by Hiko Mitsuzuka
Orphan Black co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson love how much people love their show.
After a thrilling and addictive first season on BBC America, the clone conspiracy thriller (starring the mesmerizing Tatiana Maslany, who was robbed of an Emmy nod) is gaining some much-needed traction and has become the #1 show to binge on this summer (seriously, pick up the DVDs and see what all the well-deserved brouhaha is all about). In a nutshell: a street hustler witnesses her doppelganger jump in front of a train, assumes her identity, and quickly finds herself in the middle of a shadowy plot. There are twists, bloody turns, and a sassy gay sidekick included on the dangerous journey.
"I think we knew early on that we had shot a bunch of pretty good episodes," Manson tells me as we chat at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego during Comic-Con. "So it was interesting watching people talking about the show and asking 'How are they gonna keep it up? How are they going to manage?' And we're kind of going 'Hee hee.'"
For those wondering where actress Maslany came from, here's some insight: Fawcett had worked with her on the 2004 horror flick Ginger Snaps 2. "We went through a normal casting process," he remembers, referring to the origins of Orphan Black. "And what we decided was that we weren't looking for a name. We wanted to discover someone. It was really important. I wanted that kind of experience for the audience...so we all decided that we wanted someone cool and new."
And thank the gods they found her.
Manson adds, "We had to, because of the way we were financed, cast a Canadian. So we couldn't go England, we couldn't go to the States. We had to go in our own backyard...and we were just lucky that we found Tat."
Fawcett on Maslany: "She comes very prepared. She knows the scripts, she knows all the stuff. And she's really an actor who lives in the moment. She's so directable. She's very good at trying anything. She doesnt have that ego. Some actors get very fearful working outside the box, and that's not her. That's where she thrives.
"We've sat down with her and spitballed some ideas...We want to challenge her. But we don't want to give her something like Spanish gangsta clone. I don't think that's possible."
Manson: "We knew [pro-clone] Rachel was coming, so several episodes ahead, we went to Tat told her this is what we're thinking of this character. So she got into the process and headspace of what she was going to be about."
And what about the seemingly nice Mrs. S, played by Maria Doyle Kennedy? "We love Maria," Manson continues. "And we want to use her more, so we've got some interesting surprises with her. And Sarah has started a war with Rachel, so we won't be skipping ahead a year. I think the show will pretty much pick up where we left off."
Fawcett: "That's sort of our show. Every episode is a chapter and a bigger story. So it feels right to go on like that."
As for that surprising scarf strangling via a garbage disposal in the action-packed season finale? "We like the darkness and to spike it with dark humor," the producers laugh.
What's in store for Alison (the suburban housewife clone)? The guys hint that she'll have to deal with her actions in season 2. There is a lot of guilt she'll experience. "She could go off the rails," Manson teases.
But what about the others? "In season 2," Fawcett says, "now that we've established the world, I think we'll see a few more of our supporting cast have more significant storylines and play in a little bit more. Not that we don't love Tat, but we really gotta rest her a little more so she's not burned out!"
Then there's the burning question I have to ask: Where did Orphan Black come from? Because, as I fall deeper in love with the show, I can't help but see shades of some of my favorite shows from the past...
Manson: "When we first came up with the concept in 2003, we were totally into Memento, just in terms of the way the mystery unfolded...not chopping up time, but that sense of dislocation and space..."
Manson: "We were also into The X-Files and Alias. Alias was so much fun, and we wanted the show to be fun and cool visual stuff with."
Fawcett: "And Six Feet Under was also an inspiration, because I love the humor, and it was always important that our show had a lot of humor to it. We don't want it to look like we take ourselves too seriously. I think it's fun to poke fun at yourself too."
Manson: "A couple of other ones are Lost and Breaking Bad's storytelling and that how-the-fuck-are-they-gonna-get-out-of-this quality."
Fawcett: "We're like the genre version of Breaking Bad...And Battlestar. There were lots of clone shenanigans in Battlestar."
Manson: "Any Tarantino movie...
Fawcett: "It's kind of a joke, but not really a joke, but we wanted to make a show so that we could go to Comic-Con. We've never been before. When we cast Tatiana, we went out to lunch, and we went, 'By the way, we're gonna go to Comic-Con next year,' and she was like, 'Okay.' She'd never been there before either."
- Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)