Vlada Gelman is West Coast reporter of TVLine. This story appeared in the June 19 issue of AwardsLine.
Tatiana Maslany has many faces—and walks and personalities and ways of talking.
The versatile star of BBC America’s Orphan Black plays not one or even two characters on the clone thriller, but seven—and often all in the same episode. To differentiate the roles, the Canadian actress gives each of her “sisters” distinctive physical mannerisms and quirks.
For nervy American suburbanite Alison, who prances around in leggings and UGG boots with urgency, Maslany played with the idea that the mother of two was an aspiring ballerina who didn’t have what it takes to go pro. “But she’s maintained all of that posture and tightness and holding your butt (and) stomach in,” explains the actress, adding that Alison also “breathes up higher because she’s panicking a lot of the time.”
Maslany uses hand gestures “to paint pictures” with super-intelligent science nerd Cosima because “(her) brain is working 100,000 miles a minute faster than everybody else’s,” while tapping into “sexually masculine” attributes for the animalistic Russian doppelganger Helena. On top of all that, the clones frequently impersonate one another, meaning the actress must inhabit two roles at once so that viewers are clued in to the hijinks, but the fictional figures on the show are fooled.
“I don’t try to play the other character until I’ve settled into the character that I actually am,” says Maslany. “I really try to make them as strong as possible, and then let them play that other person.”
The end result is multiple truly individual performances from just one actress. So should each character get their own Emmy nomination? “I don’t know about that,” laughs Maslany. “What if three of them were nominated, but one of them wasn’t?”