In “Mary Page Marlowe,” a play by Tracy Letts that tracks seven decades in an Ohio woman’s life, the title character is many things: a baby, a girl, a wife, a lover, a mother, a divorcée, a retiree.
She’s also many people. In the Second Stage Theater production, which is now in previews and opens July 12, Mary Page is played by six actresses. Well, six actresses and one creepily lifelike baby doll.
On a recent weekday evening, rehearsal wrapped and the cast rushed into the green room to celebrate a couple of birthdays. Then the various Mary Pages shuffled back into the upstairs rehearsal space, balancing plates of cake, glasses of water and, in the case of Tatiana Maslany, who plays Mary Page at 27 and 36, half an avocado. “I missed lunch,” she said.
Ms. Maslany, who played at least 11 roles on the TV clone drama “Orphan Black,” and is finding it a pleasant change to share just one, was joined by Mia Sinclair Jenness, who plays Mary Page at 12; Emma Geer, who plays her at 19; Susan Pourfar, who plays her at 40 and 44; Kellie Overbey, the sole blond Mary, who plays her at 50; Blair Brown, who plays her at 59, 63 and 69; and the director, Lila Neugebauer. The creepy baby stayed in its crib. (There are other actors, too. And other characters. But these are the only Mary Pages.)
Barring occasional interruptions — Ms. Overbey briefly slipped out to manage a migraine, Ms. Pourfar excused herself to collect her actual baby, “not a doll,” she clarified — the women spoke about identity, change and the challenge of convincing an audience that women with different faces and voices and ways of moving through the world are really all the same. Wigs help. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Who Is Mary Page Marlowe?
MIA SINCLAIR JENNESS I think she’s resilient. Even as a 12-year-old, she goes through her fair share of heartbreaks and bad times, but that doesn’t necessarily make her a sad person.
EMMA GEER I’m playing her at 19. She’s strong, she’s powerful. She’s a dreamer and she has a very big heart.
TATIANA MASLANY: The big question of identity is a massive part of Mary Page in the two scenes in which we see me. It’s what happens at 30, what I certainly experienced — a question of who am I and what is my life?
SUSAN POURFAR In her 40s, she’s in this middle section of her life. She’s doing everything she has to do to survive, to put food on the table and to take care of her family. Kellie?
KELLIE OVERBEY I’m sorry, I’m having a bit of an episode right now. [Ms. Overbey, who was getting a migraine, excused herself to take a pain reliever.]
BLAIR BROWN Mine is the kindest period of Mary’s life. Kindest to herself, forgiving of all the mistakes. She’s been pretty hard on herself; the years have been hard. But she’s come through to a place — similar to when she was younger — of being open to experience and less judgmental.
Weaving Evolution Into Continuity
MASLANY: She has this real survival instinct and a real ——
GEER She doesn’t give up, ever.
BROWN She’s always trying. There’s a wit and humor that’s in her. We don’t think of women necessarily being that way. Which we are, of course, dazzlingly so. But not so much in plays.
LILA NEUGEBAUER I also feel in Mary Page a self-reliance. It’s in relationship to many of her strengths and also to some of her fault lines.
BROWN She’s constantly trying to look at the truth of situations when many people around her are not. She doesn’t get rewarded for that always.
[Ms. Overbey returned to the room, wearing an afghan as a cape.]
MASLANY: You look like a queen.
OVERBEY I feel like a queen. Mary Page makes me think about my own life. I’ll see people who knew me once upon a time and I’ll say, “Have I changed that much?” And they’ll always say, “No.” And I think, “But surely I have!”
POURFAR Kellie, do you remember Tracy saying, “A small change is still a change.” That really struck me. So I think you’ve changed. Since I’ve known you.
OVERBEY Yes. I would hope so.
GEER You have to choose to let yourself shift. Some things might happen naturally as you age and you learn, but I think to change is really brave.
OVERBEY Tracy has allowed for molting. We molt and we shift, but there’s something innate that remains. She’s deep and strong and courageous and lost.
Is She a Mystery to Others? To Herself?
GEER We talk about it all the time. I mean, my mom’s 57. She just told me last week, “The older I get, the less I know.” So I’m sort of expecting to not ever really know.
BROWN You know some more bits, I would say.
NEUGEBAUER The sets of questions that drew me into this play had to do with to what extent do we remain mysterious to the people who presume to love and know us best, and to what extent do we remain mysterious to ourselves?
BROWN How many times does Mary Page say, “I don’t know.”
JENNESS No one knows. You make these unconscious decisions and you don’t even know why.
BROWN But she keeps asking, that’s the thing, she asks her whole life. She asks all the time. She’s an ordinary woman, too. Tracy said she’s like the person standing behind you at the dry cleaners.
NEUGEBAUER It’s not a play about a queen.
GEER But she’s extraordinary in her own right. Because everyone is, right? When you gaze inside.
OVERBEY Tatiana has a line. What is it?
NEUGEBAUER “I am unexceptional.”
OVERBEY “I am unexceptional.” All I could think was how exceptional she seems in that moment.
Speaking With a Single Voice
NEUGEBAUER We’re collaborating with an incredible voice and dialect person, Gigi Buffington. In addition to conversations about Dayton, Ohio, and about where each of these excellent women live vocally, she has also led them through some incredible exercises. She invited them each to pick a scene that is not their Mary Page scene, and read it with each other.
BROWN For us, it’s about finding a space, like a plum in the back of your throat. And the sounds just kind of land in the front of your mouth.
GEER It’s not nasal.
BROWN It’s not that snarky New York kind of thing.
POURFAR It’s not that tight jaw. It’s much more open.
BROWN And not having a lot of consonants.
JENNESS You don’t pronounce your T’s.
BROWN You wouldn’t say “forgotten.” You’d say, “forgodden.”
Costumes and Wigs and More
POURFAR We’re all going to be wigged so the hair color will match. But the style will evolve.
JENNESS I’m either going to be wigged or I’m cutting my hair up to here. I don’t know!
POURFAR It’s going to look awesome!
JENNESS I don’t know!
BROWN Hair grows. Remember, it grows!
JENNESS That’s true. But I’m nervous. I mean, I really want to, but I also don’t know.
BROWN For women, it’s also when do you color your hair? Does she do some little highlights at some point? Is it for men? Is it for others? For work? Or for your own self.
POURFAR Hair and clothing conversations are not just about what’s happening in the time period, but what’s happening in Mary Page Marlowe’s internal life that might be reflected in how much effort she puts into the way she looks. It’s very exciting.
GEER I know I’m getting eyeliner. I’m in 1965 so I’m getting liner and we’re maybe going to do a bright red lip.
JENNESS That’s fun!
POURFAR Blair, I think you should go back to the liner.
BROWN Mary Page, with her last husband, they go to yard sales. So my clothes are really going to be fun.
Melding Six Actors Into One Character
NEUGEBAUER I don’t think a production of this play lives or dies based on verisimilitude. The whole theatrical premise of inviting six women to portray a character, we’re living in the complexity of that. There are some physical similarities between the women that have been cast. They are actually not of radically different heights or builds. At the same time, I will confess that what was most important to me were aspects of their internal life that I felt united them.
OVERBEY We’re still absorbing each other, I think.
BROWN We watch each other like hawks. I was looking today at the beauty of smiling and laughing.
MASLANY: That’s so funny, I was watching you smile today.
BROWN I was watching you!
MASLANY: It’s about watching and echoing.
OVERBEY And listening.
BROWN And getting to know.
JENNESS And learning.
NEUGEBAUER All of these women have graciously attended each other’s rehearsal. It’s a remarkable gift to benefit from the wisdom, life experience, point of view and intellect of six different women. And a doll. We’ve had to think about so many aspects of her life: Her mind, her soul, her body, her sexuality, her work ethic.
BROWN Her taste in clothes. The superficial to the profound.
OVERBEY The room feels safe because there are five more of me.
GEER Yeah, it’s like we’re all in it together.
BROWN We’re, like, breathing together.
MASLANY: There’s no competition. It has to be shared. It’s really unusual for women working together to have this. Usually you’re the only woman on the set or you’re the only woman in this slew of men. It’s amazing.
Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany, Emmy Award-winning star of “Orphan Black” — which just ended its critically-acclaimed five-season run — was honored with the Maverick Spirit Award at the Cinequest Film and VR Festival last Thursday.
In an interview with Cinequest president and co-founder Kathleen Powell, Maslany describes “Orphan Black,” a science fiction series known for its collection of clones (all played by Maslany), as a fascinating experience with not a single genre — rather, the series is comprised of both surrealism of farce, filled with characters that twist reality. On playing so many characters, Maslany stated that she enjoyed playing Helena, one of the clones, because the character “loves food,” joking that Helena was also a “domesticated serial killer.”
Maslany started acting and performing at a young age, beginning in dance and improv. She credits her improvisation background of building foundations of endowing characters to herself, especially having to dive so deeply into an incredible range of characters on “Orphan Black.” Yet the hardest characters were the ones that were so separate from her actual personality — those that were different or like an “ice queen” and filled with “entitlement,” as Maslany said.
Maslany’s preference for playing more relatable, generous characters seemed to extend to her outlook on performance as an art as well. Maslany spoke highly of her acting double, Kathryn Alexandre, who played opposite of her before Maslany’s likeness was digitally pasted in post-production to give the effect of multiple clones. Maslany described Alexandre as the “epitome of generosity” — having to play with full strength, only to be edited out in the end. Similarly, Maslany spoke of her experiences acting in films with her partner, Tom Cullen. “It’s such a privilege to work with a partner,” Maslany said. “There’s a certain intimacy with someone who knows you best.”
Maslany conversed casually throughout the entire interview, preferring to end her sentences with an enthusiastic “totally!” Maslany spoke about trying to break into the industry at a young age, feeling insecure about herself when she “didn’t look like anyone who should be on TV.” The hardest transition for her while moving from Canada to LA for the American television industry was that you “had to own who you are,” which made it — at this moment, she spoke in Helena’s signature Slavic accent, to the audience’s delight — “a little better.” Maslany prefers to look up to people who don’t conform — “contrarians or those who are themselves.” Maslany also stated that she feels “lucky to play so many weirdos,” stating endearingly that she associates and empathizes most heavily with these characters and individuals, being a self-descried weirdo herself at heart.
After the brief interview, Maslany’s new film, “Souls of Totality,” was screened. Maslany acted alongside Cullen in the short 19-minute film. Filmed partially in real-time during the eclipse last summer, the producer, director and screenwriter of the film also spoke after the screening. The film was ultimately an incredibly collaborative process, with much of the crew playing various characters in the film and having to drive U-Hauls full of equipment up to Oregon. Richard Raymond described how he pitched the idea of going up to Oregon to watch the eclipse, but while Maslany just assumed that it would be a vacation, Raymond instead proposed to create a film. The filmmakers only had one opportunity to take a crucial shot of Maslany running down the road as the sun reached totality ahead — a true cinematographic experience in itself in “Souls of Totality.”
“Souls of Totality” follows a man and woman who are part of a cult — although I don’t want to spoil it more if you ever get a chance to watch it. The filmmakers did an incredible job of staying on a low budget without sacrificing aesthetics — filming on a friend’s farm, using a gray tracksuit as the cult’s costuming. Maslany and Cullen play forbidden lovers in the cult, and their story unfolds in real time as we experience it. As Maslany’s character is “chosen,” we slowly discover what this means for her fate in comparison to the fate of Cullen’s character. Yet, we don’t know what this truly means until the end as the eclipse reaches totality and the two lovers are separated. In a short film under 30 minuses, “Souls of Totality” was able to capture my attention and present a cohesive narrative and three-act structure, versus simply existing as a musing of the filmmaker’s imagination with no true plot.
Ben Bolea and Kate Trefry, two husband and wife writers that have never collaborated on a project before, wrote “Souls of Totality.” Bolea, along with Raymond and producer James Mitchell, spoke at a post-screening panel with Maslany. In creating “Souls of Totality,” Raymond asked Bolea to write a short script, but Bolea admitted he never had any real ideas until the eclipse was almost too close, and then he was forced to scramble to write a script. I admired the scrappy nature of this film — the collaborative nature, the artistic nature — this, I thought, is truly what independent filmmaking is all about. Building projects with friends and collaborators — the group was even able to find the cinematographer of “The Witch,” a film Bolea greatly admired, and they recruited him for the film. Nevertheless, as I sat watching the film, I realized that sometimes time constraints are the best ways to come up with a narrative and story — and “Souls of Totality” certainly proves itself to be one.
The Emmy-winning ‘Orphan Black’ lead will make her New York stage debut in the off-Broadway production this summer.
Tatiana Maslany has been cast in the off-Broadway premiere of Tracy Letts’ Mary Page Marlowe, marking the Emmy-winning Orphan Black star’s New York theatrical debut.
The expansive but intimate new play by Letts, a Pulitzer and Tony winner for August: Osage County, examines the life of the title character, a seemingly ordinary Ohio accountant, through forgotten moments of pain and joy, success and failure. Maslany will be one of five actresses playing the protagonist at different points in her life, with the remaining cast to be announced.
Reviewing the play for The New York Times in its 2016 premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Charles Isherwood called it “exquisite,” describing the work as a “haunting, elliptical drama about the evolutions, reversals and resurrections in a woman’s life.”
Directed by Lila Neugebauer, who drew unanimous praise last season for her staging of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, the Second Stage Theater production will begin previews June 19 at the company’s Tony Kiser Theater, with opening night set for July 12. Neugebauer currently is represented off-Broadway with her production of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo for Signature Theatre.
Maslany had previously planned to make her New York stage debut starring opposite Thomas Sadoski in the 2015 off-Broadway premiere of Neil LaBute’s The Way We Get By, which also was produced by Second Stage. But scheduling conflicts forced her to withdraw from that production, with Amanda Seyfried stepping into the role.
An experienced stage performer in her native Canada, Maslany recently was seen onscreen opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger; her upcoming film projects include Pink Wall with Jay Duplass, and Destroyer, in which she appears alongside Nicole Kidman.
The girls sit down with Emmy-award winning actress Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) to talk special theme songs, literary crushes, and the fear of throwing up. The girls do an improv set inspired by the conversation as four young girls with a fear of killer icicles. Recorded August 15, 2017.
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.
Press: How Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany ran as close to ‘the real thing’ as possible in Stronger
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.”
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.
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.
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.