Nat thought – here’s how to save on star salaries and keep your budget down; make the lead actress play nine roles.
Season 1 of Orphan Black is the most enjoyable ten hours I’ve spent sitting in front of a small square box in quite some time. There’s lots to like, but most would probably agree that top of that list has to be the chameleonic performance of lead actress Tatiana Maslany.
“Who?” you ask. Yeah, that’s what I said too.
But first, let’s get the plot out of the way. We first meet British Sarah, a bit of a small time thief and hustler. Well hang on, that’s like saying someone’s a little bit pregnant. She is a small time thief and hustler. When she witnesses a woman jumping in front of a train, what do you think someone like Sarah is going to do? Yes that’s right, steal the dead woman’s purse. But when she realises that dead woman, Beth, looks exactly like her, she hatches a plan to impersonate her so she can get her hands on a big ol’ chunk of Beth’s money.
But it’s not quite that simple, and not the least because Beth was/is a cop, and the discovery of yet more women who look exactly like her means Sarah’s life is suddenly a teeny bit complicated. It’s good news for us though, as over ten original, action packed and intelligently written episodes, Sarah discovers she’s one of not two, but nine identical females.
Cue evil corporations, human cloning, men with tails, a psycho-bitch Russian assassin, subterfuge, double crossing, secrets, answers, sciencey stuff, a pissed off housewife and a little bit of lesbian drama chucked in there in case none of the above held your attention.
Apart from the plot, the writing and Tatiana Maslany, the one thing I love about Orphan Black is that I’ve never seen any of these actors before. Except Leekie – anyone remember Max Headroom?. Well, what I mean is, I don’t recognise them off the top off my head, but I’m sure a visit to IMDB might prove me wrong in a couple of cases. In any case, there’s no baggage, no “oh look, it’s Joey from Friends and there’s Jack from Lost“. It’s so unexpected to watch a show and not have to suspend disbelief because you’ve seen six of the actors in three shows each over the last year (although I doubt Canadians get to share in that joy since half the cast are Cannucks).
And then there’s the Canadian lead actress Tatiana Maslany, who as you might have guessed, I’ve never seen in anything before. She’s so phenomenal at playing all her roles, you actually forget it’s the same person. And that’s all down to Maslany having the talent to give each character such defined, but still nuanced, traits. Plus it helps that she’s so good with accents (she does British, German, Russian, American and suburban housewife).
Here she is as Sarah…
The smarty pants among you may be thinking “Pffft, they just look like the same person in different wigs”. Well yeah, of course they look like the same person, they’re clones. But trust me, you’ll forget it’s one actress and just get lost in the story.
Made by BBC America, the first couple of episodes did have the feel of a Brit series, but a few more episodes in and it feels like some kind of world team effort. It’s intelligent, addictive and has a beautiful score too, for those of us who notice things like that. There’s also fantastic support from Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s foster brother Felix, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Mrs S and Evelyne Brochu as the one who’ll keep the adolescent boys watching. If it’s a show that’s a mix of sci-fi, thriller, action and cop drama you’re after, Orphan Black could be your bag.
The ‘big reveal’ cliffhanger we were left with has all the fans in debate over whether it was the perfect ending or all just a little bit mundane for such a forward thinking plot. I can’t decide if I agree or not, but I say let’s trust them and see where they go with it. I’m just upset I have to wait a whole year for Season 2 before I can make up my mind.