Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning on Orphan Black. Image: Lifetime Asia/ BBC America
Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany is so versatile that she plays seven distinct characters ‒ and counting! ‒ on critically-acclaimed television series Orphan Black.
Meet Tatiana Maslany, the small screen star whom you should be watching right now. If you’re still drawing a blank at her name, we’re more than happy to fill you in. With Orphan Black Season 2 soon to premiere in the United States on April 19, 2014, viewers new to the series still have some time to catch up on the past season.
The sci-fi thriller has been drawing rave reviews, thanks to its gripping plot and the very-watchable Tatiana Maslany. Here, we share six things to know about this star, plus why you should tune into Orphan Black, stat!
Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) posing as detective Beth in Orphan Black. Image: Lifetime Asia/ BBC America
1. What you need to know about her role in Orphan Black, with minimal spoilers
The sci-fi series sees Maslany as the streetwise protagonist Sarah Manning (as pictured above) living a double life as detective Elizabeth “Beth” Childs. Beth, to Sarah’s knowledge, is a mysterious woman who looks eerily like her, someone that Sarah meets by chance, when Beth suddenly throws herself in front of an oncoming train.
The cash-strapped Sarah recklessly decides to take over the dead woman’s identity. Then the plot gets thicker: Sarah soon meets more women who look exactly like her …
2. She plays seven distinct characters, in one show. And yes, they’re clones.
Ostensibly, this sci-fi show is one about clones, of which Maslany plays to fantastic effect. She’s at once a streetwise con-woman (Sarah), a soccer mum (Alison), a detective (Beth), a medical student (Cosima) and more roles to come, as more clone characters are introduced.
From left to right: Tatiana Maslany as detective Elizabeth “Beth” Childs, soccer mum Alison Hendrix, streetwise protagonist Sarah Manning and microbiology PhD student Cosima Niehaus on Orphan Black. Images: Lifetime Asia/ BBC America
Not only does the best actress winner at the 2013 Critics’ Choice Television Awards switch almost effortlessly between each persona, her accents are almost as immaculate on the show too. Even then, the Canadian actress humbly admits that Sarah’s “London accent was the most difficult” for her, during a recent London press junket for Orphan Black.
To make each character so distinct from the next, Maslany also pays particular attention to posture and the way each clone carries herself. Within the first two episodes, you’ll see Maslany as Sarah, attempting to mimic the unique mannerisms and accent of detective Beth.
And yes, even this screen siren does not naturally possess perfect posture. Maslany confesses to find Rachel, the clone with “impeccable” posture most difficult to play, physically.
“She’s quite difficult to maintain throughout the day because her posture is impeccable and she’s always in the most painful of high heels so she is probably the most difficult,” said the star.
3. She acts with a tennis ball most of the time
If you’re wondering how Tatiana Maslany amazingly plays two characters at once in one scene, it’s all thanks to computer-generated imagery (CGI), and a humble tennis ball. Maslany will act as one clone, while using the tennis ball to stand in as the other character; then she re-shoots the same scene as the opposite character.
Still, the actress takes it in her stride and even finds the humour within her difficult situation. As told to Details in a 2013 interview, Maslany shared how “the crew would draw a little smiley face or a sad face on [the tennis ball], so it looks like a little head”, to make it more like a person.
4. Why she loves actress double Kathryn Alexandre
Thankfully, Maslany occasionally gets to act against more than just a tennis ball, thanks to her actress double Kathryn Alexandre. Although Alexandre never appears on screen, she stands in as one of the clones for Maslany; she’s the physical “body” that Maslany can act out her dialogue with, within the same scene.
As Maslany explains, Alexandre would appear on set with all her lines memorised, just so that she can “mimic it back” to Maslany, to set up the scene.
“She is so important, I can’t stress that enough,” says Maslany.“Half the time the time I’m talking to a tennis ball or an x on the wall so when I do get Kathryn in there it’s a total dream. She’s an amazing actor; she’s going to do such great work.”
5. Patrick J. Adams is one of her biggest celeb fans
Suits star Patrick J. Adams, who is also a big Orphan Black fan will soon guest-star in Season 2, as a regular guy whose life gets a little more complicated thanks to the clones.
The actor is very vocal about his support for Tatiana Maslany; he, like many Orphan Black fans, took to Twitter to bemoan Maslany’s notable Emmy snub in 2013, when the actress failed to garner even a nomination for the Best Actress award. In Adams’ very words: “Tatiana Maslany not getting nominated for an Emmy is like breathing not being nominated for important thing to do.”
6. The Game of Thrones connection
Nashville actor Michiel Huisman, who currently plays mercenary Daario in Game of Thrones Season 4 will also make a guest appearance in the upcoming new season of Orphan Black. Little is known about Huisman’s mysterious character at this point, besides that he may just be of aid to protagonist Sarah, so keep your eyes peeled for more about his appearance soon.
Read more about more small screen sirens we love in the April 2014 issue of Her World magazine, out on newsstands now.
Catch Season 1 of Orphan Black on Lifetime (Ch 514, 561 on StarHub) on 9pm every Monday. Orphan Black Season 2 will premiere on April 19, 2014 in the United States on BBC America; the Singapore premiere date will be announced at a later date. Visit the Lifetime Asia Facebook page for more updates on the television series.