OR­PHAN BLACK

In its fourth year, Or­phan Black ta kes a d ark t rip to Won­der­land. Joseph McCabe gives chase

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - News -

The game of clones TV se­ries is back, twistier than ever.

t’s fit­ting that the ads for the fourth

sea­son of Or­phan Black have cho­sen to ref­er­ence Lewis Car­roll – and not only be­cause the au­thor’s most fa­mous book just cel­e­brated its 150th an­niver­sary. Just like Alice, Sarah Man­ning and her clone “seestras” – all of whom are played by the preter­nat­u­rally gifted Ta­tiana Maslany – have, in the last few years, found them­selves thrown down a rab­bit hole filled with con­spir­a­cies and cut­ting- edge tech­nolo­gies as they’ve sought to un­ravel the mys­tery of how and why they came to be. This year, how­ever, their jour­ney leads them to where it be­gan.

“It’s a pretty balls- to- the- wall trip,” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Graeme Man­son tells SFX. With only seven days left in the shoot­ing of sea­son four’s fi­nale, the show’s co- cre­ator is tired but up­beat.

“We re­ally thought a lot about this sea­son at the end of last year and the be­gin­ning of this year. We de­cided to go back to the be­gin­ning. We re­ally wanted to take it back to the open­ing of the whole se­ries, and that fate­ful mo­ment on the train plat­form with Beth. We al­ways thought there was more go­ing on there than met the eye, that it would be fun to go back and see what else was go­ing on in Beth’s life.”

Fans can ex­pect to learn more of the late char­ac­ter’s world through both flash­backs and the show’s present story. “It’s fair to say a lit­tle bit of both. I think we will get a chance to see Beth. We have seen her be­fore. But the ex­act sort of nar­ra­tive way that she shows up is re­ally part of the sur­prise this sea­son.”

sheep’s cloth­ing

To the de­light of Clone Club fans ev­ery­where, Beth’s mys­ter­ies have re­sulted in yet an­other new char­ac­ter for Maslany to por­tray.

“Of course we don’t want to give too much away,” laughs Man­son. “But it’s safe to say we dis­cov­ered this new clone was some­one at­tached to Beth, or that Beth knew. So there’s sort of a win­dow into the past. A new ally, the one who shows up in the sheep mask.”

That mask, it turns out, is more than just a bit of sur­re­al­ism…

“The whole con­cept of a clone wear­ing a mask was, we thought, in­ter­est­ing. It’s get­ting kind of meta. So we were like, ‘ What kind of mask? Is it an Anony­mous type thing?’ When we hap­pened on the sheep it re­ally struck a chord with me, be­cause it’s speak­ing about clones, talk­ing about Dolly the sheep, even if we don’t ap­proach it too di­rectly. I like what it said about that. And it’s kind of creepy too.”

Ex­pect that creepi­ness to be con­tin­ued through­out sea­son four, which Man­son de­scribes as darker than years past.

“I think we get to some re­ally in­ter­est­ing places. I think we take Sarah to a place as dark as she’s ever been. But it’s some­thing that she has to do to gather her sis­ters to­gether, to bring them to­gether, and sort of come from slaugh­ter, which I think that this sea­son re­ally does in spades. Now that we’re near the end it re­ally feels like they’ve been through a tremen­dous jour­ney. Sarah had to go to those dark places for the sake of her sis­ters. And they all go to dark places – Al­li­son, Cosima and Sarah all got to go to the dark side to get through it this year.”

Con­tribut­ing to sea­son four’s dark­ness is new char­ac­ter Evie Cho ( played by Jes­salyn Wan­lim), who may or may not aid Cosima in her on­go­ing health scare.

“She’s an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter who shows up as prob­a­bly a new, im­proved Dr Leekie char­ac­ter, very much an an­tag­o­nist for Sarah and her sis­ters. The sci­ence she’s do­ing is very cut­ting edge, very in­ter­est­ing, very much along the lines of gene- edit­ing tech­nol­ogy. So it’s an in­ter­est­ing el­e­ment of the sci­ence that she brings to it, and a new el­e­ment as well…

The mys­tery of Kira is the hu­man side of all the clones

Al­liances are al­ways hard to come by in our show, but Cosima is def­i­nitely heav­ily in­vested in her own sci­ence. We know how good she is, how smart she is. But we found our orig­i­nal last year. So when we last left them we had the ma­te­rial to the­o­ret­i­cally cre­ate a gene ther­apy for Cosima. I think she’s got the smarts. But do we have the re­sources? Surely along the way she’s gonna need some sci­en­tific al­lies to get through this. I’m not sure if that’s gonna be Evie Cho or not.”

Man­son is quick to point out that real sci­ence fu­els Or­phan Black’s fic­tion.

“CRSPR gene- edit­ing tech­nol­ogy is very in­ter­est­ing. Peo­ple are see­ing how key this sci­ence is, this kind of gene- edit­ing tech­nol­ogy for the germ- line edit­ing, where you’re ac­tu­ally af­fect­ing the genome of off­spring and not the per­son, not the par­ents. Th­ese things are akin to nu­clear fu­sion in the 20th cen­tury. They’re that big. They’re things that have the abil­ity to cre­ate some­thing brand new and un­fore­seen, as well as the ca­pa­bil­ity of be­ing ter­ri­bly de­struc­tive… I saw some ar­ti­cles just the other day in which sci­en­tists im­preg­nated a mouse em­bryo with syn­thetic male mouse sperm. That was in­ter­est­ing… In terms of the show this year, germ- line edit­ing, gene edit­ing, and CRSPR tech­nol­ogy were cer­tainly on our minds and at the fore­front of what our sci­ence con­sul­tant Cosima Herter was hav­ing the writ­ers’ room con­sider and look at.”

As for the show’s other cast ad­di­tions, the pro­ducer says, “We’re go­ing to dab­ble in a cou­ple of other new char­ac­ters that we’ve seen in the past. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say we’re ex­cited to see Krys­tal back again at some point this sea­son. She’s a pretty fun char­ac­ter. So, more clone hi­jinks!”

one for all

Maslany, ex­plains Man­son, played an in­te­gral role in de­vel­op­ing the show’s lat­est clone.

“When we start to come up with a con­cept of a new clone we get her in­volved in the process of that re­ally quickly. So as soon as we have a new clone and we have a story func­tion for that clone we’ll go to Ta­tiana and say, ‘ Th­ese are some of the el­e­ments that we’re work­ing with. How does she fit into your pal­ette of char­ac­ters in your mind?’ We’ll have a num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions from there that then ex­pand into ex­per­i­ment­ing with hair and make- up, and get­ting her into hair, make- up and wardrobe so that she can start to feel the char­ac­ter, em­body the char­ac­ter, find that phys­i­cal­ity of the char­ac­ters that she’s so good at. A new clone is pretty great to see on screen. But it’s also a lot of fun for us to come up with th­ese char­ac­ters and make sure they’re dis­tinct and com­ple­men­tary or clash­ing or what­ever we need. It’s not a new clone each episode, so we take our time in de­vel­op­ing th­ese char­ac­ters. They have story func­tion and they have some real juice when it comes to adding to the world and adding to this cast of clone char­ac­ters that Tat plays.”

Or­phan Black’s big­gest mys­tery will con­tinue to be its small­est char­ac­ter – Kira. While more will be learned about Sarah’s daugh­ter this year, Man­son tells us she’ll con­tinue to rep­re­sent an enigma that’s best left un­ex­plained.

“The most in­ter­est­ing thing to me about Kira has al­ways been that the mys­te­ri­ous side of her is the most hu­man side of her. I think that she is in ef­fect sort of a lit­tle em­path, if you know what I mean. The fact that she’s Sarah’s daugh­ter and oc­ca­sion­ally has sort of a con­nec­tion to her mother, to her mother’s sis­ters. I think that that’s a very hu­man thing. You don’t want to get too close. I don’t want to pick apart and give a sci­en­tific rea­son for why Kira is em­pa­thetic. I don’t think sci­ence can de­ci­pher em­pa­thy. All of that is to say I don’t know what kind of an­swer peo­ple want from Kira – the mys­tery of Kira is the hu­man side of all of the clones.”

Now that the show is in its fourth sea­son, many may won­der how long their beloved Clone Club will con­tinue. Man­son says that the story is now in its middle years.

“It feels like we’re get­ting closer to the end. We’ve known where the story is go­ing, and we’ve been stretch­ing out the middle of the story I guess. It feels like we’re get­ting closer to where we can sort of slide into what we see as the end of the story. But I think that it could be a cou­ple more sea­sons un­til we get to that.”

Un­til then, ex­pect the jour­ney through the rab­bit hole to grow cu­ri­ouser and cu­ri­ouser.

Or­phan Black re­turns to Space in Canada and BBC Amer­ica in April. UK broad­cast TBC.

Cosima, Sarah and Scott: like to watch.

He­lena’s preg­nancy is more com­pli­cated than most.

You can try, but you can’t keep Sarah down.

Rachel’s not off to see a 3D film.

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