Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany on Being TV's Most Prolific Hero


At the New York Times Magazine, Lili Loofbourow’s written a great profile of Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, otherwise known as the most chronically underrated actress on prestige TV.

Maslany, who’s 29, is now playing up to nine characters in any given episode of the BBC America show (all clones, raised in wildly varying environments, with distinct accents, personalities and physical behavior—who frequently appear in scene with each other, talking, dancing, pouring each other wine). The NYT Mag story goes into some strong details about how the show pulls this off: a skilled body double, wigs but no prosthetics, a particular type of camera crane that memorizes physical movements and is nicknamed the “Time Vampire.”

But it’s Maslany herself who seems uniquely able to carry the situation, onscreen and off. She speaks in one character accent through an interview, waiting for her lunch break to dial back.

“I didn’t sleep, really,” Maslany said of the first two seasons. “I just was shifting. I’d have to do shifts during the day where I’d be Cosima for the first half and then Helena — or whatever, Cosima and then Sarah. So my body was physically shifting in my sleep, and I could feel it.”

When asked about how she deals with the technical constriction of having to memorize and mark multiple clones’ movements across the same scene (often having to fix her eyes on dangling tennis balls to maintain position), she can’t explain it:

“Yeah, I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know. It just becomes, not second nature. . . . I don’t know. I don’t know.” She tried again to articulate her process but collapsed into gesticulation. “It’s kind of hard to speak to. But it is a mix of technical dut-­dut-­dut” — she gestured rhythmically with her hands — “and just kind of breathing and trusting.” All of a sudden, she burped. “What did I eat? What’s going on?”

Maslany is slightly, pleasantly resistant to Loofbourow’s presence: “[The show] is about volition and autonomy, and that was resonating with me, being an actor who was suddenly being interviewed or being dressed,” she says. And about the Strong Female Character halo:

Though appreciative, Maslany finds this a reductive formulation. “That’s so boring!” she said, and went on to condemn the way female strength gets shoehorned into the confines of male-dominated narratives. “What about the strength of this uncharted territory we’ve never explored on camera? We haven’t seen them yet, they’re not archetypes yet, because they’re all related to male expression.”

She talks, unexpectedly, about Gena Rowlands in “A Woman Under the Influence” as an example of a truer strong female character.

“She’s big in this movie. She does things I’ve never seen a woman — or a man or anybody — do on camera, like these little tics and things like that that are so funny and so bizarre. That’s what I want to see. Like, I don’t want to see a robotic woman in a cat suit who can kick ass. I don’t give a [expletive] about that. It’s just not real.”

The whole profile is great—read it here.

Image via AP

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