As ‘Orphan Black’ Comes To A Close, (Some Of) The Incredible Women Who’ve Made It Happen Reflect
My love for Orphan Black has remained strong throughout the series’ five seasons and I was lucky enough to have some amazing conversations with the incredible women who’ve filled our screens throughout that time for this piece for Glamour. (I’ve covered the show before for Vanity Fair, Bustle, and Decider without involvement from the ladies—I told you I love this show.) Understandably, much of what I talked about with Tatiana Maslany, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Evelyne Brochu and Kathryn Alexandre wasn’t included in the piece, but our conversations were so fantastic that I knew the Clone Club would love to hear all of what they had to say.
(Note: I didn’t get the chance to talk to the brilliant Cosima Herter, aka the real life Cosima who also served as the science consultant for the show, or writer Renee St. Cyr. Needless to say, our appreciation and respect should absolutely extend to these women, as well.)
Below are previously unpublished excerpts from our chats on everything from acting process, story writing, and even the Clone Club itself.
On getting the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of women both on-screen and behind the scenes:
Tatiana Maslany: “It’s been an amazing job and so inspiring mentally, emotionally, in every possible way. Kathryn [Alexandre] is such an amazing partner. She’s been a lifesaver and I’ve been incredibly lucky to collaborate with her and experience the power of that unity of sisters, if you want to call it that. I think our industry can be very divisive in terms of not only chopping women into these pieces that are more palatable or easy to put into a box as a form of control — you see a lot of images of women being one thing or another, these dichotomies are rarely connected and are usually two separate people — so I think there’s that sense of separateness in actors and kind of a competitiveness because there are so few roles that are so exciting and inclusive, so you’re often pitted up against your peers. What I’ve loved about Orphan Black is its embracing of family, community, collaboration. We were all so grateful to be on the show and be part of something so different. We knew how special it was and we were all so lucky. Maria Doyle Kennedy was one of my heroes and then I got to have this relationship with her. Kathryn is an incredibly selfless person. These people are all so generous and selfless and invested in the work and that’s the only way the show’s been able to go on. Kathryn is invaluable — she’s my partner, friend, and collaborator — she’s literally just the best. I also think Graeme Manson knew how important it was to be telling women’s stories and in the writers’ room there were some incredible voices. Renee St. Cyr wrote Episode 7 which was one of our strongest. Given the political climate right now and this time in our lives, we feel lucky to do something real and relevant to our experiences.”
Kathryn Alexandre: “It’s been an absolute dream. The women on the show are all so supportive of each other and there was never a moment that felt like anything was a competition. Whatever we were trying to tell with the show was really infused by how everyone acted on set. It was a top down example that Tatiana displayed — she really set the tone for how everyone treated each other and it was such an inclusive and collaborative energy. I think a lot of the reason for how all of the cast and crew acted towards each other was really because of the example and standards Tatiana set for just being supportive of everyone. Everyone’s voice was heard and important. It didn’t matter who you were, whether it was a PA or first AD or a cast member or creator or writer — everyone’s input was heard, especially when it came to character. There were times when we were trying to say something about a particular woman or portray something from a different point of view and we’d turn to the first AD to hear her experience about that particular situation. I was very new to the industry when I started OB and I didn’t have much camera work under my belt so I feel extremely fortunate that my first experience was such a powerful one. It made me realize the importance of having female voices and telling female stories. It’s very easy to not realize that that aspect might be missing from other screens or other shows. Having this be my first job made me very aware of how important it is to have that diversity.”
On Mrs.S’s death:
Maria Doyle Kennedy: “It’s a fairly enormous sacrifice to make, but in terms of her methods and what she feels she needs to achieve, she’s come to the point that she knows that Ferdinand must be taken out and taken down. They’ve tried to do it many times and in many different ways but it never happens. She knows that to do this job, she has to do it herself. She’s ready to sacrifice herself in this way. That’s the most telling thing about her methods — when push comes to shove, she’s actually willing to sacrifice her life in order to save the others. We’ve been hinting at it slightly and setting up all along through this series — and I feel this is really important myself — it’s that S is sort of passing the mantle onto Sarah, onto the next generation. S’s mother died and when that happens, it just changes everything. My parent-in-law died last year and I saw the extraordinary effect it had on my husband. People say you don’t really understand it unless it happens to you. It’s not just the loss of someone you love, it’s that your vision of the world shifts. It’s the tribal order and it’s your job to pass the wisdom down because you’re going to be the next to go. We’ve been seeing that properly this season, she’s been really relating to Sarah as a mature adult and she’s relinquishing to her all the time. It’s designed for her to allow Sarah to take the lead, to not just be reliable but to be the driver to really have her own agency and be strategic as opposed as just being trustworthy.”
On their love for Clone Club:
Maria Doyle Kennedy: “I think one of the biggest things that became apparent to us after Season 1 and 2, when we started to meet our fans, we started to realize that Clone Club was this bond. It was forming among people that was transcending anything we were doing. It was a desire for connection and for family and that was hugely what we were representing — the idea of chosen family, of nurture and support and of other types of structures that aren’t necessarily represented as family but that can actually be that family in a much more positive way than many traditional models do.”
Evelyne Brochu: “I think it’s one of the biggest chances of my career to get to play someone that’s so open and that passionate and who doesn’t question the legitimacy of her feelings. I think because I got the chance to play that, I got the chance to see a lot of people who were inspired by this, which is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. We’re making a TV show in a studio in Toronto and then someone comes back to me and says that thanks to my show and my character, they had the courage to be themselves with their parents, their friends. I never anticipated that and for that, I’m empowered and really grateful.”
Tatiana Maslany: “I’ve always felt like Clone Club must be special. There’s an international community around the show but to a greater extent, it’s about the people. The most amazing thing was that I met a woman the other day who was about 42. She said she’s known since she was a baby that she was gay and didn’t come out until recently and the show helped her do that. She’s in a relationship now. That’s unbelievable. That’s incredible to us that we can have that impact and start those conversations. Girls who tell me they met their girlfriend in Australia through Clone Club meetups and they live in Idaho or whatever, it’s incredible. It’s a total privilege to tell these stories and see how they affect people. It’s like getting to talk about things that matter to me and so many people who don’t always have a voice and getting to enact it and tell those stories. It’s amassive privilege and such a joy as well. It only sparks our creativity and passion more for the show, the more stories we hear from people about the impact it’s had. That’s the greatest gift.”
On the importance of Cophine:
Evelyne Brochu: “Normalcy is a very important thing. You don’t realize it when you’re doing it. When you get to that place where you don’t even notice that something is a huge step forward, that’s a huge victory. Fuck yeah! It should be the norm, why not? Something that feels so normal should be portrayed in media as normal. You’re like, yes! This isn’t an issue anymore. Putting Cosima and Delphine at the center of the show insofar as the central romantic couple, it’s not sidelined or about anything else but true love and challenges and how they’re going to overcome that. Graeme and John are amazing. Normalization is a huge challenge and can have a huge impact. Right now, we need that impact. The President legitimizes misogynistic comments and normalizes those behaviors, but if we’re on this side of the fight, we have to pull on something positive for what values we want in our lives and push forward.”