Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 13th 2015 Contents A35
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A half-century ago, teen star Patty
Duke wowed viewers playing dual
roles (identical cousins!) on her hit
sitcom. These days on Orphan Black,
BBC America s sci-fi clone-fest,
Tatiana Maslany has lost count of the
roles she plays.
"More than seven, I think," she says,
adding that, in a single scene, she has
played as many as four distinct char-
acters interacting seamlessly. She s a
crowd all by herself.
Now in its third season, the series
began with con artist Sarah (played by
Maslany) witnessing the subway suicide
of Beth (played by Maslany), who, to
Sarah s shock, was her spitting image.
Always out to find an angle, Sarah
claimed for herself Beth s much-cushier
identity, only to learn that she and Beth
were clones along with a growing num-
ber of other lab-created "sisters" (played
by Maslany)---and that all of them are
in serious peril.
The highly acclaimed series has won
the 29-year-old Maslany a special brand
of cult adulation, even something bor-
dering on celebrity.
"A girl recognised me at the airport,"
says Maslany, though adding hastily,
"I was wearing my Orphan Black back-
pack. It s such a good backpack!"
Animated and candid with a lumi-
nous smile, Maslany is a woman blessed
with rather specific features who,
nonetheless, on-camera can marshal
them in seemingly countless variations.
As she slips into her repertory company
of roles, it is hard, then downright jar-
ring, for the audience to realise they
all are one woman s handiwork.
"This show is an incredible training
ground for an actor in terms of sparking
my imagination and keeping me pres-
ent. It s so stimulating, to switch up
characters twice a day, and jump into
each role without fear or embarrass-
ment," she says.
Besides Sarah, who serves as the
clones de facto leader, they include
Alison, the soccer mom; Helena, a
maniacal Ukrainian; Cosima, a brilliant
scientist, and more.
But this season, Maslany s clone
posse has been met with an opposing
team. A new cloning initiative named
Project Castor has loosed a gang of
male clones on the world. They all are
played by Ari Millen, whom Maslany
describes as "super-trained and super-
She laughs at the notion voiced by
some disgruntled fans that introducing
male clones somehow threatens the
series supposedly feminist agenda---
and even upstages Maslany s bravura
"That s so funny," she says, "as if
feminism can be explored only if
women are in positions of power. Do
people think the female clones will
instantly become the men s girlfriends
and just cook for them?
"This doesn t change the fabric of
the show, it reinforces the story we re
already telling. It s about autonomy,
and the lack of it; about ownership of
your body and image. It s about gender
stereotypes, which we explore and bust
open. This is all still very relevant to
women---and to men, too."
While Maslany savours serving up
her smorgasbord of characters, she takes
pains to praise her fellow cast mem-
bers---who include Kristian Bruun, Jor-
dan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard and Maria
Doyle Kennedy---"for their amazing
She also points out the achievements
of her colleagues in wardrobe, lighting
and hair and makeup.
"To have me as a default, and then
change me up in so many different
ways, is a real challenge for them, and
exciting," she says.
Maslany, who began acting as a child
in community theater in her hometown
of Regina, Saskatchewan, has a long
list of credits in Canadian TV and in
films including The Vow, Picture Day
and the current feature Woman in Gold,
playing a young version of the character
played by its star, Helen Mirren.
But she cites her early experiences
in sci-fi Orphan Black
as a dancer, then as a member of an improv troupe,
as invaluable training for Orphan Black.
"Having to be precise and systematic as a dancer
really helps me with the technical side of things. But
I need the improv stuff, too, or else those scenes
wouldn t feel alive or real. Improv helps me access
my imagination and pretend that there s another
person there. This is a bizarre, supertechnical process
that you have to bring breath and life to," she adds.
Tatiana Maslany portraying Sarah, left, and Helena in a scene from the BBC America series Orphan Black.
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