‘Orphan Black’ Star Tatiana Maslany on Saying Goodbye to the Clones: ‘It Was a Bizarre Grieving Process’

To borrow a lyric from Hamilton, Orphan Black fans are counting on series star Tatiana Maslany to teach them how to say goodbye to a series they’ve loved for five seasons. But the Canadian actress confesses she needs her own lessons in bidding the show farewell. “It was super hard to say goodbye,” Maslany tells Yahoo TV. Part of that, of course, has to do with the fact that Maslany–who won a much-deserved Emmy last fall for her portrayal of the show’s multiple Clone Club sisters — has so many characters to part with. “I had to say goodbye to one of them a day for the last week we were shooting, and it was a grieving process each time. It was a bizarre grieving process, and I think I’ll still be going through it when the season finishes airing.” Watch Maslany’s farewell video above, and read on to learn the pieces of Clone Club memorabilia she took from set, and why Emmy night was an out-of-body experience.

Looking back on the series, which of the clones was the easiest to play? Which was the hardest?
I loved playing all of them, so it’s hard for me to pick one. Helena was always the most comfortable in terms of clothing, and Rachel and Krystal the least. All of them were characters I had never gotten to play before and I don’t know if I will after. It’s hard to pin down which is the least like me. Sarah is the one I go to the easiest, but her life is nothing like my own. In terms of the most difficult, Rachel was the hardest to feel comfortable in because she was so polar opposite to my physicality. I feel like Cosima was natural for me, and bizarrely, once I understood her better, Alison. Alison is kind of my core, my essence.e She’s very dramatic and loves musical theater. She’s an emotional creature. She is a performative person in her life and that’s who I am, too.

Tatiana Maslany as Rachel Duncan/Sarah Manning in BBC America's Orphan Black. (Photo: BBC America)
Tatiana Maslany as Rachel Duncan/Sarah Manning in BBC America’s Orphan Black. (Photo: BBC America)

The first scene of the pilot — where Beth walks in front of a train while Sarah watches — was such a visceral way to begin the show. Reflecting on it now, what does that sequence mean to you?
That scene was always a really visceral one for me even in my first reading of the script. I couldn’t stop dreaming about it and thinking about it. When we finally shot it, it felt very important; it felt exciting to be standing in those boots on the platform and watching Kathryn Alexandre [Maslany’s acting double] as Beth. It was very wild. Looking back on it now, knowing everything we know about Sarah and Beth, it’s loaded with all of that history, and all of that meaning and connection. These two characters who are seemingly polar opposite human beings, and would never have crossed paths otherwise unless Beth was arresting Sarah, actually have so much in common. The sisterhood is so importantly strong. It would be cool to re-watch it now. I’m sure I look like a baby! [Laughs]

During the first season, do you remember being afraid every day that you would be fired?
Oh my god! Kevin [Hanchard, who plays Beth’s cop partner, Art] and I were talking today about how the first season was a blur of fear and a scream of panic the whole time. It was such an unusual project: I’d never led a series before, I’d never played this many characters in one go before, I’d never played a mother before! It was all super new to me. All of it was a panic. I remember being Sarah as Beth and thinking, “I can’t be a cop! I’m used to playing teens and high school kids caring about their tests. And now I’m holding a gun and pretending to be a cop.” Which actually worked for Sarah, because she’s also not a cop. She’s out of sorts and flying by the seat of her pants. So all of that worked with her circumstances.

Women in particular respond to the show very strongly. What’s the reaction you’ve heard from them?
I feel like anytime I see a complex portrayal [of a woman] onscreen in any way, I’m just grateful for it. I think I’m an intelligent person and I deserve to see something that I understand and that challenges me, and the women that watch our show are no exception. They’re grateful and eager to see characters that aren’t fitting into a box of what we’ve seen before. The whole show is about how your identity isn’t wrapped into one thing, whether that’s your sexuality, your aesthetic, the mask you wear in the world or the way you look or the money you have. These things are determining factors but they are not your true self. The show has these tropes — the grifter, the housewife, the science nerd, the cop — but we hope to dismantle them, pick them apart and find the humanity and contradiction in them. The response from women has been my greatest honor in doing the show.

Is there one response in particular that’s resonated with you?
For all of us, we’ve mentioned when young and older women have said that maybe Cosima has allowed them to come out and be themselves, and love who they love and speak to their parents or families about their sexuality. You can’t describe how much that means to us. That’s the most mindblowing takeaway we’ve had from meeting fans and doing the show.

Tatiana Maslany as Cosima in BBC America's Orphan Black. (Photo: BBC America)
Tatiana Maslany as Cosima in BBC America’s Orphan Black. (Photo: BBC America)

It was thrilling for longtime fans to watch you finally win an Emmy last fall. What do you remember about that night?
I don’t remember much! [Laughs] I remember my phone was going off, because I had stupidly written [my speech] on my phone and not a piece of paper because I didn’t think I was going up there at all. I kept getting text messages and tried to close them! I didn’t recognize my name when [presenter Keifer Sutherland] first said it, because he pronounced it so creatively. It was totally an out of body experience. What was the most awesome that night was that I got to be there with Tom [Cullen], my boyfriend, who has been there with me since the beginning, and has seen this ride through with me and been my rock throughout. And getting to celebrate with the people I make the show with, and are so integral. The accolades I’ve received are completely because of them.

Where do you keep your Emmy now?
It’s in a box in the closet. I haven’t displayed it! [Laughs]

The final season of Orphan Black premieres Saturday, June 10 at 10 p.m. on BBC America

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