‘Orphan Black’ co-creators discuss going back to the beginning for Season 4

Nobody has perfected the balance of teasing with non-answers while still providing fan service better than the cast and crew of “Orphan Black.”

The big announcement coming out of Saturday evening’s “Orphan Black” panel at WonderCon is that the BBC America series will be accompanied by its very own after-show this season. Hosted by Ajay Fry, Morgan Hoffman and Teddy Wilson, “After the Black” will feature in-depth discussion about the show — including plot twists and theories — with “Orphan Black’s” cast and crew as well as behind the scenes footage and the exclusive first look at the next episode.

Stars Tatiana Maslany (Sarah Manning, Cosima Niehaus, Alison Hendrix, Helena and more) and Kevin Hanchard (Art Bell) are the confirmed guests for the first episode of “After the Black” to discuss the “Orphan Black” Season 4 premiere.

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While Maslany herself was absent from the WonderCon event, it did not stop fans (many dressed as one version of Maslany or another) from filling the room to capacity to see “Orphan Black” co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett along with cast members Jordan Gavaris (Felix Dawkins), Kristian Bruun (Donnie Hendrix) and Hanchard discuss the show.

The event kicked off with a never-before-seen sneak peak of, slight spoiler, a scene featuring brand-new clone M.K. (the one that wears a sheep mask) in the woods at night spying on a couple of men in paramedic outfits burying something that looks like a body bag before having to flee the scene after giving her location away.

New "Orphan Black" clone M.K. (Tatiana Maslany).

New “Orphan Black” clone M.K. (Tatiana Maslany).

(Ken Woroner / BBC America)

While the panelists remained understandably coy in many of there replies to questions involving the upcoming season (“Orphan Black” is a mystery, after all), fans were treated to some details on what they can expect.


What the panel revealed/confirmed:

  • Krystal will be back in a bigger role.
  • Felix has to face the realization that he is the only one not biologically related in his family.
  • Art is now a full-fledged member of Clone Club.
  • There will be more Donnie and Helena moments.
  • What happened to Delphine is a big part of Season 4.

What we still don’t know:

  • What actually happened to Delphine.
  • If we’ll see more of Shay.
  • When (or if) Tony will be back.

“We really wanted to look back at the first season this year,” Manson said of the overarching theme for Season 4. “We wanted to go back to that moment on the tracks with Beth and with Sarah. Go back and go, ‘What did Sarah miss? What else happened there?’”
“We also wanted to get that feel back,” added Fawcett. “That feel of Season 1. That feel of you don’t know who the bad guy is. You don’t know who you’re speaking to. Sarah playing off her back foot all of the time. That was kind of the goal of Season 4.”


The show first teased this theme during Season 3 when it brought back Beth, the clone that started it all for Sarah, in Sarah’s dream.

This scene also served to remind fans that while “Orphan Black” is a show heavily rooted in science, it has not shied from addressing the relationship between science and religion.

Represented by two extremist groups introduced during the first season — the Neolutionists and the Proletheans — science and religion were initially seen as two opposing forces competing to determine the future of Sarah and the remaining clones.

The Neolutionists were revealed to be those behind the corporations conducting the clone experiments who are driven by the belief that through scientific knowledge and technology humans can self-direct their evolution, while the Proletheans were those behind the killings of the various clones, believing their existence is an abomination.


However, as the series progressed it was revealed that the world of “Orphan Black” was not so black and white with regard to science and religion.

“We purposely introduced it as something that seemed very binary with the old world character of Tomas,” explained Manson in a phone interview following the Season 3 finale last June. “And then when we stepped through into the sort of the new world version of Proletheans, they had different world view. One that created a mix of science of religion.”

As Season 3 infused Proletheans with science, viewers also saw Sarah and clone club’s journey include moments that seem to defy scientific explanations.


“It’s safe to say that nexus of science and metaphysics is a place we’re interested in looking at,” said Manson. “It adds a human, spiritual dimension to a scientific quest. They needn’t be exclusive.”

Here is what Manson and Fawcett had to say in June about the show’s blurring of the lines between science and religion, as well as what sparked their interest in revisiting Beth and “the beginning” for Season 4.

Season 3 opened with Helena’s dream where Cosima says she’s cured because of science. But at the end of Season 2, we see Cosima is affected by her own vision. Something inexplicable by science. Was it always the plan to disrupt the sort of established status quo in this way?

Graeme Manson: Yeah it was. John and I always really liked the idea of something that if not shook Cosima’s foundation, it certainly began to pick at her and pique her curiosity about the things that she knows she can’t answer with science, you know what I mean? She’s certainly a deep enough thinker.


I don’t think Cosima is an arrogant scientist. I don’t think she completely believes that the scientific method is the only way to get anything done. I think she’s an open person. So we wanted to just slowly begin that sort of quest.

I think it exists in the other elements in the show as well. There are hints that there are aspects to Kira that we’re not going to get to by examining her biology. We had our Prolethean leader, who was a religious man who put his faith in science as well.

So overall we’re saying, I guess, that science and religion — or spiritually, or metaphysics — that they’ve always been crossbred.

John Fawcett: I think also at the end of Season 2, Cosima had not just a vision but an experience. She experienced something and Kira was a part of that, whatever it was that happened — a vision, a near-death experience — whatever it was. Kira was a very strong part of that and was there when that occurred, and I think that Cosima is, at the beginning of Season 3, is a bit shook from it.


Even though she is an open person, she is someone who has come up in science. Like this is how you explain things. These are the answers for A plus B equals C. And so to kind of throw her a little bit of a curveball and go, “Hey, there’s more going on here than just science” I think is interesting because she’s someone who is about the mathematical equation to some degree.

So it’s interesting to see this character start to think that maybe the way to healing might not entirely be scientific.

Speaking of not scientifically explained, what about revisiting Beth as a vision in Season 3 was appealing?

Fawcett: Where did that start, Graeme? Where did that conversation begin?


Manson: I think the conversation really began with, we still had a lot of questions about Beth. We would still talk about Beth a lot. She kicked off our series, and yet we don’t know her. There’s a mystery there.

We started to discuss Sarah carrying this around, and as Sarah grew through her journey and became more mature and more responsible we kept asking ourselves: What would she do if she could be face to face with Beth now?

It’s not like she could come back from the dead. So we were looking for ways to just put ourselves in that position in Sarah’s mind. To look at that guilt a little bit. And to go back to the front of that and to seed the front of the show again.

Because the beginning is somewhere we’re interested in going next season.


Fawcett: It’s not a Beth ghost scene. It’s not like Obi-Wan returning to Luke Skywalker as a ghost. It’s really a Beth hallucination.

Manson: It’s Sarah’s view of who Beth might be.

Fawcett: It’s a Beth hallucination born out of Sarah’s guilt, probably, to some degree. Don’t you think? Her guilt or her obsession.

Manson: Yeah.


Fawcett: So it was interesting working through that. Because it was very cool to put the character in a situation where she was actually asking questions of a dead character. It was a really interesting new place for the show to go.

It’s something that we weren’t, as creators of the show, entirely certain about. We wanted to do it. We weren’t really sure how to do it. It took a long time to figure out how to seed it, how to play it out, how to allow it to feel a part of the show rather than something that felt random, I guess. So hopefully we seeded in and embedded it properly.

Manson: And again it’s along the lines of what we’re talking about. Like there is with twin sisters, there’s a bond between the [clone] sisters, and it’s not something that can be explained by science. It’s this empathetic tract. It’s the human element of connection that science can’t touch.

Fawcett: I think that’s a good way of putting it too. And it’s interesting too that it’s somehow also, in those moments, a little bit connected to Kira.


We’ve talked about Kira. Even back in the first season she has her miracle moment when she survives getting hit by the car. Do you plan on further exploring this aspect of Kira? Does Kira have superpowers?

Fawcett: Kira has always been an important aspect of the show for Graeme and I, and there is sort of bigger, sort of critical story questions about Kira’s biology and what she’s capable of.

I would never say superhero exactly. But there are those things that you can’t quite explain. Whether it has to do with her biology or whether it has to do with something less tangible. All question that we need and want to continue to blur.

They’re important to the bigger picture.


Manson: The intangible is that human quality too. That is a bit ephemeral. It’s how you put your finger on something like empathy, or something like that, you know what I mean?

And also, these are epigenetic questions. These are questions you can take back to nature-nurture. Was it biology or was it the way that she was raised? Is it the fact that she’s the daughter of a clone who was supposed to be infertile, and how will science ever identify that?

Another sort of non-scientific element from Season 3 was Helena’s scorpion friend. How far back did you conceive of that?

Manson: Well, it was one of those things that John brought up really early and sounded dumb at the time, but then it was a talking scorpion and then we started laughing about it. And we grew to think “this is perfect.” But spirit animal was what John was striving at from the beginning.


It was an early idea for the season. Not long ago but for the season for sure.

Fawcett: Yeah. It did come along with the season, but we really quickly kind of realized that it factored into Helena’s character. This wasn’t the first time the scorpion’s been around. The scorpion has been around with her in the past. It kind of factored into her back story and was kind of like her spirit animal or intuition. It was kind of just a fun way to represent the demon in Helena’s head, or the angel on her shoulder, or her bad golem or whatever you want to call it. It just seemed like a fun thing to do.

Is the scorpion among the casualties of Season 3 or will she be coming back?

Fawcett: Well, I don’t know how you kill an imaginary scorpion.


Manson: I think she’s probably eaten the scorpion before.

Fawcett: I think that this is not the first time the scorpion has been consumed by Helena. I think it’s probably like the third time. So that scorpion can appear at any moment.

Will you be exploring any connection between Kira and Charlotte in the future?

Fawcett: It’s certainly something that we’ve talked about a lot. I think Graeme and I have a lot of interest in connecting those two. And so that’s certainly something that we consider and think about a lot.


We love the idea. I don’t know that we would say one way or the other but we like the idea.

Season 3 ended on a very biotech, science-heavy note. Is the show headed back to explore more science in Season 4 or will there be more explorations of the spiritual/metaphysical aspects as well?

Manson: I just think it’s a parallel theme — maybe it doesn’t need to be heavily dramatized, but it’s a counter to the science, I think, that humanizes and shows the other side to the dilemmas and the questions about their biology, their existence their ownership and all of those things.

This interview was edited for content and clarity.


Twitter: @tracycbrown