Cloning “Orphan Black”: On set of “Echoes”, the spinoff series with 'different DNA' (exclusive)

Cloning “Orphan Black”: On set of “Echoes”, the spinoff series with 'different DNA' (exclusive)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Krysten Ritter succeeds Tatiana Maslany as the lead of the franchise’s next live-action series, which she says is "wildly different" than the original.

To be on the set of Orphan Black: Echoes is to put yourself in the shoes of its main character, Lucy (Krysten Ritter): You have no memory of what came before and no one will give you any context of what you’re seeing now. (In this case, it’s to preserve spoilers.) So every clue, every image you see is another piece in the puzzle that is your reality. Yet it all feels familiar somehow — familiar because, at the end of the day, it’s still Orphan Black.

It's November 2022, and we begin at a peculiar house in Rosedale, one of the oldest suburbs in Toronto where the homes only seem to get bigger and bigger the closer you get. From the outside, it looks more like your typical Bostonian architecture: brown brick, large porch, and a yard covered in fall foliage. It’s not hard to find, thanks to the film crew busy at work. They only have two days to shoot all their scenes that take place outside of this house, which is a crucial setting for a number of sequences that play out across different timelines.

“That was the thing that took us the longest to find,” showrunner Anna Fishko tells Entertainment Weekly of this location. “We would find something we loved, but then there would be permitting restrictions or we'd find something that wouldn't be quite right. Then we'd look at what it would take to rearrange it and make it filmable.”

<p>Sophie Giraud/AMC</p> Krysten Ritter stars in 'Orphan Black: Echoes' as Lucy

Sophie Giraud/AMC

Krysten Ritter stars in 'Orphan Black: Echoes' as Lucy

Related: Krysten Ritter to star in new Orphan Black: Echoes spin-off

Keeley Hawes, playing Dr. Kira Manning, sits beside Rya Kihlstedt, playing Dr. Eleanor Miller, in the backyard. “I’m gonna go and make sure the plants look dead enough. That’s my job,” a crew hand remarks in passing before attending to the already-weathered vegetation around the actors.

The performers themselves look emotionally haggard, with Kihlstedt as Eleanor talking about how she won’t remember who she is pretty soon.

Cut to a few hours later when darkness falls. Ritter, succeeding Tatiana Maslany as an Orphan Black series lead, stands on the front porch in a red puffer jacket on an evening that coincides with a Beaver Blood Moon, a lunar phenomenon that won’t occur again for another three years. The scene is a vision from a different timeline: the door opens and she exclaims, “Who the hell are you?”

<p>Sophie Giraud/AMC</p> Keeley Hawes as Dr. Kira Manning in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Sophie Giraud/AMC

Keeley Hawes as Dr. Kira Manning in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Call it cerebral whiplash, but the disorientation of trying to figure out what the show is about feels appropriate. This is how Lucy, as well as the viewer, goes through the story of Orphan Black: Echoes, from when she first wakes in an unfamiliar location to escaping the mysterious assailants tracking her to embarking on a mission to find out who she is. “How it all unfolded was interesting to me,” Ritter recalls of her first time reading the scripts. “I love all of that thriller, twisty stuff.”

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Lucy is a woman with a mysterious past who only has these seemingly disparate and often violent dreams to go off of: holding a knife in a bathroom, blood oozing on the floor. She knows she likes SpaghettiOs and long walks on the beach, but that’s about it. It’s only when Lucy runs into a young girl, Amanda Fix’s Jules, who looks oddly like her that the show takes a turn.

Truthfully, Fix looks eerily like the Jessica Jones star. "It came down to two people," Fishko recalls of casting the Jules role. Ritter had provided photographs of her teenage self for reference, while the showrunner adds, "We hired a facial recognition expert who does testimony for the courts in Toronto to analyze the photos of the two different actors and Kristen, and give us some feedback."

<p>Sophie Giraud/AMC</p> Amanda Fix as Jules, Krysten Ritter as Lucy in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Sophie Giraud/AMC

Amanda Fix as Jules, Krysten Ritter as Lucy in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'
<p>Sophie Giraud/AMC</p> Krysten Ritter as Lucy, Amanda Fix as Jules in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Sophie Giraud/AMC

Krysten Ritter as Lucy, Amanda Fix as Jules in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Related: Watch Tatiana Maslany reunite with her Orphan Black costars

Those similarities are crucial, because they have to be prominent enough to get Lucy to question whether this headstrong teen is actually her — or rather, a copy of her. “They didn't want to just repeat the original idea from the first show of having one actress play all of these different versions of herself, I think in part because Tatiana Maslany had obviously done such an incredible job and it would be very hard to recreate that,” Fishko explains of when AMC and the producers of Boat Rocker Media came to her about a spinoff. “They were looking for something that could pull a lot of the same themes from the original show of identity and sisterhood and the fun of sci-fi.”

Traces (or rather, echoes) of the original remain, however. The series is largely set in Boston in the near future after the events of Orphan Black. Framed photographs of Cosima Niehaus, one of the many clones Maslany portrayed in the first iteration, linger on a coffee table in one particular set. There’s also a photograph of Felix Dawkins (Jordan Gavaris), the foster brother of Sarah Manning (another of Maslany’s clones). So it’s safe to say that there is a direct line between both sci-fi dramas.

Fishko toyed with bringing back Maslany in the flesh for a cameo appearance, but time wasn’t on her side. “It was ultimately a little bit about schedule and availability because she was working on something else, but we definitely had conversations about it and thought about it a lot,” she says. “There was even a version of one of the episodes in the back half of the season where we tried to actually have her come back, but then it was logistically not possible.”

<p>Sophie Giraud/AMC</p> August Winter and Krysten Ritter in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Sophie Giraud/AMC

August Winter and Krysten Ritter in 'Orphan Black: Echoes'

Related: Krysten Ritter joins the clone club conspiracy in Orphan Black: Echoes trailer

Perhaps it’s for the best. As Ritter says, “The show is so wildly different. It’s a different structure, it’s a different DNA to the show. It’s not like I’m trying to fill her shoes.”

“Going into the [writers’] room, we talked a lot about how we can make something that didn't require a new audience member to watch all five seasons of the original Orphan Black,” Fishko says. She notes, “Maybe there might be little hints here and there.” And those, too, are just more pieces to this puzzle.

Orphan Black: Echoes premieres in the U.S. on AMC and BBC America on June 23 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, and will stream on AMC+.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.