Orphan Black: Echoes showrunner on why surpassing the original was 'complicated'

The series is out now on ITVX

Orphan Black: Echoes (ITV)
Orphan Black: Echoes stars Krysten Ritter as Lucy, and tells a brand new story within the universe of the original show. (ITV)
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It's never an easy feat to try and follow up a critically-acclaimed series with an entirely new story, but Anna Fishko was up for the challenge with Orphan Black: Echoes, a spin-off to Tatiana Maslany's star-making show Orphan Black.

Starring Krysten Ritter, the ITVX show centres on Lucy who wakes up without any memory and learns that she is one of potentially endless 3D-printed clones. Lucy is ready to uncover the mystery behind her own origins, and her story juxtaposes with the work of scientist Kira Manning (Keeley Hawes).

For Fishko it was a "complicated challenge" to go beyond the original, to make a show that felt fresh and wouldn't alienate new viewers, but also catered to fans of the franchise returning to it.

"I think in the beginning it was a challenge to try and figure out what it was about the original show that people really loved and responded to, and then how I could do that differently and still bring some of those same elements to the new show ," Fishko tells Yahoo, adding that she wanted to also "find something in that story for myself".

Orphan Black: Echoes (ITV)
The show follows clone Lucy's (Krysten Ritter) quest to uncover the truth about her past, all while contending with scientist Kira Manning (Keeley Hawes). (ITV)

"It was a complicated challenge, I like a complicated challenge. But I think, in the end, there's all this fun sci-fi ideas, and found family and all that stuff that I really respond to.

"I found a way to put this lovely romance in the centre of everything, and once I figured that piece out I really felt like I understood what I was doing and writing towards. I thought it gave us this really interesting opportunity to explore some future sci-fi questions, about what we would and wouldn't do, and what are the boundaries of the uses of technology given certain circumstances?"

Read more: Orphan Black - A Tribute to Tatiana Maslany

The way the series explores these difficult questions is through Kira. Fans of the original sci-fi series will recognise Hawes' character by name, because Kira is the daughter of Orphan Black's lead character Sarah Manning (Maslany).

Her inclusion in the series was a way to keep the connection between the two shows in tact without making it too specific to the original, Fishko says.

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning in Orphan Black. (ITV)
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning in Orphan Black, which ran for five seasons and which the ITVX show takes inspiration from. (ITV)

"We got to the place developing a new show where we wanted to connect to the world but not so tightly that a new audience who was coming to the show for the first time couldn't just jump right in," she explains. "I didn't want people to have watched all five seasons of the original show in order to enjoy the new show.

"And so Kira's character seemed very right for that opportunity because she's really in the centre of everything, she's exposed to everything. She's obviously very connected to all of our main characters in the original show. [It was about] just thinking about how that experience might have impacted her and then trying to see how that would manifest if she was all grown up."

Reflecting on Hawes' performance, Fishko adds: "We all just responded to her, her warmth and her complexity, and her ability to feel like this very sophisticated, mature, thoughtful person who had come out the other side of what would have been a very difficult childhood and use that experience to make the world a better place in a lot of ways.

"It was really fun to work with her, she's such a gifted, talented, lovely human and so we felt very lucky to have her," Fishko gushes.

Watch the trailer for Orphan Black: Echoes

Orphan Black: Echoes puts viewers in Lucy's point-of-view, and though she is a clone like Maslany's many characters were in the original series Fishko found a way to approach the idea differently this time around — by having the character meet her clone Jules (Amanda Fix) when she's still a teen.

"We were located in this point of view of the many characters that Tatiana played in the original show, I really wanted to ground the audience in a point of view where we're uncovering the mystery with her," Fishko explains.

"And it's so interesting to think about what it would feel like to wake up and not know who you are, and not know where you were. [We] learn the pieces of information along with her and [it] pulls the audience into the mystery and the journey that she's going on.

"I think I wanted to start fresh in a way and say this is a new show, and this is a new character, and we're going to go on this ride with her.

Orphan Black: Echoes (ITV)
Reflecting on the challenge of making the new series, showrunner Anna Fishko said: 'I didn't want people to have watched all five seasons of the original show in order to enjoy the new show.' (ITV)

"How do I really get the audience very invested right away in that journey? And I think it's just to really locate you very specifically in her point of view, so that you're you're not learning too many things outside of it for a while."

Even if efforts were made to distinguish the show from its predecessor, Fishko was delighted to welcome back a number of the cast and creative team members from Orphan Black. This includes the return of actors Jordan Gavaris as Sarah's brother Felix and Evelyne Brochu as Delphine Cormier, but also the inclusion of co-creator John Fawcett as director.

"John was the keeper of the original show, and all of its lore and specialness and legacy," Fishko says. "It was so nice to be able to have somebody who could say 'oh this is something that we did in the original that people really responded to,' or 'this character really meant a lot to people and here's why'.

"[He was] somebody who had really lived through that whole experience, and also he just brought a lot of the same kind of creative vision.

Orphan Black: Echoes (ITV)
Keeley Hawes character is the glue that connects Orphan Black: Echoes to its predecessor, and Anna Fishko commended her on 'her warmth and her complexity' in the role. (ITV)

"He's a really talented director and so it was just nice to have him there, to think visually about how he had made the original show and bring a lot of those elements to the new show. So it was really it was a fun collaboration."

Fishko reveals that Maslany was approached about returning, but because of scheduling conflicts she was unable to do so. But the showrunner says: "We tried and we thought about it, we had a little episode for her to return that we were sort of holding onto for a while, but in the end it just didn't work out, which was too bad.

"But it was so lovely to have Jordan and Evelyn back, and I think it was fun for them to get to revisit these characters who they've played for so many years, and also to think about what they would be like in their older age."

Orphan Black: Echoes (ITV)
Orphan Black: Echoes puts viewers in Lucy's point-of-view, and if it is renewed it will continue to expand the world beyond it to even greater heights. (ITV)

The intention is for the series to expand the world even further in future, going beyond Lucy and her quest to something even bigger Fishko says: "We do have plans for where we'd like to take it.

"I think the show will probably want to branch out into not being so specifically located in the mystery of Lucy and Jules and uncovering what their back story is. And then the world's gonna expand a little bit in season 2."

When asked if she'd like to see Maslany return as one of her Orphan Black characters in future, Fishko adamantly says: "I'd love to see her come back." The challenge now, then, will be on viewers to make that come to be.

Orphan Black: Echoes is available to stream in full on ITVX now.