Orphan Black was a sizable presence at Comic-Con this year, with a Clone Club day celebration, a “Clone Booth” in the exhibit hall, and a panel for the show including stars (Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Dylan Bruce, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun and Ari Millen) and creators (John Fawcett and Graeme Manson). During the fan Q&A portion of the panel, Tatiana teared up while answering a question from a fan who says she has come out to her homophobic mother and used the show as a bonding opportunity because of Cosima’s being so accepting of her own sexuality. This made Tatiana tear up.
“My question is,” the girl continued, “What’s it like to have that affect on peoples’ lives and know you’re changing peoples’ lives and making people more comfortable with who they are? You’re saving lives. That’s what you did for me. So, I just wanted to know what’s that like?”
“That’s amazing,” Tatiana said. “I mean, I have no words. That’s incredible.”
Tatiana, a celebrated actress for the several roles she takes on in now two seasons Orphan Black, is emotional about many facets of the show. When we sat down with her during a roundtable before the panel, she became teary-eyed talking about Tony, the transgender clone she played for the first time in Season 2.
“I did a lot of research and it’s a subject that’s really important to me,” Tatiana said, tears forming in her eyes. “Yeah, it just means a lot to me that we could tell that story. And you know, I’m not a trans actor so is there a political sort of situation there and it’s not the most ideal, but what our show does is it explores identity. And what better way to explore it than through a trans male? We don’t see trans men on screen very often at all. And, you know, the best thing for me was when we heard the response to Tony, which was very polarized. But the best thing about it is it opens up a debate, and it opens up a discussion, and it makes the subject relevant and important and present in people’s thoughts, regardless of how they felt about Tony, whether they felt represented, whether they didn’t understand—whatever it is, these stories need to be told and we need to talk about trans stories and we need to have them represented to the point where it’s just, it’s just a given and it’s not exceptional anymore and trans actors get to step up and play these parts as well in the same way cisgender people have been doing it for a while. I felt a responsibility but I felt a large amount of gratitude and—”
“Joy?” co-star Maria Doyle Kennedy offered.
“Fuck yeah, joy!” Tatiana said. “Totally.”
The Tony and Felix relationship was a new one for Tatiana and Jordan Gavaris to play this season, one that both actors appreciated the chance to play.
“It was cool for me, especially with Tony, because he—I’ve just been in the process, even it began in Season 2 and has continued even after we wrapped, of reinvestigating my work; investigating where the character exists for me and I think it was something I was doing, something I’ve been doing that has worked very well because it’s part of who Felix is is avoiding the deeper, murkier, messier territory and surfing the text and just surfing the surface of the character,” Jordan said. “Tony offered me an opportunity to take the masks off, drop the theatrics, drop the defenses, the armor, and you see what real discomfort and fear looks like on this human being, this person. You saw him vibrate or exist in this fear; this uncertainty. And also, self-confront. Tony holds a mirror up to Felix and, conversely, Felix holds up a mirror to Tony. And that was pretty spectacular.”
Tatiana praised Jordan for making her job easier but speaking to her in character as soon as she steps on set, no matter what clone she’s playing that day.
“I don’t even have to do anything and he’s giving me a snarky remark when I’m Allison or with Sara it’s very tactile and, you know, the history,” Tatiana said. “And then with Tony, the two of us got to explore this whole level of not knowing each other and meeting each other for the first time. But at the same time, we can recognize something in each other, so all that history works as well. It’s interesting how the dynamic can kind of influence each other.”
As the gay hustler Felix, Jordan plays a snarky, blunt sidekick to all of the clones, but his work is just as impressive in his one part as Tatiana’s is as several. He takes his job very seriously, and is quick to defend Felix’s slightly illegal lifestyle.
“I think that there’s an inference that he’s in any way aware that maybe his lifestyle isn’t the healthiest,” Jordan said of Felix, who makes his money from sleeping with men and selling drugs. “I’m not sure, I mean I’m sure there’s some awareness there, but there’s an inference that he’s doing something bad. I think that Felix is just—he operates to survive, similarly to Sara. They’re just survivors. So by any means necessary. I that includes prostitution, drug dealing—if it means he can survive, if he means he can stay safe in some capacity, he’s going to keep doing that. He’s not going to put himself at risk, especially not after everything that’s happened with Sara and Dyad, by getting a job at McDonalds just because it’s a little bit more traditional or conformative.”
Which, of course, makes him that much more fun to watch.
“I like that the show doesn’t change him, either, for anything,” Tatiana said. “He’s out in himself and he is sexual and unapologetic about that and there’s no kind of sense that…he feels like he’s, in a weird way, one of the most sure of himself kind of characters on the show.”