(L-R): Kristian Bruun, John Fawcett, Ari Millen, Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Évelyne Brochu, and Graeme Manson
BBC America’s Orphan Black took audiences by surprise when it premiered with little fanfare in 2013. The Canadian sci-fi dramedy and its timely themes of technology, nature versus nurture, and personal freedom quickly earned a devoted fan following and accolades for star Tatiana Maslany, who plays a multitude of roles as identical—but very different—clones. After four successful seasons, the show will premiere its final season this Saturday, June 10 at 10/9c. We were fortunate to chat with show co-creators and executive producers Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, as well as cast members Kristian Bruun (Donnie), Ari Millen (Ira, Castor clones), and Évelyne Brochu (Delphine), before the final season premiere at the Split Screens Festival in New York this week.
Things ended on a very uncertain note last season. Is there anything you can tell us about what to expect and perhaps what you’re excited about viewers discovering this season?
KRISTIAN BRUUN: Well, as is the nature for the Hendrix’s, it doesn’t matter where they are, poop will hit the fan pretty quickly for them. Even in the forest with Helena. More hijinks, definitely more hijinks. We will get that traditional “Madness in the Suburbs” episode that we do every season, and this one comes pretty early on in the season. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. It involves the local church, so it’s gonna have some very fun layers to it.
ARI MILLEN: Ira has essentially come to a point where he’s recognizing his own mortality. And also recognizing that some of the bonds he had, the allies he had are not as secure as he thought. He’s trying to figure out, you know, is he going to live? Is he not going to live? Who is he? So it’s, Should he make new allies or can he return to the status quo? So he is completely out of his comfort zone and just sort of treading water, trying to figure out what’s next.
ÉVELYNE BROCHU: I’m kind of excited about the whole season, I feel like we’ve always been in a spiral and right now we’re at the center, and it’s gonna go real fast. There’s a specific episode for Delphine and Cosima that I particularly loved shooting. It was episode five. It was very meaningful. I felt very lucky I got to have a chance to play those scenes with Tatiana.
GRAEME MANSON: I think last season it was interesting, because I think we left our girls, specifically Sarah, in the worst place that we’ve ever left them. We kept going, “Make it worse, make it worse.” And it was fun kind of coming back at the beginning of season five and going, “You thought it was bad at the end of season four, let’s make it even worse from that.”
So, this is like sort of the final journey, and you know, trying to kind of, climbing our way to the top of the pyramid and there’s a lot of questions that we wanted to answer in this season so… In a lot of ways, it was our easiest season, in a lot of ways it was the most difficult season. There’s a lot of expectations. I think we both feel pretty good about how we’re ending things now.
JOHN FAWCETT: We really wanted to honor these characters, after spending so much time with them. And also find some cracks of new things that the audience didn’t know about them. That was important.
GRAEME MANSON: But also too, from season to season, it’s really always important to Graeme and I that we never wanted to fall into a rut. We didn’t want to fall into kind of a formula. And so, if every year, if we go what have we not done? How can we make this different? How can we reinvent ourselves but stay true to our characters and to our story? In season five the mandate really was just don’t suck.
What did you find most challenging and most enjoyable about this project?
KRISTIAN BRUUN: Both the most challenging and enjoying is just so much nudity, being in my underwear all the time, rocking the dad bod. No, I think one of the greatest joys of a show like this is that I get to play a lot of comedy, which is what I love to do, but also mix in some good drama and crazy surprising twists and turns, and that’s always fun for me, because you never get bored acting in that. In other shows you see a lot of repetition, and the actors get a little wary of doing the same thing over and over. We never got that on the show, and I never got that. We always had something new to do and they’re always challenging us with trying to top the previous season with some sort of zaniness. They do such a great job of that. I think that’s such a rare thing, and I’m going to miss that, possibly, in future gigs.
I’m afraid that all future gigs are ruined for me. Because we all get along so well, we all know each other. And tonight is the last time we’re all going to be together, potentially ever, which is like so sad to me right now. This is kind of our last hoorah, so going forward from here, it’s a high bar to clear for any other project I work on. Honestly.
ARI MILLEN: Well, Ira I would say is the most challenging and the most different from any other character I’ve ever played for and probably will ever be cast as. The instincts for him are so unnatural to me, so it’s just like accepting, and walking away, and always questioning. And accepting that, it doesn’t matter that you don’t feel secure in it, because he is with you and he’s so different from you, you’ll never know and be able to feel comfortable. So I’m very thankful that I got to play a character like him.
ÉVELYNE BROCHU: I’ve thought often, and I just feel that the characters spoke to so many people, and that’s a blessing. And I’ve always felt very lucky that I got the chance to play such a character. I think also, on a personal level, I’ve met some incredible people that I’ve learned a lot from … Tatiana being at the top of the list but everyone else has also been such a kind, loving, talented smart group. So it’s sad to let it go. But it happened and that brings a great sense of joy.
What do you think it is about this show that so resonated with audiences and set it apart?
GRAEME MANSON: Well if you had to choose one thing, it has to be Tatiana. But you know, broadly, one of the things we like about our storytelling is the mash-up aspect and being able to have a bunch of tones and a bunch of worlds in one episode.
JOHN FAWCETT: It was important to us that not only were we really deeply interested in characters, in really rich, interesting layered characters, but we’re also very into our conspiracy plot, and never wanted to take ourselves too seriously. So we wanted to be funny.
GRAEME MANSON: If you’re gonna make a show about clones, you’d better be kind of ludicrous. And then stick Tatiana in there, playing a whole bunch of different characters. Something seemed to work in there.
ARI MILLEN: I mean I think it’s because there are so many different clones, characters, genres, within the show. Plot lines that you don’t need to necessarily key in on one main plot line. It’s like this might be your story, or this might be your favorite character or the fact that they’re doing this or the fact that they’re doing that, so it’s just like, it’s amazing, it’s a bit more universal in the sense that lots of people can like it for very different reasons. And that’s really cool.
ÉVELYNE BROCHU: For me it’s a show that celebrates outsiders. And I think we’re all more outsiders than insiders. It’s neat being a part of a show that celebrates that accords with my values and I can understand for a lot of people it accords with theirs.
What’s next for you and do you really think this is the end of the Orphan Black journey or will we get to see these characters again?
KRISTIAN BRUUN: Is this the end for me? Everybody talks about a movie or something like that… I would love to see these characters again. In case that never happens, because it’s so rare that it does, and sometimes it’s good just to close things, I’ve close that off in my heart. But I would love to play Donnie again. Or just like some quirky spin-off. So like an Alison and Donnie weird like half-hour comedy. Some different genre, different world. That’d be fun.
But other than that, just popping up here and there in various things. I have a few movies coming out. I did a fun, creepy, weird cameo on The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s been fun. just moved to Los Angeles, so just kind of in the thick of things down there, getting used to that, compared to Toronto.
ARI MILLEN: It’s definitely a career starter, and it definitely put me on the map and you know I’m very fortunate that, you know, I get to be here and talk to you guys.
GRAEME MANSON: …Let’s just say [this is the end] for now. We continue to think too big for our breeches.
JOHN FAWCETT: I think it will be nice to have a bit of a break from it. We’ve been going relentlessly for five years. But, you know, the idea for Graeme and I, I mean we had the idea, we started working on this in 2002 actually. Ten years to get it made. And the reason was the idea of it was so risky. And alluring. And we were just so passionate about it. I’m sure we’ll go away for like six months …
GRAEME MANSON: I got an idea!
JOHN FAWCETT: Finally, I have an idea.
ÉVELYNE BROCHU: I realize that with sci-fi that fans take it to such a next level…seeing the drawings and the comics will keep coming… So that makes it still sort of be alive in people’s memories. And for me just a French Canadian movie coming out this summer… Some secret projects that I can’t really talk about, some music maybe. Yeah, lots of fun stuff ahead.