Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany Is Scared Of Comedy

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Maslany as Allison (left) and Helena (right) on Orphan Black. [Photo Credit: BBC America]

VH1: You’ve said that the clones were pretty fleshed out for you already by the writers. Do you have any input into their mannerisms or patterns of speech? 

TM: Obviously, the writing is such that Allison has a very different cadence than Cosima or Sarah or Helena, but I think what I did was… You know, the writing is all there. It’s all beautiful. It’s all thorough and detailed and very visceral. Then, what I have to do is make it physical, is embody it. That was the joy that I got from it was being able to come up with mannerisms, with physicality based on the writing. So, then based on how these people were written, how they spoke on the page then informed how I walked through the world. Because you know so many clues about what they think, what they feel, the kind of person they are, the way they see the world is in the writing, so then, I physicalize it. So it’s definitely a collaboration between myself and the writers.

VH1: From the moment I saw you as more than one clone, I could tell that you had an improv background. I didn’t have to google it. Did you knowingly apply any improv training or is it just happen to creep out?

TM: Well, I think that there’s two things improv does so well and it teaches you about committing and saying “yes,” and that was like a big thing. Like committing to a character in the moment…committing to a way of walking, a physicality, a way of speaking, a sort of life view, a world view in the moment based on somebody’s suggestion. So, you say yes and then you’re that character and you explore the scene, not knowing where the hell it’s going to go, through that character. So, there’s this immediate commitment that I think I’ve learned from improv.

And then also, the creation of a world that’s not actually there. Because we don’t have a set. We don’t have props. You know, it’s all created in your mind and created through your physicality so I think that lends itself to me being able to act opposite nothing in a way because you know I’m not acting opposite myself, obviously. I’m acting oppositie a little ‘X’ that will then be myself. So I think that definitely helped. I don’t think I knew that until people started kind of asking me how improv translated into my work and I think that’s probably the way it did.

VH1: Orphan Black is super serious and dark. Given that you’ve done improv, do you have a yen to do more comedy on television in the future?

TM: Well, I just shot a comedy [called Cas & Dylan] with Richard Dreyfuss about a month before I started Orphan Black. It’s like a buddy comedy kind of thing where we’re sort of playing opposite each other and driving across Canada in like a VW bug. So, I’ve been fortunate to get to play comedy in certain senses in film, but I don’t know.

Comedy scares me a lot. I feel like it’s way harder than drama. I think my safety net is definitely drama and I would love to kind of be able to be able to push into the comedy world and do something kind of like a Christopher Guest kind of style show. That to me is my kind of comedy. Like, Ricky Gervais comedy. That’s my kind of thing. I’m not big on pratfalls and stuff like that. I kind of like the more subtle stuff that’s more character driven.

VH1: Were you a big sci-fi fan before Orphan Black?

TM: You know what? My sci-fi was kind of like zombie movies. Like, I loved zombie movies and I’m a big Futurama fan, but that’s the extent of my sci-fi. I fell in love with Star Trek after J. J. Abrams’s movie. I’m so into that.

But sci-fi was kind of a new genre for me and definitely something I never thought I would fall in love with so much. What I think it does so well is that it kind of creates a very unique world and the fans are so rabid and they are so excited by the new worlds and excited by weirdness and by kind of really brave and bold storytelling and I think that’s what’s really exciting about sci-fi. And I always think it also reflects back on society.

You know, the cloning thing is not far off and it kind of speaks to a lot of what I think is socially apt right now. Like identity and ownership over yourself and ownership over your image and ownership over your body, which is stuff that I think women deal with. I think it’s kind of subliminally about at least my exploration of Orphan Black. I think that’s what sci-fi does so well. It puts it in a kind of a fun context, but it actually speaks volumes about the world.

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