The Clone Club has gone Hollywood. (Okay, maybe only Crystal did.)
The cast and creators of “Orphan Black” hit PaleyFest on Thursday night at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre for its first ever panel to look back on the past four seasons and hint at the fifth and final season. The night kicked off with more than just a hint though. The Paley audience was given an exclusive early screening of the Season 5 premiere.
It was the best 44 minutes of Helena scarfing down food that we’ve ever seen. We’re kidding, of course, but we’d totally watch that. In the interests of not spoiling the fifth season, we’ll just say that the premiere picks up where Season 4 left off. When last we left the sestras, Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) was on her way to meet the mysterious P.T. Westmoreland, the founder of Neolution, a Victorian-era man who is somehow still alive. We had also seen Cosima’s (Maslany) reunion with Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), an injured Sarah (Maslany) on the run, Kira (Skyler Weller) and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) being held hostage, and Allison (Maslany) and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) in hiding with Helena (Maslany).
The screening was followed by a panel and Q&A moderated by IndieWire Executive Editor and Variety Editor-at-Large Mike Schneider. In attendance were Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ari Millen, Josh Vokey, Maslany’s acting double Kathryn Alexandre and co-creators and executive producers Graeme Manson and John Fawcett.
The panelists had literally finished their final day of shooting the morning before, and were therefore exhausted and not just a little emotional. Thrilled to be together again after wrapping, the cast and producers were game to share behind-the-scenes stories, their thoughts about being on the show and tiny hints of what’s to come.
Here’s what the “Orphan Black” PaleyFest panel:
The Final Day of Shooting: Maslany said that it wasn’t only last day that was sad but about two weeks of shooting in which every day someone was saying goodbye. “It was the emotional expulsion of sadness,” she said. On the final day, Bruun revealed that people were confused about how to react: Should they clap? Cheer? Stand and feel the moment? Kennedy decided to make up a song and “bossed them all” to sing it.
Rachel the Villain: “I feel like Rachel’s had one of the biggest arcs… a lot of transformations… things that changed her power entirely,” said Maslany. Manson added, “Rachel is very deep this year, she’s very powerful.”
The More Villainous Westmoreland: The author of “On the Science of Neolution” and of everyone’s pain, P.T. Westmoreland is sort of like the villain at the end of the video game. “He’s up in the big house. John and I knew for a long time that in this feminist show that there was a man at the top,” Manson said, which earned boos and laughs from the audience. ”So you think of the most evil, patriarchal figure… this unlikely oldest man in the world…and kind of like a Doctor Moreau.”
Here Be Monsters: Any fans of the show by now knows that there’s a certain fascination with H.G. Wells’ sci-fi novel “The Island of Doctor Moreau.” Not only was that the book that Ethan Duncan gave to Kira that contained his encrypted secrets, but don’t be surprised if some of the elements or themes are echoed in this season. For those unfamiliar with the novel, Doctor Moreau lives on an island and creates human-like hybrid beings from animals. “There are some odd creatures [in the book],” Fawcett said.
Donnie Is a Loon (Caller): One minor spoiler we can tell you about the first episode is that Donnie shows off the ability to recreate the call of a loon by cupping his hands in front of his mouth and blowing. Bruun demonstrated that he’s the real deal and performed the call on stage (pictured below). He also observed that Donnie “is a better man having met his extended family.”
Working with the Sestras: Both Bruun and Gavaris acknowledged that initially it was an adjustment work with new clones because although they were aware Maslany was performing, it still felt like another actress completely. Nevertheless, they each had favorite clones to work with. “Improv-ing with Helena is sheer madness,” Bruun said. Gavaris had a rather interesting observation: “Rachel by far is the most disorienting [to work with] because I found I was weirdly attracted to her villainy. I alway thought, ‘God, she’s so cool. I hope she likes me.’”
Fearless as Felix: Gavaris found that playing Felix Dawkins wasn’t only about putting on a really great accent. He also was able to let go of his preconceived notions of how he was supposed to act, feel or like, according to his gender. “It was cool to feel so unselfconscious in my own femininity,” said Gavaris.
The Faceless Sestra: One of the best parts of the extended Clone Club is that in real life, Maslany’s body double Kathryn Alexandre gets equal love, attention and acknowledgement from her peers. She’s not just a physical placeholder with a Maslany-like body seen from behind, but she also has to give a performance for Maslany and the other actors to react to, even if the only part captured on camera is the back of her head. Kennedy said, “Kathryn constantly gives that level of performance, utterly unselfish but isn’t rewarded by being seen. (to Alexandre) I am just in awe of your work. It’s just incredible.” In particular, Maslany cited a scene from the upcoming Episode 4 in which Alexandre gave such a strong performance that “we all felt shivers… and it will never be seen, and it’s so frustrating.”
Delphine and Cosima: Brochu observed that her character’s romance with Cosima is “one of the most important love stories in the show. I think it’s great it’s two women and the their main problem isn’t that they’re two girls.” Manson added that “It really speaks to the heart of the show. It’s a clone show that is about diversity… It’s just two characters who love each other.”
The Castor Clone Stands Alone: Although the male counterparts to the Leda clones were almost all eliminated, Ira is still hanging around for the final season. The character was so different from how Millen is that he said after shooting a scene, “I don’t know what I just did. It was certainly a trip and a process for me.” As for Ira’s romance with his creator Susan Duncan, which has given some people some incestuous vibes, Millen said, “I think Ira is a complete innocent. I don’t think he knows or cares or judges what that relationship is. That’s just what was. And that’s what he knows and that’s who he is.”
The Art of Loyalty: Although Art the cop never asked for it, he got pulled into helping the Clone Club in all of its insane, dangerous activities. “He’s all in,” said Hanchard, who observed that it made sense when it was revealed last season that Art had feelings for his now deceased partner Beth (Maslany). “There’s a profound love there,” he said. “Why he picked Beth as a partner, [it’s an] underlying river underneath that drives Art.”
Cast and Producers’ Favorite Clones: Rachel (1), Sarah (2), Katja Obinger (1), Helena (2), Crystal (1), MK (1), Cosima (2). Maslany couldn’t pick just one, so she picked Allison, Helena and Rachel.
How to Play a Clone Playing a Clone: Maslany said that when she has to play one clone masquerading as another (such as Sarah pretending to be Allison), she sticks with the who the character actually is before shooting. Once cameras roll though, Maslany will then go inside Sarah’s mind to pick up all of her biases and judgements about Allison to play her. “It’s the biggest mindfuck on the planet,” said Maslany, who also revealed that sometimes she’d wear two wigs.
What’s Next for the Clone Club Members: Hanchard will start shooting “Tin Star” in June, and his film “Wish Upon” with Joey King opens in July. Bruun did an episode of “Murdoch Mysteries,” finished a crazy space film “Deep Six,” and just moved to Los Angeles. Gavaris had a film premiere at SXSW and is trying to put together his own TV show. Two films that Maslany did are available on iTunes: “The Other Half” acting opposite her real-life boyfriend Tom Cullen, and “Two Lovers and a Bear,” directed by Kim Nguyen and co-starring Dane Dehaan. Alexandre will be auditioning and writing and producing her own stuff. Kennedy will direct a short she wrote and release an album this year. Brochu will take a road trip up the PCH, and Vokey is getting married.
“Orphan Black” kicks off its fifth and final season on Saturday, June 10 at 10 p.m. on BBC America.