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.