It's official: Tatiana Maslany is not only giving the best performance(s) you'll find anywhere on TV right now, but she's doing it on the year's most intelligent, inventive and important new show! And with a second season of Orphan Black coming in 2014, and a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Actress in a Drama, it's safe to say the show's fans will be multiplying at a rate sure to make Dr. Leekie smile.
In the aftermath of Saturday's season finale that left bodies on the floor, blood on the walls and Kira's fate up in the air, I caught up with the incredible Maslany to get her take on all the action and find out what fans can expect from season two!
Also, watch my SAG Foundation Conversation with Maslany below!
ETonline: What did you make of the finale when you first read it?
Tatiana Maslany: Well, I was sad. We didn't know if we were coming back, so I think I cried at the end of our read-through because there was a chance I would never play these characters again. But, I was excited that they went so bold with it. I feel like the piece stands on its own. I don't think it feels like a finale. It has enough of that cliffhanger thing, but you don't feel alienated. It's not all bells and whistles and no heart.
ETonline: Oh, it's got a lot of heart. I nearly cried when Sarah watched her birth mother die and told Helena "you killed something I've been dreaming about forever."
Maslany: I loved that line. I think it's the first time you see Sarah as a young girl who feels alone and wants a mother, but doesn't want to admit that. All of Sarah's layering is based on fact she doesn't feel she belongs anywhere and couldn't be loved. So, for her to have this chance to get to know her family taken away was so heartbreaking and infuriating. It feels like any time she gets somewhere, it gets pulled away from her.
ETonline: I was kinda shocked Helena was killed.
Maslany: I was too. But I feel like it raises the stakes. I think it makes you realize the clones are mortal and fallible and human. They can be taken away from us just like anyone can. Nobody's safe on this show and that's a really cool thing.
ETonline: But it's gotta be tough on you to keep having to say goodbye to characters you've grown to love.
Maslany: Oh God, yeah. It's so hard. I love them and love playing them and want to play them always, so it's heartbreaking. You invest a lot of yourself into the characters you play, so there's always a grieving process when one dies.
ETonline: We saw Helena resurrected from near-death once before, so she could still be alive. I mean, you didn't burn the wig, right?
Maslany: [laughs] We didn't burn the wig. That wig will be around for a while -- if only for Van Halen tributes. But your guess is as good as mine. If that happens, I'm confident the writers would have a good reason ... and I'd be pretty happy about it.
ETonline: While Helena's death was surprising, I feel like everyone was most shocked by Alison letting Ainsley die!
Maslany: Yeah! I remember being shocked when I read that too. I just thought it was so bold. Alison is clean up until that point ... well, she did torture her husband, so there is some misguided behavior, but I think you really learned in that moment how far Alison has been pushed. Maybe it's something to do with their genetics; obviously Helena was cracked as well. How much is that nature and how much is that nurture? But yeah, I loved that bit with Alison.
ETonline: From your perspective, why did Alison let her die?
Maslany: For me, it was the threat to her family. I think that's the really crucial thing. I think the idea of family and protecting the family is something that ties a lot of these women together. I think that's where Alison and Sarah are quite similar and where their bond comes from. Ainsley was a threat to Alison's life and she will fight to the death for her life and her kids. So much of Alison is in non-action. She doesn't kill Ainsley, she just doesn't save her. There's this weird grey area there with what constitutes murder. I think with Alison, it's the inaction that's so telling with her character.
ETonline: But as the audience learned, the threat was only in Alison's mind as Donnie is actually her monitor!
Maslany: Totally. And this is just so true of the kind of stories you tell in your head and how you can vilify people by putting your fears on them. It's gross. So gross [laughs].
ETonline: I always loved Alison, but in that monitor reveal, I felt new sense of empathy for her because I can anticipate how hurt she will be when it's revealed she let Ainsley die but has been manipulated by Donny all along. How do you feel like that info is going to resonate with Alison when/if it comes out?
Maslany: I feel like she could go absolutely nuts when she finds out. Betrayal in a relationship is so painful and hurtful, and add on top that Alison now has nobody because she killed her best friend. I can't even go there. It's so vile. You see guilt in Alison when Donnie comes home in the last episode. You see her panic attack in the kitchen because I think she is already so afraid and ashamed of what she's done. There's something in Alison that loves living in denial, it's where she's happiest, and I think that's kind of where we leave her at the end of the season.
ETonline: Is that why you thinks he was the only clone who went through with signing the agreement with Dr. Leekie and Rachel?
Maslany: I read this really cool review of the last episode that broke it down by saying that what Leekie is offering is kind of a standard role for a woman. When Alison signs this, she will have her perfect life. If Alison were to do any digging, she'd find that she'd be happier with a more complex vision of herself, but I think she's very happy to be in place of denial and simplicity.
ETonline: While Alison is being willfully ignorant, Cosima is chasing down info, which led to the biggest revelation of the season. What do you like about the idea these women are patented property?
Maslany: It's not far from where we're at with patent law right now. People are trying to patent gene codes, which are basically elements of people's identity and I think that subject is so fascinating. Where does science start overstepping its bounds and as a result, where do we start losing our humanity? The beautiful and horrific thing about the patent storyline is that, for me, it resonated as a woman -- this idea of your body, your personality and your image not being yours. As an actor, I understand that and the more I'm in a public consciousness, the more I understand that role a lot of women are forced to take, which is about giving up a lot of your identity to serve the public. For me, it was really incredibly resonant point in terms of the ownership women have over their bodies.
ETonline: All season long Orphan Black has held a mirror up to society in increasingly powerful and important ways. How important is social commentary to the creators?
Maslany: I've never spoken to them explicitly about that, but as I read the scripts, I just feel like the writing is so smart and so telling of where we're at as a society in terms of social and technological advances, they must be aware of what they're doing because they're creating such a unique voice for this show, and that's amazing. There's something really unique about Orphan Black is that it has a lot of female leads, so it's about a lot of women's stories, but it's not women’s stories in terms of trying to find a guy or keep a guy; it's about entirely other things.
ETonline: Speaking of women's stories, we met a new woman in the finale -- what excites you about Rachel Duncan?
Maslany: What I love about her is the entitlement that comes from being born on the inside and the inherent status that gives you. Rachel's a very different character for me in that she's ruthless and totally unemotional. I really like that, but it scares the hell out of me ... in a great way. Plus, she wears more expensive clothes than I've ever known in my real life [laughs].
ETonline: Lastly, what do you think the final shot of the season means for season two?
Maslany: I think everything we've come to believe about all these characters has been shattered and changed forever. The girl Sarah was at the beginning of the series is so vastly different than who she is by the end. Even though she's in a similar place of wanting her daughter back, she's in a markedly different place as a person. Also, they're all linked now and we don't know who is on whose side, what's going to happen with Cosima or how we'll deal with Alison; it's all up in the air and I can't wait to read what's next because I have no clue what’s going to happen. They keep me in the dark as much as you!
Orphan Black: The Complete First Season hits shelves on July 16. Click here to pre-order!