her life; she can’t admit to anybody the full extent of what’s happening. When you’re in pain, to have somebody who just goes like, “Shut up, I’m taking care of you now,” I think that’s kind of what she wants.

What was it like to work with Dylan in that context?

It was cool because Dylan and I had never explored that relationship and that was such a pivotal one to both of them. There was this kind of bizarre echo of the first interaction between Sarah and Paul in episode one of season one, when they sort of get down to it on the kitchen counter. But to see Beth attempt a similar thing and be completely rejected, there’s something really cool in that echo.

How would you compare Beth and Sarah as the Leda “leaders” so to speak?

That’s something we start to explore a lot this season, is the difference between the two of them. Sarah doesn’t take herself out of the equation. Even though the last thing we see of her in season three is her at peace and far away with her daughter, that doesn’t last. By the end of episode one, she turns back to it. So I just feel like there’s a real commitment to the sisters and to the clones that Sarah has that Beth wasn’t able to carry.

What did you want to bring to this new M.K. clone?

She was really fun. M.K. is very different, she’s got a younger thing going on. She’s lived through a lot and it’s sort of stunted her, so it was cool to get to explore that. She’s a clone that doesn’t have ties to any of the others and is sort of like a scared rabbit that runs away; so I guess a character filled with hyper intelligence and all this information that the clones ultimately need. Her brain just works in a different way compared to the rest of them.

Was that you running around through the woods with the mask or a stunt double?

I couldn’t; that was a stunt double. She bravely ran through the woods in the total dark with like flashing lights in her eyes… I don’t know how she did it. It’s not easy to see in that mask, that’s for sure.

Is this the last we’ve seen of Beth now that we’ve transitioned back to Sarah?

I won’t say too, too much about that, but it’s less about Beth and more a sense of now discovering the origins of things. That’s a big theme this season. We’re back to the mystery of it all and the conspiracy and that search for identity.

Orphan Black airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America and on Canadian co-producer Space.

What did you think of the Beth-centric episode? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling