Captivating Tatiana Maslany
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After juggling the nuances of numerous clones on TV’s “Orphan Black,” Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany tried to strike a different balance for the Boston Marathon bombing drama “Stronger.”

The Regina-raised actress plays Erin Hurley, a real person who helped her boyfriend Jeff Bauman through physical therapy and drinking problems after he lost his legs in the explosion more than four years ago.

Preparing for the part left her confronting the “emotional tricky territory” of Hurley’s actual life, she said, and deciding how to navigate between truth and interpretation. Lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Bauman in the film, was experiencing similar apprehension about his role.

“Jake often talks about this fraudulent feeling because we’re only interpreting a story that somebody actually went through,” she said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.

“(But) I wasn’t seeking to do an impression of her … There’s a point where it’s about the script as opposed to paying homage to the real people.”

“Stronger” is based on Bauman’s 2014 memoir, which recounts the battle with his own demons while the public is painting him as a hero. Hurley is present throughout much of the tumult, often serving as Bauman’s emotional support or a staggering dose of reality.

Many of the film’s most intense moments play out between Gyllenhaal and Maslany as she pressures him to focus on his recovery, while he spirals into alcoholism and ignores his post-traumatic stress disorder. Gyllenhaal spent considerable time in Boston studying Bauman’s physical movements, but trying to accurately capture his physical pain wasn’t easy.

“Every time I think about the preparation for this role I sort of knew I was set out to fail,” the actor said.

“I would never be able to get close to the pain or understand it really … There’s no pretending that would touch the real thing.”

Oscar prognosticators, however, seem convinced that Gyllenhaal pulled it off. He’s been widely touted as one of the contenders for this year’s best actor race. Maslany smiles when asked about the awards buzz. She says she can’t help but draw parallels with the movie, where the word “hero” is tossed around by outsiders who knew little about what happened when the spotlight turned off.

“The film we’re doing talks about all that noise on the outside,” she said. “There’s this weird duality to the two things.”

“Stronger” opens in theatres on Friday.
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When Tatiana Maslany first learned she’d been cast opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the biopic Stronger, she started running. She still hasn’t stopped.

The Canadian actress, famous for five seasons of Orphan Black, stars in Stronger as Erin Hurley, who was running the Boston Marathon in 2013 when terrorists detonated two bombs near the finish line. Hurley wasn’t hurt, but her boyfriend, Jeff Bauman (played by Gyllenhaal), lost both legs in the attack.

Speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Stronger had its world premiere, Maslany says she was able to spend time with Hurley, and also credits a strong screenplay by John Pollono, itself based on a book by Bauman. But running was a big part of getting into the part.

“I ran every morning, and that was this meditative time that I could just be in that character and daydream and imagine,” she says. “Every time I do, she invariably pops into my head – the character and real Erin.”

She continues to run today. “It would be cool to be able to be at the point where I wasn’t fighting being in my body,” she says. “Because right now it’s just coming up against the limits of what I’m able to do.”

Gyllenhaal faced his own challenges, playing an able-bodied man who becomes a double-amputee. “The pain I knew I would never be able to get close to,” he says. “Every time I think about the preparation for this role, I sort of knew I was set out to fail. There’s nothing I could get at by pretending that was going to touch the real thing.”

Even so, he studied not just the consequences of amputation, but all the procedures and processes around it. “I could understand the effects on the body,” he says. “I could understand the effects of the painkillers on the body, even the pallor of one’s skin and what those drugs do to you during recovery.”

Humour helped, both on the set and in the finished film. (In a laugh-out-loud moment drawn from real life, Bauman’s first statement in hospital, after asking “Is Erin OK?” is a reference to Gary Sinise’s Lieutenant Dan character in Forrest Gump, who also loses both legs.)

Maslany also remembers the day she had a throwaway scene that involved asking a waitress if she could settle her bill. Director David Gordon Green decided not to make it easy.

“He just kept giving her these weird-ass lines to say to me. It was the simplest scene and she was a day player – he didn’t have to do that. But I think he’s so intrigued by what any moment could open up, and what any off-kilter thing could do to the performance. He keeps you off-kilter all the time. It’s a really great way to work. You never know what’s going to come at you and you never know how you’re going to react to it.”
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If you love Tatiana Maslany’s work on Orphan Black, then you have something in common with filmmaker David Gordon Green.

Green — who raves about the show — cast Maslany, 31, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the film Stronger.

It opens Friday.

Stronger tells the true story of ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. Jeff Bauman (played by Gyllenhaal) was waiting at the finish line for his ex-girlfriend, Erin Hurley, to finish running the Boston Marathon in 2013. When the terrorist bombs went off, Bauman’s legs were destroyed and had to be amputated at the knee. Hurley (played by Maslany) then came back into Bauman’s life to help him recover, and their relationship was renewed.

The film is a study in courage. Maslany is a Canadian treasure. An actor since she was a schoolgirl, the Regina native has appeared in such films as Picture Day, Cas & Dylan, Woman In Gold, The Other Half and Two Lovers and a Bear; besides Orphan Black, Maslany has also appeared in such TV series as Heartland, Captain Canuck and Being Erica.

We spoke to the actress when she attended TIFF to support Stronger.

What sort of additional pressure is on you when you play a real person, such as Erin Hurley?
I met Erin, and had interaction with her, and discussed things with her and got her perspective, but with any part you have to approach it with a sense of ownership over the story. And ownership over who this character is to you. For me, it was about understanding her energy, strength and stamina, but also interpreting it my way, and sort of, putting the questions in my mind: ‘What would I do? How would I cope? Would I be able to do this? What would my doubts be?’

Did you actually take up running to play Erin?
I started running as soon as I got the part … I got nowhere near to being able to run the distance Erin is able to run, but it was a great lesson in my body’s limits and what it takes to be able run a marathon. The mental and physical stamina of that informed me a lot about her, and who she is. She ran the marathon again when we were there filming, not on a whim, obviously, but she decided on a Friday to run it on a Monday, where most people decide a year before and train. There’s some strength in her, some spirit, that’s so powerful she was able to finish this enormous feat. She wasn’t even sweating at the end and she wasn’t sore the next day. There’s something unbelievable about that.

How do you prepare for such a hugely emotional role?
When you have scene partners like Miranda [Richardson] and Jake [Gyllenhaal], it’s not to say easy, but it’s a joyful exploration. It’s effortless in the sense that it’s all about listening and reacting, and just being there.

Did you take anything away from playing Erin?
I continued to run, and continued to use that as a meditative thing. It’s the only time I’ll let my head get semi-quiet, and it always reminds me of Erin. I think of her every time I run.

Something about that is always going to be connected to her.
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In September of 2016, Tatiana Maslany won an Emmy. To those unfamiliar with the actor or her show, Orphan Black, this might not have seemed like a particularly huge deal. But for everyone who’d spent the last several years watching Maslany deliver work stellar enough to label her, often, “the best actress on TV,” the Emmy felt like a symbol: finally, finally, she was getting the kind of love and recognition her fans had always known she deserved. Perhaps after this awards night, we thought, everyone would realize how good an actor she is, and be drawn to movies and TV shows simply because she is in them — except that’s not actually what Maslany really wants.

“That you can forget that this is even an actor… that is what I seek to do,” she says, sitting down in Bustle’s studio on a mid-September day. If Maslany sounds, well, actorly, don’t be surprised; although it’s no secret that she has a comedic side, as shown by her scene-stealing turn on Parks & Rec and her friendship with funny people like Amy Schumer, the 32-year-old typically has the kind of serious, introspective demeanor that goes hand-in-hand with the dark sci-fi show she’s best known for.

That attitude is certainly fitting for Maslany’s new movie, Stronger, a powerful, often-heartbreaking drama about Jeff Bauman, the Boston Marathon survivor who lost both his legs in the 2013 terrorist attacks. In the film, Maslany plays Erin Hurley, Jeff’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, and the actor talks about Erin with a kind of quiet awe. Maslany felt a “huge responsibility” to do Erin right, she says; as soon as she learned she got the part, she began running, hoping to connect with her character on a deeper level. Whether audiences watching Stronger will sense that commitment is out of her hands, of course, but talking to Maslany, one gets the sense that if she could tell every viewer about what she’s learned from Erin and why this story matters, she would. “I don’t think I’ll ever let go of this film,” she says, gravity in her voice.

The afternoon we talk, Maslany is dressed for a photoshoot — her hair is styled, her outfit is precise, and her Nike sneakers are in a bag waiting for her after she’s done with her impressively tall heels. I’ve interviewed her before, so I know what the actor’s personality (at least with reporters) is like, but that doesn’t mean her constant intensity doesn’t still throw me off, at least a bit. She seems comfortable around journalists — doing press for five seasons of Orphan Black likely trained her well — but that comedic side, those easy laughs? Until she tells me a funny story at the end of our interview involving a chance hotel encounter, confused Hollywood agents, and Schumer naming her dog after her, that can’t help but make both of us crack up, Maslany is all seriousness, all the time.

For her acting, at least, this is a good thing. In order to give the kind of performances so great, and so deep, that fans forget they’re even watching her on-screen, Maslany can’t mess around. What she wants, she tells me, is “where your work speaks for itself, and the awards stuff doesn’t matter — it’s more about, ‘holy sh*t, this person took me on a ride and I didn’t even realize they were doing that to me.'” But for her regular life, that intensity acts a bit as a wall, at least from reporter to subject. Every time I ask her a question, she takes a few moments to think things through, and then she provides an answer that, even if natural, sounds practiced and formal. You can see that she is determined to get things right, even if it means that she sometimes comes off as enigmatic as some of the clones on Orphan Black.

For some actors, that Emmy and years worth of glowing reviews would be enough to soothe their anxiety or get them to loosen up in front of press; not Maslany, though. It goes hand-in-hand with her feelings about the way audiences perceive her on-screen, or rather, the way they don’t. Maslany, she makes clear, doesn’t want you to go to movies or watch television shows to see her — if she had her way, you probably wouldn’t even notice she was in a piece of work until the credits rolled. During our conversation, she points to her co-star in the new movie Stronger, Jake Gyllenhaal, whose portrayal of Jeff is impressively convincing, as an example. “That commitment to one character, and so completely believing that that’s him… that’d be amazing,” Maslany says with relish.

For those of you who watched her superb work on Orphan Black, it might seem like she has already accomplished just that. After all, her performances as up to four or five different clones in a single episode were so transformative that forgetting that it was Maslany playing each character became a running joke among fans. So after five years of winning every piece of acclaim imaginable, why wouldn’t Maslany just, well, take a break?

Because, as just one afternoon with Maslany makes perfectly clear, “taking a break” is simply not in her DNA. Even while she was busy playing clone after clone on Orphan Black, she was starring in movies like Woman in Gold, where she spoke German as a young Helen Mirren, and The Other Half, which earned her rave reviews for her portrayal of a bipolar woman. Even now, in her post-Orphan life, she’s not standing still. Maslany has Stronger and a few other films in the works, as well as an indie movie she’s developing with her partner, Tom Cullen.

Clearly, lazy isn’t in Maslany’s vocabulary, even if her constant workload means she’s always making life harder for herself than it probably needs to be. “I’m selfishly drawn to these challenges,” she explains. “That’s kind of what I sign up for in a way… I’ve just never wanted to [take it easy].” Even with Orphan Black, Maslany says she had a hard time accepting the praise, because she was always convinced that she could’ve done something deeper, or sharper, or simply better.

“I don’t think that the noise of Orphan Black or any of that is in any way connected to what we do on a daily basis, which is always full of fear and always full of doubt and contradiction,” she tells me. “I don’t super buy into the noise, because I know myself and I go, ‘OK, yeah but that’s a trick, or that’s something I could’ve dug deeper into.’ It’s a constantly evolving thing — I never feel like, ‘oh yes, now I’m at some level that is different from where I was before.'”

Stronger, though, threw Maslany for a loop. The drama, out Sept. 22, is the biggest film the actor has done to date, and getting to star alongside veterans like Gyllenhaal and Miranda Richardson was “uncharted” territory for her. Maslany may have been up for the challenge — but even for her, the combination of playing a real person who often came to set and whose opinions she valued, and of starring in the film alongside highly respected actors, was overwhelming.

“Stepping onto set with Jake and David [Gordon Green, the director] and Miranda, I was a beginner again,” she says now. “And I’m going, ‘oh sh*t, OK, this is the level. I had major doubts going into that.”

Maslany admits that she knew little about Jeff and Erin’s story before signing onto the movie, and the details of their journey — their commitment to one another during Jeff’s recovery, their struggles with the media’s perception of their relationship and the unwanted fame Jeff’s injuries brought — stayed with her long after she finished filming. The same can be said for Orphan Black. Talking about the series, which came to an end this past August, Maslany can’t help but wax poetic. “Looking back on it now, the amount of roles I was able to play pales in comparison to the impact certain roles had on people,” she tells me. “In terms of Cosima’s resonance with the LGBTQ community, young women and men, people seeing themselves represented… that to me, I think, is the legacy.”

“The show sheds light on people who don’t necessarily always have a voice and gives them a voice that is complex and flawed and human,” she continues. “Especially young women [who are] kind of pitched against each other and made to compete for the small spaces that we’re able to take up.”

Although Orphan Black’s finale might’ve come as a shock to fans, Maslany has been processing the show’s end for years. A critical favorite but not exactly a ratings smash, Orphan Black spent five seasons as a series whose future its stars and creators could never take for granted. Yet for the actor, that constant unpredictability wasn’t an issue; in fact, unsurprisingly, it feeds her. “I’ve never known what was coming down the pipeline — I’ve never known what was next,” she says. “And I kind of love that. I like being surprised and seeing something and being like, ‘oh god, I want that so bad.’ And then fighting for it, somehow.”

Right now, Maslany’s future is actually pretty certain. There’s the producing gig, which she’s clearly excited about; although she’s been a producer in the past, on Orphan Black’s final seasons and The Other Half, this new film will give her more control than ever before. “It’s cool to get to have a bit of say in the development of something, to get to tell the story that we’re excited about,” she says with evident happiness.

And there are all those other films ahead of her, one she’s already signed on for and ones that’ll inevitably come her way soon enough. Maslany may not want anyone to think of her when they watch her movies, but it’ll be hard not to, with so many opportunities coming down the line. But if anyone’s willing to prove people wrong and take on that kind of challenge, it’s Maslany — after all, she’s managed time and time again to earn our love, even while disappearing right in front of our eyes.
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Tatiana was on Talking with Chris Hardwick a couple nights ago. You can watch the full interview here. I’ve added screencaps and stills from the interview. I have to say this is probably one of my most favorite interviews of hers.



SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Orphan Black series finale on BBC America.

“We’ve talked since the beginning of wanting to do some kind of feature or some kind of two-hour continuation of the series,” admits Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett of how he and Graeme Manson could see more of the Tatiana Maslany starring show after tonight’s series finale.

After five seasons with Neolution revelations, siblings, deaths and births, the tale of the Maslany played clone Sarah and the sestras came to an end for now with the Fawcett-directed “To Right The Wrongs of Many.” However, after the vanquishing of the aged and manipulative P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie) as Sarah, twin Helena, Cosima and Alison sat together in the latter’s backyard in tears and love, the door was opened for more with another 274 Leda clones out there around the world – thanks to a list procured from fellow clone Rachel.

Months after filming those finale scenes with the Emmy-winning Maslany, Fawcett chatted with me about the grand plan for the show, working with the Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominee and the strong emotions on set at the end. As well as discussing the possibility of more Orphan Black, the Ginger Snaps helmer also had a ton of praise and appreciation for the Clone Club fans of the BBC America series – and what they meant to the Canadian-made Temple Street Productions show, past, present and future.

DEADLINE: I have to ask right at the top, is this the series finale that Graeme and yourself envisioned for Orphan Black from the beginning?

FAWCETT: I think it is in a lot of ways. In some respects, I think that we imagined that the finale really was going to boil down to Sarah and Helena, and that we were going to have to deal with P.T. Westmoreland. We knew that, critically, we were going to have a really kind of dirty, awful, nasty birth, and that that was going to be part of kind of this two-part finale.

DEADLINE: Well, that does sound like “To Right The Wrongs of Many” in a nutshell…

FAWCETT: Yes, but I think we also understood that killing P.T. Westmoreland was important, but not the most important thing for us. It is something you had to do, but that, tonally, for the final episode, we wanted it to be a much more emotional episode. We wanted to structure it in a way that we were finished with plot fairly early on in the episode so that we could make this time jump, as we did. We were really interested in moving forward into the future three months to see where everyone is.

DEADLINE: Part of that jump, nearly at the very end, with the backyard party at Alison’s with the core sestras together around a still shattered Sarah, was Helena reading from her book called Orphan Black of her life and the other clones. Why did you choose that bookending, pardon the pun?

FAWCETT: That was something we devised at the beginning of Season 5, though we had talked about it before. We liked the idea that Helena has been jotting down her memoirs and really, like, exactly that, it comes down to the sisters. It comes down to the twin sisters, between Sarah and Helena.

It’s very important that we’ve ended this in a way that we believed it was nice to have some really strong belief that Helena, after everything that she’s come through, is now going to be a very capable mother. So that somehow, by having her read her journals and her memoirs and bringing us back to the beginning of the series, it just seemed like the right place to end her. You know, we laughed a lot about the idea that Helena would wind up somewhere getting a book deal and maybe going on a book tour at some point. Of course, that’s just what we’ve joked about.

DEADLINE: But the series finale is not really the end of Orphan Black is it? With Cosima and Delphine now traveling the world to find the other 274 Ledas, there is a lot of ripe story or a lot more stories to tell, isn’t there?

FAWCETT: It certainly is. I think that to Graham and I, the imagery and the ideas that come from the concept of Delphine and Cosima out in the world journeying to find these 274 Ledas is certainly ripe, there’s no question. We’ve talked since the beginning of wanting to do some kind of feature or some kind of two-hour continuation of the series.

At this point, I think we’re happy that it’s come to a conclusion that we feel satisfied with, and it closes this chapter. Graham and I are both going to let it sit for a little bit, but I know that these characters are so strong with us and so engrained with us, that there’s certainly a chance that we’ll pick that up and continue.

DEADLINE: And would Tatiana be a part of that were you to continue it?

FAWCETT: Well, that would be lovely. Like I say, I don’t see that in the near, near future, but something that we’ve certainly always talked about and talked about as a group amongst the cast. So it’s not something that we’re keeping to ourselves. It’s something that we aspire to do at some point.

DEADLINE: Duly noted for the future, but to jump back to the now of Orphan Black, you set the series ender up as a two-part finale. But I got to say, to me it felt like the penultimate episode “One Fettered Slave,” especially following the death of Sarah and Felix’s foster mother Siobhan the week before, was really the Season 5 finale and the last episode was a series finale, and they were two different constructions, was that intentional?

FAWCETT: Yeah, I think that’s a fair assumption. I mean that’s the way we sort of imagined it being. Obviously, we’ve spent five seasons dealing with a large, complicated plot, and we really wanted the time to explore these other issues. Explore the issues of sisters, and of motherhood, and of the matriarchy, and put the focus kind of squarely on Sarah, who has come through slaughter and who has been so strong for everyone up until this point Now she is feeling a bit broken. To everything that she’s worked for, now she has. She has her freedom, and she doesn’t know what to do with it and is having a hard time moving on.

DEADLINE: There’s that poignant line in the finale where Tatiana says, as Sarah to the other clones, there’s nobody left to fight, kind of sums up where’s she’s at, and it’s not a good place…

FAWCETT: I think of it almost like PTSD. She’s really stuck now in this trying to go back to a normal life after everything that she’s been through. I think Sarah is having an extremely difficult time with that, and it’s nice now because now she has this sisterhood to sort of lean on and this group that can help her. I also think it’s interesting that Sarah’s the one that suffers the most as we move forward into the future. So it rings very, very true to me, and you know, we didn’t want it to be heavy-handed, but it certainly follows this hero’s journey of Sarah’s.

DEADLINE: Along that journey, as well as the Sarah assisted birth of Helena’s twins in the finale, there were some serious losses. In the last few episodes, the Maria Doyle Kennedy portrayed Siobhan was killed, a big blow to Sarah, Westmorland obviously was finally taken down, Kyra Harper’s Dr. Virginia Coady too. I get the last two, as the villains of the series but why couldn’t Siobhan make it through to the end, be there for all the sestras and the newborn Purple and Orange?

FAWCETT: You know, in thinking of the finale, we had never necessarily thought that Siobhan wouldn’t be there, but at the beginning, as we were breaking Season 5, it seemed like the strongest thing to do for Sarah’s journey. Dramatically, it felt like the right thing to do. It was a big thing to do.

I’m trying to harken back to all the reasons why we did this, but it really boils down to Sarah’s journey, and the matriarchy. Sarah now knows her mother has heroically sacrificed herself, in a way, to bring about the end of Neolution and to free not just her daughter, but the sisters. It’s interesting to see Sarah now without her mother having to fill those shoes and pick up and continue and really be the mother. And I think that that’s what gives Sarah in the finale this conflict, and this dilemma, and this soul searching that she’s going through. And then be able to rise above, be the mother, be in the house, and be stronger because of it.

DEADLINE: Speaking of Sarah’s journey, of Helena’s journey, of Cosima’s journey, of Alison’s journey and even of Rachel’s journey, obviously Tatiana won the clearly deserved Best Dramatic Actress Emmy last year, but what has the evolution of her multi-role and multi-faceted journey as an actress on the show been like from your perspective?

FAWCETT: Well. I’ll say, she really became a very strong collaborator really early on. You know, we started to trust her very quickly, her instincts very quickly, and her ideas very quickly very early on. Just in the early get-go, she solves some big problems for us, which was around Helena, and what Helena wanted, and who she felt Helena was. Because, you know, in our very rudimentary beginnings, Helena was just an assassin, there was really not a lot of character development or even a ton of thought that we put into it.

We knew that Helena was Sarah’s twin and that, at the end of season 1, that Sarah was going to shoot her, and that she was going to be an antagonist, essentially. But it was really Tat that came to that from a very different direction and started to breathe this very different life into this character, which started to spin Helena in a direction that we didn’t necessarily foresee. The more she did that, the more we all sort of began to trust each other, the tighter we got, and the more collaborative it got, and to the point where we really relied on Tat.

In the early breaking of scripts, we would pitch episodes to her and bring her into the process very early on to just read her instincts, because she has very good sort of character instincts and often very good story ideas. So she has certainly grown very close to Graham and I, and she’s a dear friend and an incredibly talented person.

And those are the kinds of people that you want to surround yourself with, you know? We’re very fortunate that this family, and not just our relationship with Tat, but the family, the creative family that we surrounded ourselves was very tight, and very smart, and very passionate bunch of people.

DEADLINE: Which must have taken on added resonance as you came to the end this final season, those final filming days with you directing the last episode, as you had so many seasons before…

FAWCETT: You know, it’s very different when you know that this is the end, and certainly managing to just even maneuver all the emotions, not just mine, but certainly of the crew and specifically the cast every day on set, and move the ship forward constantly, that was challenging.

Every other day, we were wrapping a significant character, you know, whether it was a clone, one of Tat’s characters, or any of these actors that we’d been with for so long. And so every day seemed emotional, and it was tough. It was tough in one sense because, at the same time, you’re working on a schedule, and you’ve got a lot to shoot in a day. But I thought it was important that we had to just kind of stand still as a character wrapped, gather everyone around, and talk and talk about the journey, and let the actor say goodbye, and be there, and be present. Some of those scenes, a lot of those scenes, they were often very difficult.

DEADLINE: How do you mean?

FAWCETT: Well, the big clone scene in the backyard, honestly, technically was not that difficult considering what we’d done through the course of the series. What was difficult was making sure that I was there and very present for all the emotional aspects that needed to be captured, and be present myself, not be thinking about what I was going to be shooting next or anything like that. I wanted to be very, very aware of just standing there, and being there, and being a part of and guiding Tat, and being there for her emotionally. That’s what the end was, and it was hard to do. It was probably the hardest episode of Orphan Black that I’ve shot, but from an emotional place, not from a technical place.

DEADLINE: I assume on a series that has the explorations of many frayed and raw emotions of the most basic sense of who one actually is, there would be a lot of those hard moments, so to speak. What are the ones, if you don’t mind me asking, that now stand out for you with the series over?

FAWCETT: You know, going through five seasons, the things that I take away the most are these emotional moments, these last moments that I had with Tat, you know, crying with her as we sort of wrapped Alison and being with her as we wrapped Cosima, Sarah and Helena.

Our last moments on the set together, once we’d finally called cut on our final shot, I gathered everyone together in the set. I said, “let’s just hang out together and enjoy this moment and not leave.” We just kind of hung out quietly for a while, until Maria decided to sing a song. So, over all, to answer your question, I think it’s obviously the early-on excitement of what we were doing, and then the emotional closing I think were my big moments.

DEADLINE: That will be an emotional point too, I’m sure for fans of the show, who were such a big part of Orphan Black in their dedication and almost unprecedented involvement in the series over the years. What would you say to the Clone Club now that that Orphan Black, or at least this iteration of Orphan Black, is over?

FAWCETT: Well, first, I owe a great debt to the Clone Club, the fans. I’m constantly in awe of them. Who they are, and just the very talented, artistic, smart, creative, intellectual bunch of people that they are.

I just always like to thank Clone Club for all their support over the past five seasons, and they really carried us through some difficult times, and their enthusiasm. I mean, the show wouldn’t be the same without their undying love for the show. So thank you, Clone Club.

I also want to note that his group have found each other through five seasons, and a lot of friendships and relationships have formed via social media and through the show. I just hope that this family, this group of people, will stay together, you know? That’s sort of what I hope. I just hope that this group, all these relationships will now continue forward into the future and that they will continue to create, and rise above, and express themselves as the creative people that they are.
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Now that the cult-favorite show has come to a close, its Emmy-winning star is shedding her myriad characters and leaving just one: herself.

This story contains spoilers about the series finale.

t was all of two-and-a-half minutes into the premiere of BBC America’s Orphan Black when viewers realized that the show—which began with a woman witnessing the suicide of a stranger who happened to look exactly like her—was something special.

But not even star Tatiana Maslany could have guessed that the series would introduce a breathtakingly sprawling mystery about human clone sisters navigating morality, philosophy, genetics, feminism, family, and a complicated conspiracy that doesn’t necessarily tie up into a neat bow at the end (sorry, Clone Club).

“I knew up to episode two,” Maslany explains of what she expected when shooting started. “I didn’t even know Helena existed until I was on set filming episode two of season one, and saw the next script and she shows up in episode three. I didn’t know anything about where the plot was going. I was just like, ‘How do we do this? How is this going to be possible?’ What a cool challenge to face.”

In the series finale, the clones (each personality crafted so masterfully by Maslany that it’s easy to forget she plays them all) finally take down the man known as P.T. Westmoreland (Stephen McHattie)—who turns out not to be a 170-year-old genius responsible for discovering the key to genetic supremacy, but rather a 70-something egomaniac obsessed with immortality—and his deputy, Virginia Coady (Kyra Harper), presumably toppling their Neolution movement in the process.

Though the episode doesn’t answer every question of the five-season-long, ultra-complex story, the final moments show each clone living her newly free life: Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) co-habitating in their suburban domestic bliss and helping new mom Helena raise her twins; Cosima and Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) off hunting for the rest of their 274 clone “sestras” in an effort to cure their clone-borne disease; and Sarah, foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) moving on as a family after the death of their foster mother, Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy).

A few days before the finale, MarieClaire.com sat down with Maslany to get those answers. In a Los Angeles coffee shop just a short walk from the home where she and her boyfriend, Welsh actor Tom Cullen, recently settled down, the 31-year-old Canadian beauty opened up about the show that changed her life, how science fiction is a lot more like our current reality, and what’s next on her horizon.

On closure for the clones:
“The finale was sort of like a two-parter—it had high-action intensity in the first half that felt connected to the world that we’ve been living in, which is so extreme and horrifying. But what I was really excited about, and what I think we were all interested in, was that quiet after—what happens when you actually have freedom but people aren’t able to move on? Like, Sarah is in this stasis where she’s doing all the right things but she’s not behind them. She’s not there. She hasn’t fully accepted the loss of S or really embraced the fact that now she can do whatever she wants.

One of my favorite endings is Rachel’s because it’s ambiguous. We don’t know what she’s going to do now. She’s completely alone. She’s been completely incapacitated in terms of everything that’s given her power and value in the past, and now she’s this blank slate going off into the world with no one.

She’s still left out of the world of the other clones; it’s still not her world to be in. I think she is who she is and I don’t know that she would ever surrender completely. I don’t think it’s a surrender in terms of, like, the bad guy surrenders or whatever, but it’s a surrender of power—which she does through giving Felix that complete list of clones. But she still can’t go into that room where she’s not invited. Her journey has really always been so interesting to me.

Cosima and Delphine got a happy ending. They’ve gone through the wringer in terms of everything—distrust from day one and always being on two sides of the system. It was important to us to show that as a gay couple they could have a normal and have a happy life, and that it was about using their skills to stop this from ever happening to anybody else—that as much as it is a nice time, they still have to go out there and make sure that they’re finding these women before it’s too late.

We were going to have a montage at the end after the clones learn that there are 274 of them in the world that was like, this one working at her desk, this person over here…but then we were like, ‘We don’t have any time to shoot this. That’s like 70 costume changes, this is not going to happen.'”

On P.T. Westmoreland:
“Given the political climate right now, it’s really interesting to have the person at the top be this desperately insecure, powerful, yet completely inept being—this guy, this patriarch who is completely self-motivated and doesn’t have any interest in whose lives he’s destroying. It’s all about him and all about sustaining life, this legacy of his life that he wants to create. It’s such an empty thing. One of my favorite moments of the finale is when he’s telling Sarah who she is and how he’ll always be in her and she just bashes his head in and that’s it. And it’s just like, ‘Shut up. Just stop fucking talking. I don’t want to hear that anymore.’

Of all the evil characters on the show, his was the most satisfying death, just because it ended up being such an unceremonious one. It was sort of pathetic. I mean, there’s a fight, obviously, but he’s just an old man who needs to go. And I think Sarah’s just fed up, done with it. That’s the first kill she’s ever done, as well. I mean, Helena was kind of a soft first kill because she came back.”

On Helena’s hair:
“I guess it just stuck. The roots just grew out a little bit over 20 years! I think that she’s been marked somehow, and I think because she also discovers that she’s a copy, she wants to be different from these people she’s killing. She’s marking herself and she has defined herself by her trauma, almost. She has ingested it as part of her.

I think she literally gets a bucket of bleach and sticks her head in it. It’s like her cutting of her back, it’s a self-flagellation thing.”

On Kira’s sixth sense about the clones:
“I think what Graeme [Manson, co-creator and executive producer] was playing with a little bit is that it’s just this empath thing that she has through a biological, spiritual connection. I think you can get that with siblings, too. I have it with my brothers, where my brother and I will be on the phone and I know what he’s going to tell me even though he hasn’t told me yet. It’s just a deep bond that is not scientific and not explainable in concrete terms.”

On bringing back old characters:
“The problem with this season was that it was so jam-packed with so many things to get through and so many characters that we had established that we wanted to flesh out further, as opposed to bringing in a whole bunch of new people. That’s why there wasn’t really a new clone except in the very last second. You see Tony’s photo in the finale, but we didn’t want to bring Tony in unless he had something vital to do and it wasn’t just, ‘Remember that guy?’ So I think it was about streamlining it to the five main clones that we got to know over the seasons.”

On her favorite clone:
“I enjoyed playing Rachel the most. She is completely opposite of anybody I’d ever be cast as otherwise. She terrified me constantly.

There’s something about Helena or Alison or Sarah or Cosima that I can physically feel, that I understand, but Rachel was so different, so contained, so entitled and powerful and elegant, moneyed and all of that, which is everything I sort of judge and don’t feel connected to. So it was really fun to always find the empathy with her and find what the connection was there.

Given what was going on politically while we were shooting it, it was really fun to play a clone who thought she could be outside of the system, who didn’t see herself as the same as all these other women, who sought to control it even though it was always going to control her. It was really fun to play these people who think they’re better than or think they’re outside of the humanity of other people.”

On shooting the last episode:
“Filming the backyard scene with all the clones was insane. We shot that over two days and it took a lot of rehearsal beforehand just to get the simple thing of handing off a glass of wine or a bottle of beer or whatever. It was so fun because it didn’t have any real pyrotechnics in it; it was just them relating to each other and all their insecurities and the things that they can’t totally accept in themselves, these parts of themselves that kind of unite them. It was awesome because obviously Kathryn Alexandre was there, who’s my clone double, who has worked with us since before season one, who has always been there. I always love working with her. And Bailey Corneal, who was my stand-in from the second season on, she’s stepped in a few times and played Helena or Alison. So it’s always fun to have that couple of girls together.

On shooting the last episode:
“Filming the backyard scene with all the clones was insane. We shot that over two days and it took a lot of rehearsal beforehand just to get the simple thing of handing off a glass of wine or a bottle of beer or whatever. It was so fun because it didn’t have any real pyrotechnics in it; it was just them relating to each other and all their insecurities and the things that they can’t totally accept in themselves, these parts of themselves that kind of unite them. It was awesome because obviously Kathryn Alexandre was there, who’s my clone double, who has worked with us since before season one, who has always been there. I always love working with her. And Bailey Corneal, who was my stand-in from the second season on, she’s stepped in a few times and played Helena or Alison. So it’s always fun to have that couple of girls together.

On the show’s title:
“We finally learn the explanation for the title in the finale—it’s the name of Helena’s journal. It was just kind of weirdly arbitrary in her head. It felt super weird to say the line that reveals it, because I was just like, ‘How do I take the curse off of saying this out loud?’ I still don’t know why she named it that! I have no idea. Somewhere in her brain it makes sense.”

On the impact of Orphan Black:
“There’s something really cool that came out of this show, which is this Clone Club community that impacted the way we’ve told these stories and our awareness of how fiction can effect change. It’s a community that embraces its differences and embraces people for who they are and is really supportive. There’s no infighting in that fan club and no discrimination. It’s just beautiful. There are people from Australia and Detroit who have met up, talked about the show and bonded over it, and they’ve forged relationships. There are people who are dating now who met their partner through Clone Club. That is just such a cool legacy that’s been left by the show, but mostly by the people who have watched the show.”

On feminism:
“Playing so many strong and smart women who take down a mediocre man—it was the best. It was getting to put all the rage and fear and disappointment and need for action into our work. We were telling that story from day one about autonomy, and about community as opposed to individual, and about our differences actually uniting us and making us stronger. So to get to actually talk about this mediocre man at the top, take off his head, it was really cathartic. I remember the Women’s March was happening when we had press so I couldn’t go, which was totally devastating. But we were reading this script that was saying the things we all wanted to say and we were having these discussions on set constantly. And it was all feeding back into the work. I’m so grateful I was on a show where I got to do that, because I don’t know how I’d get through it otherwise.”

On what’s next:
“Stronger [a film about the Boston Marathon bombing] will be out in September. It’s an amazing story of survival and love. I don’t know how people go through something like that and come out the other side of it, but they did. It’s with Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s unbelievable, and David Gordon Green directed it. It was really wild to do.

I’m also doing a movie that my boyfriend is directing. He just got funding for this very small-budget indie movie and we’re in the throes of figuring that out right now. He’s never directed me before, but we’ve acted together. We’ve worked together on a movie called The Other Half, which came out at SXSW two years ago. And he was in Orphan Black—he was Krystal’s ex-boyfriend, the guy I kicked in the balls.

But I haven’t done too much in the last few months other than creating stuff for myself and with a few friends. Really taking time to grieve the show and let it go and not rush into the next thing. I visited my little brother and my middle brother we just went on hikes and had coffee. Then I visited my boyfriend in the U.K. and we went away for a bit. And also I just slept. I rediscovered sleep.”
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The BBC America show, which ends its five-season run on Saturday, found success by engaging with and empowering its small but dedicated fan base online.

“Orphan Black” never had huge ratings. A July episode on BBC America, for example, garnered just 645,000 viewers, ranking it 33rd among scripted cable TV series that week.

But what the show does have is the #CloneClub, the name its fiercely loyal fans collectively go by when they gather online. And BBC America has done everything it can to cultivate their dedication.

“Their adamant vocal nature was the reason our show was anything — a success — and seen the way it was,” said Tatiana Maslany, the star of “Orphan Black” who won an Emmy for best actress in a drama last year.

Or as Sarah Barnett, the president of BBC America put it, “Every TV network, particularly at a time of surfeit of content — peak TV — is absolutely driven in wanting to create fandoms. Everybody is talking about it.”

“Orphan Black” will end its five-season run on Saturday with its final episode. As the show closes out, here’s a look at how the show engaged with and leveraged that online fanbase. In this era of peak TV, it provides a window into how future shows could find and measure success.

Don’t Control the Conversation
“Orphan Black” centers on a character named Sarah Manning who discovers she’s one of a series of clones around the world. Ms. Maslany plays many of those characters. From the start, a certain number of fans were hooked, identifying with the show’s themes of female empowerment and inclusiveness. The name #CloneClub came from a bit of dialogue in the first season.\\

When “Orphan Black” made its debut four years ago, many TV networks were still unsure how to engage with fans talking about their shows on social media.

Should the networks try to police the chatter or engage with the fans? And if they did try to connect with them, would it be with the kind of corporate-speak that is often used in news releases?

After much consideration, BBC America came up with an answer: Just have a normal conversation.

“It sounds like common behavior now but it was actually fairly radical in 2013,” Ms. Barnett said. “You came to realize that you can’t control this. You have to really understand it and embrace it.”

To that end, BBC America decided to let fans create art and fan fiction based on the show, without any supervision from the network. And then it went a step further.

Empower the Fans
The cable network wanted to signal to the fans that they were being heard, and to allow them to participate in the creative process.

In 2014, BBC America often posted GIFs related to the show on social media. When fans showed interest in creating their own, the network encouraged those with the requisite skills to help others in the #CloneClub. “That way we can all become better GIF makers, which is basically one step closer to being better human beings,” it wrote on its Tumblr page. As Ms. Barnett put it, network officials weren’t going to be “patronizing or pretend we have all the answers.”

Fans responded and the network made sure to pass along their instructions to others.

BBC America executives also saw that “Orphan Black” fans were particularly interested in drawing up art based on the show. The network’s social media team took to Tumblr and asked fans to submit ideas that would help inform the marketing for the show. The #CloneClub happily obliged.

Then before the fourth season premiered last year, the network had a fan contest that became the centerpiece of their ad campaign.

“We had a competition and said ‘we will use the fan art we select as the key art for marketing for the show,’” Ms. Barnett said. “We really saw it as a way to actually allow and invite the fans into the shaping of the conversation around the show.”

And then BBC America literally let them shape the conversation of the show. “Orphan Black” often would incorporate bits of dialogue that fans became obsessed with into scripts. There were polls to ask what sort of artwork should be hung on the wall during a scene or what sort of food a character should eat.

“Fans went crazy for it and said, ‘OMG, you’re listening to us, we’re being heard,’” Ms. Barnett said of the #CloneClub.

Though this might be anathema to many showrunners, the creators of “Orphan Black” did not have a problem with it, mainly because they were not asked to adjust the show’s plot in any way.

“They weren’t putting pressure on us story-wise,” Graeme Manson, one of the show’s creators, said of BBC America. “These things weren’t affecting the direction of the show. That’s another issue: When you have all that feedback, it’s easy for us to see what people like and don’t like. Though we’re not taking direction or changing story lines necessarily, it certainly gives you a direction and it tells you what people like about characters and what they want to see from characters.”

From a Tweet to an Emmy
In the last four years, as the number of scripted series on TV has ballooned, network executives have taken to saying that they’re not trying to make everybody’s favorite show. Instead they are trying to make shows that inspire a deep connection.

“That’s what we think is increasingly important for our business,” Ms. Barnett said. “Not just having a shallow breadth of viewers but actually having a really deep, passionate fanbase. As we move to a world with skinny bundles and more direct-to-consumers opportunities, I think mattering in the kind of ways ‘Orphan Black’ matters is actually as crucially important alongside” ratings.

There may be no greater example of the fans’ dedication than Ms. Maslany’s Emmy success.

In 2014, Ms. Maslany failed to receive an Emmy nomination. The #CloneClub was not happy. The following year, she received a nomination. And last year, she won in an upset, besting actresses like Viola Davis, Robin Wright and Claire Danes.

The #CloneClub practically melted down. The biggest topic on Twitter and Facebook during last year’s Emmys broadcast was not “Game of Thrones” or the “People vs. O.J. Simpson.” It was Ms. Maslany’s victory.

“When you love a show and not everyone has seen it and not everyone cares about it the way you do, when it gets that recognition it’s very bolstering,” Ms. Maslany said. “It just meant so much to them.”

It was a reminder of the power of fan loyalty, and with “Orphan Black” going off the air, Ms. Barnett said the key to her network’s future will be cultivating that kind of dedication again and again.

“It’s not just size,” she said of a show’s audience. “Mattering matters.”
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In 2016, after four seasons and countless people on the internet declaring that Tatiana Maslany deserved an Emmy (multiple Emmys?) for her performance as the numerous clones on Orphan Black, she finally won for best actress in a drama series. But according to Maslany, the show’s industry acclaim isn’t as meaningful as the response from the show’s dedicated fans, better known as the Clone Club.

“I don’t know if I can speak for all of us on this, but it’s not about the awards,” Maslany said when the Orphan cast visited EW for a recent interview. “It’s about the fact that we are all actors who love our job and get to do a show that we really care about and that has touched people, like the Clone Club. [Like when] a 40-year-old woman comes up to me and says, ‘Cosima let me finally come out, I’ve known since I was 2 and I can come out now.’ That’s the stuff that actually means something. I think it’s the reason you do your job and we’re so lucky to get to do it.”

They also got to see those dedicated Clone Clubbers meet and befriend one another. “To see people unite was really good as well, that was one of the great things,” added Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mrs. S).

For more from the cast on the Clone Club, watch the video above, and head here to hear them recall memorable moments on set.

Orphan Black’s series finale airs Saturday, Aug. 12 on BBC America.
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