Playing multiple characters in Orphan Black is like pretending to be a dinosaur.
Let Tatiana Maslany explain.
“For me it’s the greatest gift ever because I get to go back to when I was a kid,” said Maslany, the star of Orphan Black, which debuts Saturday, March 30 across Canada on Space.
“You’re playing with your friends, and your friends are suddenly cops, and then you’re a robber, then your friends are dinosaurs and you’re a dinosaur, too. There’s no self-consciousness. There’s no judgment.
“As an actor, I think that’s the biggest joy, to be able to play like a child, with that openness, and with that immediate, ‘Yeah, you know what? I’m a totally different person.’ ”
Both the differences and spooky similarities between supposedly random people frame the story in the Toronto-shot Orphan Black, which also is airing in the U.S. on BBC America.
When we first see Maslany she’s a British character named Sarah, a street-wise hustler who grew up in foster care, on the run from a lifetime of bad decisions.
But a chance encounter at a train station changes Sarah’s life forever, as she gazes directly into the eyes of someone who looks exactly like her.
Not “a lot” like her. Exactly like her.
As Orphan Black continues, we discover that maybe Sarah and this mysterious stranger aren’t the only two who look exactly alike. We’re talking clones here.
“It’s in how I move around, how fast I move, how slowly I move, and it’s in how I speak, I get to work with a dialect coach,” said Maslany, asked about the nuts and bolts of playing multiple characters.
“A lot of it’s right in the script. But it’s also working with the hair and makeup team, who are complete artists in their own right. They bring so much aesthetically to these characters, which gives me so much to work with.
“I mean, I look at myself in the mirror and it’s a totally different person.”
Maslany, who is from Regina, Sask., said she obviously approaches her clone characters in Orphan Black from more of a human perspective than a technical perspective.
“The scientific aspect of clones, I feel a little disconnected from that,” she admitted. “I see it more as an identity thing. So for me it’s less about the fact that they’re clones and more about the fact that they’re struggling with their world being fake, their world being not theirs, or them not knowing where they come from, or not knowing who their family or who their parents are.
“There are trust issues, too, because you don’t have that inherent trust that you would when you grow up in a really loving family. You move differently through the world when you feel supported or when you feel you’re part of something.
“I think about what a clone actually would be like. Identical twins would be more similar than clones would, because they were born in the same womb, you know? If clones grew up in different parts of the world, they would be physically identical, but similar in no other way.”
So in other words, Maslany’s performance must be incredibly varied, even though she’s playing clones.
And not that we expect Orphan Black to require it, but if the script ever calls for Tatiana Maslany to act like a dinosaur, she’s ready, dammit.