“I don’t even know what it means,” Tatiana Maslany has commented on the surge of support for her and her BBC America show ‘Orphan Black’ as Emmy time rolls around once again. The 27 year old Canadian actress recently won a Critics Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama and the ‘For Your Consideration’ adverts have been out in full force ahead of the July 18th Emmy nomination announcements.
Orphan Black, shot in Canada and aired on BBC America to around 5 million viewers overall, recently finished its 10 episode run of its first season, and is quickly becoming the little sci-fi show that could. A word-of-mouth sort of show that is quickly gaining viewers (it’s BBC Americas No.1 show on demand), Orphan Black follows Maslany as Sarah, a tough, twenty-something, British former foster kid, who rolls back into town with some drugs to sell, hoping to make a life for her, her adopted brother Felix, and biological daughter Kira.
At the train station, Sarah gets a shock when she sees someone who looks exactly like her commit suicide. On a spur of the moment decision, she decides to steal her lookalikes, later revealed to be an athletic cop named Beth Childs, identity and clear out her bank account. It’s not long before she discovers that the now- deceased Beth isn’t the only person who resembles her: there’s a whole group of clones, and SOMEONE is killing them off. The show is fast-paced, funny and intriguing, but the thing that really makes it watchable is Maslanys performance as the various clones. Each clone has their own accent, mannerisms, personality and approach to life and watching the show you find yourself saying ‘How is this the same actress?!’ Along with Sarah, there’s suburban soccer-mom Alison, trying to hold her idyllic life together; pot smoking, science loving post-grad Cosima who is fascinated by the whole clone mystery, and disturbed yet vulnerably likable Helena.
Not only does Maslany play each clone, but she often plays each clone as they pretend to be ANOTHER clone. Sarah spends her time impersonating Beth, and later pretends to be Allison. Allison returns the favour and plays at being Sarah, while Sarah also goes undercover as German clone Katja. As if the acting feat of playing so many different characters so convincingly wasn’t enough, it is astounding to watch each character pretend to be another so believably. As Sarah attempts to master Beth’s accent, the words seem uncomfortable in her mouth. It’s easy to see Alison struggling to act as casual and confident as she pretends to be Sarah for her daughter, while as Sarah dresses as Alison attempting to fool her friends and family at a party, you can see her trying to adapt her mannerisms to the high-strung housewife, but you never once forget that this is SARAH, and not Alison.
Co-creator John Fawcett has said: “Tatiana is a great actor. And she inhabits these characters so well that you completely forget about the fact that you’re watching the same actor play both parts. I made the show, and I get sucked into these characters and forget about the fact that Tat’s in every frame of the show.” And it’s true – this could easily have looked ridiculous, particularly in scenes where the clones all share the same space and interact with each other. But you instantly forget that it’s just one woman doing all of this – it would seem more likely there’s a group of triplets playing these parts. Cosima and llison are worlds apart from each other, and it really does seem impossible that underneath the wigs and the accents, it’s just one girl. This show is the perfect vehicle for Maslany’s talents –it shows she can take on any role, and inhabit it and make it believable.
The Emmys aren’t big on sci-fi or fantasy, ridiculously, so the inclusion of Tatiana Maslany in the lead actress nominations would be quite impressive, and perhaps may pave the way for the Emmys to take more sic-fi and fantasy show seriously. If anyone deserves a nomination this series, she does.