The brac­ingly orig­i­nal clone show re­turns.

SFX - - Contents -

With sky- high rat­ings, a global fol­low­ing and uni­ver­sal praise for its wildly ver­sa­tile lead actress Ta­tiana Maslany, you’d be ex­cused for think­ing Or­phan Black cre­ators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett are slow­ing down to en­joy the fruits of their labours, mak­ing things eas­ier for them­selves as they en­ter the third sea­son of their hit show. Alas, sighs Manson, you would be wrong.

“For the writ­ers it didn’t get any eas­ier,” the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer tells SFX of year three. “It’s a very se­ri­alised show. We chew up a lot of story ev­ery episode. Be­cause our pace is re­ally fast and we like twists and turns. To keep that pace up, we have to go through a lot of story. Keep­ing all that grounded and as the world ex­pands – and this is very im­por­tant to us – keep­ing it cen­tred on the ‘ clone tri­an­gle’ of Sarah, Cosima and Al­li­son, with Sarah as the leader track­ing down this vast mys­tery and get­ting closer and closer to her own story… It’s a chal­lenge to keep that at the cen­tre when there’s a lot of other threats go­ing on on the out­side that are awe­some and could threaten to dis­tract us.”

“we have a lot of hard science for science geeks who like the show”

This year those threats take the shape of the male cloning ini­tia­tive Project Cas­tor, the mem­bers of which are played by Ari Millen.

“I would say that the Cas­tor side of things is our main an­tag­o­nist force that is align­ing against us,” ex­plains Manson, hav­ing just com­pleted work on the sea­son fi­nale. “Ari Millen’s done a ter­rific job in the third sea­son, and we’ve re­ally en­joyed giv­ing him th­ese char­ac­ters to work with. They’re quite dif­fer­ent from our fe­male char­ac­ters, who grew up in Project Leda in this kind of so­cial en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­i­ment, where their in­di­vid­u­al­ism was al­most en­cour­aged. Whereas the char­ac­ters he plays, such as Mark Rollins and Rudy, were raised in more of a mil­i­tary academy en­vi­ron­ment. So they’re less dis­tinct, they’re less in­di­vid­u­alised, and they’ve been brain­washed to­gether in that sort of mil­i­tary con­scious­ness. That us- ver­sus- them con­scious­ness. So it’s a dif­fer­ent spec­trum that he’s play­ing with. It’s not as broad, I sup­pose, as Ta­tiana’s, but no less chal­leng­ing. Be­cause he’s still got to de­lin­eate th­ese char­ac­ters… Now, one of them, Mark, we know quite well from the first sea­son; and we know that char­ac­ter had some­thing that he was strug­gling with. But a char­ac­ter like Rudy…”

Manson laughs. “We’re re­ally en­joy­ing a vil­lain­ous vil­lain.”

In the face of such vil­lainy, and with Sarah’s crazed sis­ter He­lena now in the hands of the mil­i­tary ( thanks to Mrs S), Manson tells SFX the is­sue of trust is one of sea­son three’s pri­mary con­cerns. “I think that sort of boils down to ‘ We are stronger to­gether,’” he says, “which is one of the real themes of this sea­son.”

bet­ter to­gether

The mean­ing of “to­gether” changes fre­quently in the world of Or­phan Black; and the lat­est clone to join the ranks of Sarah and her sis­ters is by far the youngest. The same age, in fact, as Sarah’s daugh­ter Kira. Does the is­sue of cloning chil­dren hit home more strongly than ever through the in­tro­duc­tion of Char­lotte?

“Yeah,” Manson replies. “I mean, it’s some very in­ter­est­ing ter­ri­tory, and we found a ter­rific lit­tle actress in the girl who plays Char­lotte. But there’s also the prac­ti­cal­ity of shoot­ing with kids. It’s dif­fi­cult to shoot with kids, be­cause they just can’t work the hours. So you have to be care­ful of just how much story you give them. With our kids, with Char­lotte and Kira, I think the best thing we

can say is we’re play­ing a long game with them. And they don’t need to play that heav­ily in our crazy run- and- gun world of Or­phan Black to be im­por­tant.”

As for the abil­i­ties Kira has demon­strated – which in­clude heal­ing quickly and dis­tin­guish­ing her mother’s clones – Manson says they too will be ex­plained over time.

“Each sea­son ends in many, many ques­tions. We don’t feel like we have to come back the next sea­son and an­swer all of those ques­tions. We are look­ing at it as a se­ries struc­ture and not just a sea­son struc­ture, and not just an episode struc­ture. So those are great ques­tions that are bound to be an­swered some day.”

Since Sarah’s sis­ter Cosima, whose life is threat­ened by a dis­ease, is a favourite of Or­phan Black fans, we ask Manson if we’ll learn her fate this year.

“Her life is hang­ing in the bal­ance. But in the way that we ap­proach science in Or­phan Black… First of all, if you look at the show over the course of two, and now three sea­sons, how much time has gone by, it’s like a month and a half of some­thing. So in re­al­ity, with a dis­ease, an au­toim­mune dis­or­der like she’s fac­ing, it can be a long jour­ney of ups and downs. The science takes a while to de­velop. Gene ther­apy can be hit and miss. I think that’s some­thing very re­al­is­tic about that. It’s not gonna be clean. It’s gonna be messy. She has a ter­mi­nal ill­ness. It’s not like it ever goes away or leaves her mind. It’s al­ways with her, and it’s al­ways with us. But much like she’s not de­fined by her sex­u­al­ity, the char­ac­ter’s not de­fined by her ill­ness ei­ther. And she wants to face it bravely and on her own terms and not be a martyr and just not be de­fined by that her­self. That’s a long way of say­ing her ill­ness, like her sex­u­al­ity, is not the most in­ter­est­ing thing about her.”

Re­gard­ing Sarah’s less sym­pa­thetic sis­ter, the no- non­sense Rachel, fans were left won­der­ing if she was even alive af­ter her eye was gouged out at the end of the sea­son. Manson con­firms with wicked glee that “Rachel is gonna have to strug­gle this year. It’s kind of de­li­cious to see that very poised ice queen have her dig­nity taken away from her.”

six of one

With so many of Or­phan Black’s play­ers al­ready on its chess board, SFX asks Manson if view­ers’ con­tin­ued crav­ing for new clones fac­tors into his sto­ry­telling.

“It’s a bal­ance. My­self and John and Ta­tiana, we know how much fun it is to meet a new clone, and our fans love it so we re­ally want to do that again this year. I don’t want to tease that too much, but we’re pretty ex­cited about it. But on the other hand, we don’t do ran­dom clones very much. We like them to mean some­thing. So we don’t in­tro­duce them lightly. On top of that we have a com­plex story, with a lot of threads. We don’t want to keep adding threads with­out ty­ing a few of them off. They don’t all need to get in­tro­duced and tied up in one sea­son. So chances are, if a thread comes up, if we’ve touched on some­thing in sea­son one, we’ll prob­a­bly try and in­cor­po­rate

it as we go. We try and stay flex­i­ble that way. But it’s nice to be in a sea­son now, sea­son three – and go­ing into sea­son four, for us writ­ing – where we feel we have a mythol­ogy that we can tell the story from, and not just gen­er­ate story by run- and- jump- and- plot.”

Af­ter three years, Manson re­mains sur­prised that his show has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tions of so many fans, given that it’s not set in the dis­tant fu­ture, on an­other planet, or in a world of metahu­mans.

“I find it re­ally cool,” says the pro­ducer of the ever- swelling ranks of “clone clubs” world­wide. “I’m al­ways very en­cour­aged by our fans, be­cause so many fans re­spond to the in­tel­li­gent, the higher as­pects of what we’re try­ing to do, the­mat­i­cally, in writ­ing. We have a lot of hard science for science geeks who like the show. And that’s fab­u­lous. I’m not a sci­en­tist, but we use our science con­sul­tant fre­quently; and we just try and keep our science one step over the line into science fic­tion. We like to know ex­actly what the science is, and then take it that one step fur­ther.”

“Not only that,” Manson points out. “We’re slowly pre­sent­ing a view of science that’s a nexus of some very prag­matic and prac­ti­cal things in our world, that are of prac­ti­cal science th­ese days. That is a sort of nexus of pri­vate en­ter­prise, mil­i­tary, mass wealth and patents […] In that sense, science be­comes pol­i­tics. We al­ways try and look at it from that per­spec­tive. And we’re al­ways re­minded by our science con­sul­tant that science is what sci­en­tists do. So what are the forces push­ing dis­cov­ery? And in which di­rec­tions? You can jump off into science fic­tion there, be­cause that’s the start­ing point. Be­cause that feels like the real world. It’s not very of­ten that science is de­picted that way, de­picted as pol­i­tics.”

But no mat­ter the science or the pol­i­tics, the cre­ator adds, “We just have to re­mem­ber whose story it is, that it is the girls’ story. And when that jour­ney is re­ward­ing each sea­son, that’s when we know it’s work­ing, de­spite how hard it is for all the writ­ers.”

Or­phan Black is on BBC Amer­ica from 18 April, and BBC Three in the UK, date TBC.

When you can’t trust your­self, who can you trust?

She’d had bet­ter days.

We’ll start to see more of the male clones this se­ries.

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