Back stories and mannerisms help Tatiana Maslany keep her many characters clearly defined

For four seasons of the BBC America hit “Orphan Black,” Tatiana Maslany had done the seemingly impossible: Play an ever-expanding cast of clones to disparate and desperate perfection.

Raised separately and long unaware of each other, each woman — up to 12 at this point — may bear an essential similarity to the other, but each is completely and utterly different. Street kid, soccer mom, science nerd, psycho assassin, they come from all parts of the world in every possible variation: educated and feral; gay, straight and transgender; kind, controlling and cold-blooded.

Working within a fast-moving, switchback plot that explores corporate corruption, religious zealotry and the meaning of being human,  Maslany miraculously makes real women of them all.

So how does she separate them all and make them distinct? It must take time and quiet concentration?

“I really, really wish I had time to be still in a room by myself between characters,” the actress said when she stopped by the Envelope’s video studio earlier this week. “But I don’t. They just throw me into the next outfit; it’s very quick.”

But those subtly shifting body movements from character to character — how they walk, how they hold themselves — is dictated by who they’ve become through their individual life experiences, she said.  “The physical stuff is really fun for me to start with.”

As “Orphan Black” heads into its fifth and final season, Maslany also talked about how hard it is to keep the mythology of the show straight, the series’ emphasis on sisterhood, her first audition and how she and the rest of the equally fine cast have managed to pull off what may be the most astonishing ongoing performance in the history of television. See what all she had to say in the video below:

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