[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series finale of BBC America’s Orphan Black, “To Right the Wrongs of Many.”]
After five seasons and an Emmy win for series star Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black ended its run on Saturday with a neat and tidy finale that saw the sestras reunited in their newfound freedom.
While the first half of the episode focused on Helena’s birth and Sarah’s successful attempts to stop Neolution once and for all, the second half honed in on what that newfound freedom actually looked like for the characters and how they move on from here.
Speaking of moving on, THR caught up with Maslany following the show’s final episode. Here, she reflects on those early auditions for the drama in Toronto, the series’ evolution over five seasons, and how she’ll select her future roles.
What is it about Orphan Black that has resonated with audiences?
It’s a show about outsiders and people relate and empathize with that and see themselves in that. I don’t think any of us really feel like we’re inside of that; at least I certainly don’t. A lot of our fan base is people who are looking to see themselves represented onscreen so that’s been a big part of it. We were also just lucky; we kind of hit at the right time. The gimmick of the show, the conceit of the show could have certainly fallen on its face but it worked thanks to all of the components. There was an amazing post-production with intelligent creatures making those clone scenes happen and actually making us believe there are two of me in one scene. Kathryn Alexandre — finding her as a clone double was enormous. I guess people are just willing to go on a journey that felt imaginative. It felt genre-bending, so people were excited by how different it was.
Years ago you rollerbladed to your audition for this. What do you remember about that time and process now?
I remember dreaming about Sarah heading into the audition and fantasizing about playing the part and all of these characters. I kept picturing that train platform scene, the first one where we see Sarah and fantasizing about it. Heading to that last audition, I rollerbladed so that I felt that I was in my body and not panicking in my head. I just wanted to feel grounded and ready to play. Doing those auditions was so much fun, getting to work with the Felixes and trying out all of those characters was such a workout. I didn’t really think too far past that. I just went into that room to play.
Countless people have quoted you as being the hardest-working person in Hollywood. Knowing what you know now, would you sign up for something like this again?
I don’t think any of us knew what it was going to be when it started. [Creators] John Fawcett and Graeme Manson certainly had huge ideas and details about what the season was going to look like but it kind of grew into its own thing as it evolved. Characters like Donnie opened things up. Kristian Bruun was supposed to be killed in like episode six of the first season or something. And because he was an incredible character and he’s this whole other side that the show needed in suburban drama, he survived and became one of the most important characters on the show. I don’t think any of us knew what it was going to be. I’m just up for whatever thing turns me on and makes me go, “Well, I can’t imagine how this is going to work” or, “This is such a huge risk” or whatever, because I couldn’t have predicted Orphan Black. I’m open to being surprised by whatever challenge comes and not writing anything off.
How quickly do you see that happening?
I’ve always worked since I was nine years old and I’ve been non-stop sometimes with two or three projects on top of each other. Work has always been a huge defining feature of life and who I am. What’s been nice about finishing Orphan Black is that it feels like I can take a little second to be and regroup and reenergize because a show like that took a lot of my life and emotions and everything. I definitely needed to sleep after that. I’m in a place of reading things and following what’s exciting to me and not panicking. I’ve always been a working actor and I’m happy to go back to auditioning or whatever. But I’m not going to jump in before I’m ready.
An actor playing twins or more than one character isn’t necessarily new, but new technology is making it more appealing these days; James Franco is playing twins in his new HBO show The Deuce, for example. Would you offer him — or anyone else playing dual roles — any kind of advice?
Oh my God no. Not at all. I watched Moon before we did Orphan Black, which is that awesome Sam Rockwell movie where he plays multiple characters. What I find interesting about him or someone like James Franco doing it is that they’re such improvisational actors — they come from such a free and loose place. So for them to do something so technical is really interesting to me. I think it is about trying to find the breath and the spontaneity within a very structured, technical thing. That’s the only advice I could possible give. And then find yourself a Kathryn Alexandre, who is a genius and takes everything you’re doing on your side and then gives you back an incredible, moving performance that keeps you present and in the scene.
In terms of Orphan Black’s ending, did you always know the core four (or five if you include Rachel) would make it out alive?
There was always debate about who might go every season. I don’t know what ended up making John and Graeme keep them all until the end but I’m happy for it. I hated saying goodbye to any of them prematurely. I don’t think anyone was really safe until that last episode was written.
Was it specifically important to keep Cosima alive given the “bury your gays” trope that’s been so predominant on television the past couple of years in particular?
Yeah but I don’t think just for that reason. We just felt like she was supposed to survive. That’s who she was and that’s kind of who the clones were. Their strength and goodness as individuals was only stronger when they came together as sisters. Cosima’s been through a shitload of things in terms of her life, her illness and all of that. It wasn’t too much of waving the flag or anything, we just really wanted her to live on her own merit. Obviously we’re certainly aware of this epidemic of killing off these characters on shows and we didn’t want to fall into that, but it wasn’t solely that that kept Cosima alive.
Was it also just nice to have a happy ending? That’s something that isn’t quite so common on TV nowadays.
Yes, definitely. My favorite aspect of the finale was the point when Sarah finishes off Neolution and Helena gives birth to the babies and then we kind of go forward in time and see what it means to have that freedom. And how Sarah is kind of stuck and unable to move forward and unable to embrace this thing that she’s fought so hard for. It’s a very human thing to kind of dream about something and then when you’ve got it you don’t know what to do with it. I love that conflict taking us into a happier resolution.
The finale revealed there were 274 clones out there. Where do you stand on the inevitable movie or spinoff question? Would you consider it and if so, how much time in between would you ideally need?
If there was some story that we really wanted to tell that fit in the OB universe and it was vital and different and new then that would be super cool. But we finished this before it trailed on too long so hopefully it left people wanting more as opposed to being like, “Thank God that’s over.”
Even though the show is done, Clone Club will inevitably live on… how will that factor into your life?
We’ve had such a good run with Clone Club and it’s been the whole reason people have watched the show, so I don’t know what that’s going to look like in the future. It’s all been so moving… This fan base has been so supportive and fans across the world have been supporting each other and taking care of each other… that’s just the coolest thing.
Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below. Twitter: @amber_dowling