Sci- fi showdown
Tatiana Maslany is a woman of many parts, as playing multiple characters on the SBS thriller Orphan Black reveals. Guy Davis gets to know the acclaimed actress’ variety of roles.
It’s an actor’s job to inhabit myriad characters and convey many different personality traits.
But not every actor has to do it over the course of one project. And not every actor has to ramp up the degree of difficulty by portraying multiple people all sharing the same scene.
That’s what makes Tatiana Maslany’s work in the science- fiction thriller Orphan Black, premiering January 14 on SBS 2, so spellbinding.
The 27- year- old actress plays seven different people in the series. Actually, that’s not 100 per cent accurate – the seven characters are all clones, genetically engineered as part of a massive scientific conspiracy, but aside from a general similarity to their features, they’re all extremely different in terms of their appearance, accent and demeanour.
IIt’s a performance that’s been widely regarded as a tour de force, with Maslany recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on the show.
But she admits it took its toll and, after filming wrapped on the show’s first season ( a second season is in production), she immediately sought a little seclusion.
“I was exhausted,” she said. voice to the extent that I couldn’t speak,” Maslany said.
“So, yeah, I worked every day, and it was sometimes 18- hour days and three characters a day or three characters a scene or whatever.
“It was the biggest adrenalin rush. I think I used up the adrenalin I would have for the duration of my life on that show, just because there was no downtime.
Maslany: ‘ Sometimes I’ll go into a shop and speak in a different accent to see if I can pull it off.’
But the physical and emotional demands of the role were counterbalanced by the sheer thrill of slipping into the skin of so many diverse characters.
“I think I had one day off the entire shoot, and that’s because I literally lost my variety of different people to portray on Orphan Black, Maslany’s main character is Sarah, a street- smart con artist who finds herself thrust into the story’s bizarre scenario when she witnesses the suicide of Beth, a police officer who is her identical look- alike.
Initially assuming Beth’s identity as a way to drain the dead woman’s bank account, Sarah not only finds herself stuck in Beth’s life – not the easiest situation, given Beth is under investigation for a lineof- duty shooting – but also crossing paths with several other clones, such as the tightly wound Alison and the empathetic Cosima.
Maslany’s background in improvisation theatre, in which she’d trained and performed since she was a teenager, held her in good stead when it came to developing these different characters, especially Sarah.