When BBC America’s Orphan Black premiered this spring, no one could have anticipated what a smart, complex and welcome addition to the science fiction pantheon it would be, or that its lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, would serve up one of the best performances in recent television history.
In Orphan Black, Maslany not only gives a tour de force performance as Sarah Manning, a young British con woman who discovers she might be a clone, but she also portrays a half dozen other fully fleshed out (and wildly different) women.
Since the first season aired, Maslany has become a critics’ darling and inspired multiple calls in the press for her to receive an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Drama. In June, she stunned Hollywood when she snatched the Critics Choice Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series (beating out the likes of Claire Danes and Elisabeth Moss) and received a TCA Award nomination for Individual Achievement in Drama.
We spoke to Tatiana last month on the heels of her surprise Critics Choice Award win about the difference between Canadian and American television, which characters on Orphan Black scare her the most and how her background in comedy prepares her for drama.
VH1: Congrats on your Critics Choice Award win! What was that like? Did you think you would get it?
Tatiana Maslany: No! I mean not at all! It’s just the category I was in and the women I was nominated with…it’s just like there was no way. I was the weirdo that nobody knew in the group.
VH1: You’ve also just been nominated for a TCA Award. You’re up against Matthew Rhys, Monica Potter, Vera Farmiga and Bryan Cranston. Is that insane?
TM: It’s nuts! That’s such a crazy category, too, because it’s just a mash up. It’s not just other actresses. So, it’s crazy. It’s totally crazy. The whole thing’s just really surreal. Just the fact that like Bryan Cranston was there in that room last night [for the Critics Choice Awards] is crazy to me.
VH1: You have a huge career in Canada. What’s the big difference between Canadian and US television?
TM: There’s definitely a different feel to it. I mean, the fact that there’s a star system here that doesn’t really exist in Canada…immediately it’s a different climate, you know what I mean? Visibility and public image and all that plays into it a lot more than I feel it does in Canada. It just isn’t that kind of industry, you know what I mean? Like, we don’t have stars necessarily. We have people who are really well known and respected and have worked a lot. But there’s this whole other world here. Yeah, it’s crazy.
VH1: Does it excite you that now you might be moving into the star system? Is it frightening or is that something that you’d want to go after?
TM: No, it’s definitely not something where I’m like, “That’s what I want to do,” and it so feels like something completely counter to what I do, which is acting. To me, that’s all I’ve wanted and that’s all I want. The star system thing, or you know, that whole Hollywood kind of thing, feels like a whole other side of the industry that feels really foreign to me and I think to a lot of actors.
You look at like Bryan Cranston and he’s got this incredible career where he doesn’t need to be in the press, or not the press. He doesn’t need to be in the like paparazzi rag…isn’t that such an outdated term? Like the “rag mags” or whatever they’re called? Like he just does his work and loves his work and does excellent work, and that to me is the dream.
VH1: I did notice that you worked with Canadian actress Megan Follows, who is internationally known for playing Anne in Anne of Green Gables. What is she like?
TM: Yeah, I’ve worked with her twice now! Once in Toronto and once in Budapest and she’s incredible. She’s one of those women who’s just such a powerhouse. She’s so strong. She’s such a fighter. She’s so talented and has pushed past being just “Anne of Green Gables” and having a career as a child and has made a career for herself in theater, in film and television as an adult. I think that’s quite a hard transition to make and she’s done it so gracefully and grown in it. It’s really incredible.