Only One of Her: Tatiana Maslany ‘s Q & A with SAG members on acting and “Orphan Black”

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When asked about how, why and when she started to act, she told us that she and her brother would perform Jesus Christ Superstar at home for her parents. She was also the appointed director of such theatrical endeavors and she referred to her younger director self as an asshole and a jerk. She added that she was also a dancer as a kid so she grew into performance quite naturally.



How can you call this face a jerk and an asshole?!

As she discussed more of her theatrical upbringing and influences, she mentioned she was educated in both Meisner and Alexander technique, and did a lot of improv, too. She was asked about Woman Under the Influence, a film which she considers an inspiration, and she explained that the rawness of the performance in this movie blew her away. Gena Rowlands was all sorts of different things at any moment, with no censorship, and Tatiana loves that. The film is still her favorite.

When asked which of the many techniques she studied she actually uses on set, she explained that everything she had learned shaped who she is on set today. From Meisner, for example, she got the guts and the feelings. But she also put a lot of emphasis on vocal work. It all lives in her, she said. Yet, if she had to recommend one thing for actors—a place to start at—she’d recommend improv. It teaches you to be present, to say yes, she told us. It’s all guts and not head work and it’s at its best when there’s no pressure of being funny, simply being present.

Improv sounded so great, that the audience was curious to hear about the downside of it, and Tatiana mentioned improv movies, a few of which she did in the past. The structure is missing in those, and there’s no audience to keep you in check, so things can get a bit out of hand.

Next, we wanted to know if she watches the show. She replied that she loves watching how the scenes come together in the final product. She also needs to know about it anyways, because she’s always being asked about that in interviews. But she also loves watching it for the other cast members’ performances. With the gimmick of the clones, she explained, their incredible supporting cast sometimes gets forgotten which is a shame because they’re all amazing.

tat 4The Orphan Black cast. We never forget you

Next she talked a bit about the clones. Tatiana noted that Rachel is that part of her which she doesn’t access on her day to day life, but that she wishes she could. She explained that she understands all the clones and that it’s more important that she gets them than she likes them. Even if they do something she doesn’t like, she knows why they did it. It’s about empathy, more than amicability (she giggled, wondering if she just made up a word.)

She told us that what she does technically in the multiple clones scenes, is to block both sides (or more) of the scene before they start shooting. They sort of premeditate what’s going to happen both technically and emotionally, which can be hard for her because she loves being surprised.

Once she finishes a scene, she goes to hair and make up for about an hour and a half while the crew shifts things around (or sleeps, she jokes) and the she and Kathryn Alexandre (Tatiana’s acting double, who also plays Alexis) watch the playback together so they know what’s what after the role reversal.

When she was asked if people ever refer to her on the street as one of the characters, she said that that is yet to have happened. But she added that when she finished her Reddit AMA earlier in the day, the girl who ran it said to her, “Thanks, Helena!” right before she left. Tat admitted that she ate chocolate during the AMA so that might have influenced the situation.

tat 5These I like.

We were wondering if she’s the kind of actress who makes up her own back story and if it ever conflicted with something that she found out later in the script. She told us that when something like that happens, and it does, it creates tension. The audience doesn’t know why, but they know something is going on with the character and it’s interesting to her because in real life people are unpredictable. Or we remember our past in a certain way and then we re-live something and it feels different than it did before.

The moderator mentioned Tatiana’s advice of making sure you have life outside of acting, and Tatiana explained that she used to work too much, and when she wasn’t working she was studying, and when she wasn’t studying she felt guilty for not doing that. She was taking classes in LA and she was told that she was angry at the work, angry at the artists. That’s when she realized she needed to step away for a while.

We didn’t have much time for questions from the audience, but when those few did come, Tatiana made sure to ask who the question came from, and directed her answer at them.

At this point of our short evening, Tatiana’s entourage (it sounds badass, doesn’t it?) told her it was time to go. But Tat loves her fans, so she asked to stay for a couple more question. “I’ll answer them sooo fast,” she promised, to the audience’s delight. It was clear that she was having a good time, and so were we.

The second to last question was which character was the most challenging to play and why.

“All are and all for many reasons!” she responded quickly, trying to stay true to her promise, and making the audience laugh. But then she added without taking a breath: Rachel—for her current state, Sarah—for the dialect, Cosima–Cosima is easy, I love Cosima, Helena–food every take, Alison—always have such high energy in contrast to an occasionally very tired Tatiana.

The last question was about how much time she has to break down the dialogue/scene once she gets the script. Not a lot by far, was the answer by the way. But she’s like a sponge now (her choice of words!) and she just reads the script as many times as she can, and it’s a go.

And that was her go as well, as we finished the lovely evening.

Thanks, BBC America for hosting us at the Tribeca Grand, and the SAG Foundation (I love you long time!) for allowing me to take notes and share them with all of you, and thank you guys for reading!

Follow Chen on Twitter: @shokoshik 

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