Celebrities may have a hard time navigating the real world without being pestered by adoring fans. But at Comic-Con, full-body costumes are not only welcome—they’re encouraged. Actors can easily disappear among the thousands of fans in San Diego by donning a Spider-Man mask or Chewbacca helmet, leaving them free to anonymously soak in the convention’s fandom frenzy. And last year, Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany decided to give Comic-Con cosplay a whirl.
While sitting in a Hilton Bayfront hallway on Friday, Maslany recounted her hilarious cosplay-gone-wrong tale—the time she and Orphan Black co-star Kristian Brunn (who plays Donnie) decided to venture out into downtown San Diego in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes. Because they had only previously experienced Comic-Con on tight publicists’ leashes—appearing at designated panels and interviews before returning directly to their hotel rooms—they did not quite understand how the convention worked when it came to costume limits.
“We didn’t go out on the convention floor,” Maslany laughed, referring to the giant convention ballroom that is the hot, costume nucleus of Comic-Con. “We went to a comedy show, like out of the main Comic-Con area in San Diego . . . thinking that we would have to be in costume for some reason? Like the entire city dressed up. But we were the only two dressed up. It was so embarrassing. We were trying to be inconspicuous but we were just conspicuous.”
As if two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles attending a comedy show weren’t enough of an insane visual, Maslany explained that the costumes didn’t even fit.
“Kristian brought them in from Canada [where Orphan Black is filmed],” said Maslany. (If you’re wondering, she was dressed as Raphael.) “They were two children’s-sized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes. And Kristian is a tall man, so the shorts were up his butt.”
Despite the costume miscalculation, Maslany revealed that the two were unwilling to waver when it came to embodying the number-one virtue of Comic-Con cosplay: unflagging commitment.
Asked if they stayed for the entire show upon discovering they were the only audience members in costume, Maslany answered resolutely, “Yep.” Though: “We eventually took the masks off because we were like, ‘This is ridiculous.’”
The humiliation did not end there, however.
“We got made fun of!” Maslany remembered in horror. “The comedian onstage made fun of us. He was just like, ‘Is anyone dressed up tonight?’ We raised our hands and he was like, ‘Anyone else? [Long pause] No? Okay.’ We were like [embarrassed groans].”
Despite last year’s humiliation, Maslany is genuinely thrilled to be back, and lamented the fact that she had not brought a costume this year.
“I would love to go out, but I don’t know that I want to be wearing anything on my body right now,” she said, gesturing outside, where red-faced Jon Snows were tempting heat stroke in fur hoodies.
Just then, a woman with purple hair excitedly approached Maslany, cell phone in hand. The fan congratulated Maslany on her recent Emmy nomination, not seeing this writer’s tape recorder or noticing that the actress was mid-interview. After a few moments of giddy, complimentary chatter, the fan’s attention drifted back to her cell phone.
“Sorry,” the fan said nonchalantly, as though we were all old friends. “I was on my way to the bathroom and was catching Pokémon.”
Maslany, a good sport, engaged politely.
“I feel like there have to be very rare Pokémon here,” Maslany said, referring to the augmented-reality-based mobile app, which is a already a cultural sensation worth billions three weeks after its release.
“They’re going to drop a rare Pokémon too this weekend,” the fan added, eyes glued to the cell phone, feet apparently superglued to the floor.
“Like how rare?” Maslany asked. “Are we talking a Mewtwo?”
“Look what’s right there!” the fan said, pointing to her phone without looking up.
“What is that, a Psyduck?” asked Maslany.
“It’s a Magnus.”
“Get him!” Maslany enthused.
With marching orders from the Orphan Black star, the fan wandered off in the direction of the elusive monster.
Unexpected intermission now over, and a nearby publicist signaling that she was about to wrap up the conversation, I 86-ed my attempt to find an elegant transition between Psyducks and Orphan Black and asked Maslany what she knows about the sci-fi drama’s fifth and final season.
“I know a little bit about it,” Maslany admitted. “I sat in the writers’ room on the second day they were in there [mapping out the fifth season], and I got to watch that process. The writers were super inspiring, and it was exciting to hear how they put things in context politically and socially and historically . . .”
Maslany interrupted herself to point over my shoulder excitedly. I turned around, half expecting to see a Psyduck—whatever the hell that looks like.
“There’s Buzz Lightyear walking by,” Maslany laughed, as the Toy Story space ranger stiffly ambled down the hallway towards a restroom. He was wearing an extravagant and what looked to be heavy costume made from unbreathable plastics. “That is a committed Buzz Lightyear!” Maslany marveled. “In this heat! Wow, that is awesome!”
Back to speaking about Orphan Black, Maslany modestly said she does not consider her ability to seamlessly slip in and out of clone characters with unique personalities and accents—sometimes impersonating each other—a special skill.
“I’ve got friends who do one-person shows on stage or improv, and there is a lot of transformation in their work,” Maslany said humbly. “A lot of quick changes on the spot.”
Will more clones be introduced in the final season?
“I don’t know,” she teased with a smile.
Does she think the clones will re-unite next season for another incredible, C.G.I.-enhanced scene featuring all of the characters played by Maslany?
“I’m not sure,” she said. “It’s a nightmare logistically, but so fun. Definitely one of the most fun things we got to see on the show.”
Having played a clone, would she ever consider cloning a pet?
“I don’t know that I would feel O.K. about it,” Maslany said, gamely answering our lightning-round, publicist-pressured last questions. “I think it’s interesting scientifically in terms of advancements and in terms of organs and cloning body parts and regenerating them so we can give people a new lease on life but I don’t know . . . I’m still kind of on the fence about it.”
How does she feel about saying goodbye to the clones after next season?
“I’m super sad. It’s weird. I haven’t actually thought about that . . . That’s probably going to be the hardest thing. Because I do really love playing all of these parts. I would never otherwise get to play Rachel. A casting director wouldn’t see me as these characters, so it’s been a real joy.”
With that, the purple-haired fan returned, triumphantly waving her cell phone.
“I got it!” she exclaimed.
Maslany cheered. And just as quickly as she appeared, the actress and her publicist bid adieu and slipped back into the wonderful chaos that is Comic-Con.