Will the real Tatiana Maslany please stand up?
LOS ANGELES— Hailed for portraying 11 convincingly different clones (and that number is growing) in BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” Tatiana Maslany —the real one— showed up in our recent interview at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Tatiana, 28, is cheerful in person. Dressed in a ruffled print dress, the actress stayed as herself—a smart, articulate woman who is winning acclaim for her acting derring-do in the show which is on its second season.
Nominated for Best Actress in a TV Series-Drama in the last Golden Globe Awards, the Canada native adds Jennifer Fitzsimmons, a teacher and a swim coach, to her gallery of diverse clones, which includes Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Rachel.
Asked which clone she enjoys playing the most, Tatiana replied, “It changes all the time. But this season, I was really excited about Rachel, this corporate clone whom we meet at the end of season one. She is really exciting to play because I would never get the powerful CEO position (in real life) so it’s nice to step into that and explore her quiet, intense power, her elegance, wealth and sense of entitlement.”
The actress, whose heritage is a mixture of Ukrainian, Austrian, Romanian, German and Polish, said that Rachel is also the most challenging to play. “I know there are large parts of me
in Rachel, obviously. Vocally, she’s a huge change for me. I can’t not talk with my hands. But she’s very still, confident and very repressed. It’s fun to bottle up all that energy and keep it tight.”
We asked her to walk us through a day of shooting the show. “It depends on the day, because some days we will just shoot one clone,” she began. “Those are not easy days but easier. Then we do have the days where it’s three clones in a scene. Those days run for 18 hours. It’s a very technical process. It’s a science.”
Tatiana revealed a big help to her in pulling off the feat of playing wildly different clones. “We have to block it ahead of time with my clone double Kathryn Alexandre, who is amazing. She does all the blocking, mannerisms and character with me. I have to anticipate what we are doing on the other side as well, in my response, so I can direct, in a way.”
Tatiana stressed, “Kathryn is so much more than a body double. Physically, she looks like me but I am so lucky that I got someone who is a great actor. Also a great technical actor. She not only responds impulsively from the character’s voice and perspective, she can also memorize what I am doing while I am doing a scene with me. Then she mimics it back to me when we flip.”
She graciously added about Kathryn: “It’s the hardest job any actor can possibly do. Completely selfless, she never gets seen on camera and yet she shows up every single day with ideas about the scenes with support for me. I owe her everything on that show. If she weren’t there, it wouldn’t be possible. We do have other women who come in as body doubles when there are three of us in a scene. They come in with the character and the costume. It’s really a trip on the set when I see other me’s walking around.”
Tatiana explained how she mentally prepares for a scene. “It’s a weird kind of split. In my head, I go, OK, this person would go here… and this person would respond like this and maybe move here or maybe not move. I have to split in two or three to block a scene. Then we shoot one character, then pass through the scene, try to get it right on the nose so we can move on. Then I go for an hour and a half in hair and makeup, let go of the old character and bring up a new one.”
The break to physically get ready to play another clone is a welcome one, according to the actress.
“Thankfully, I have that hour and a half when I can physically wash the face off, work with this hair and makeup team that is so integral to the process. They help create the character with me. A lot of work happens in there. It’s just trust.”
She said, laughing, “All the actors I work with treat me differently when I walk on as Rachel from when I walk on as Sarah. I get a lot of my information just by how people are talking or not talking to me.”
Miscues are caught right away. “We can watch it back while we are doing it,” Tatiana explained. “So we can see that oh, maybe my eye line dipped too low or I put my glasses through my own face or something, so we can be really precise about it actually on the day.”
Also a help to Tatiana and the show is “a science consultant, Cosima (Herter), on whom Cosima is based. Before Season One, she gave us a Clone 101 lecture. She comes in every now and then. She gives us information about where the advancements are and what the social relevance is.”
With each clone a challenge, shouldn’t she be paid by character? “Oh yes, [I ask that] all the time,” she answered, laughing again.
On how she deals with learning that a clone will die, Tatiana said, “When they (writer-creators) come to me with that information, like with Helena in Season One, it is heartbreaking and devastating. But it is also what Sarah wants and needs so I have a duality in my head as far as how I feel about it.”
“It was all Auto-Tune,” she chuckled when complimented about her singing in this season. “As a kid, I sang in musicals. I was always performing in dance. I trained in dancing and singing. To me, singing is quite scary but, to Alison, it’s her dream, what she wishes she could have done but wasn’t quite good enough for.”
Singing and dancing come naturally for Tatiana. When she was 4, Tatiana started dancing. She went on to join community and high-school musical productions.
As for the real Tatiana and what qualities she falls for in a person, apart from sense of humor and intelligence, she laughingly protested, “But that’s it! Those are the things. For me, it’s sense of humor above everything. The people I am fascinated with are those who are funny. Saying yes to life, to living, joy, playing, I am always interested in actors and artists. My family and friends are artists. Those are the people I gravitate toward.”
Still on love, she quipped, “Working on the show, I have a different love interest for each character, and it’s amazing. I don’t think there’s one person I haven’t made out with on the set,” she jested. “That’s why I took the job.”
Seriously, she said, “It’s been great. As actors… we get to fall in love with people, hate, fight, kill people and be killed by people every single day. That’s amazing drama we get to play out.
It’s fun to play each of the characters as they love—why they love and whom. Alison and Donnie are a couple that we explored a lot in season two. Kristian (Bruun, who plays Donnie) is just ridiculous and, as Alison, I have totally fallen in love with him. Cosima and Delphine are total opposites and love each other so completely but are on different sides of the equation.”
She conceded that portraying different personas has given her a better perspective on life. “I learn something from all the different characters. Sarah has given me a lot of courage that I didn’t have before, or didn’t admit that I had. Rachel has given me this sense of, oh, maybe, I can stand in for that power and see things from that perspective.
Alison is a soccer mom; Cosima, a scientist; Rachel, a power woman; Helena, a nut job. But who is Tatiana in one word?
“Tatiana is all of those women and more!” she exclaimed with a chuckle. “No, I don’t know. I want to say chocolate but that’s not the word. But that’s what it is now—chocolate. That’s all I am thinking about.”
(E-mail the columnist at [email protected] Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)
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