Being an actor on a hit TV show is quite a feat of perseverance in itself. Building a resume of acting work and accredited training to be even considered for the part. It will take years to qualify even to audition for a major role. Then, expect to audition several different times for many different casting agents and show creators, competing with hundreds, if not thousands of other actors for the part. The walk, look, and intensity all have to be near perfect to get the role. Anywhere from five to 15 years of preparation needs to be focused into one week of execution of character. That is just playing one character. How about playing three different characters? Five different characters? Seven characters? All on the same show, Canada’s Orphan Black? How is that possible? Ask Tatiana Maslany, who has managed portraying seven different characters and accents entering the Orphan Black‘s third season.
The list of characters she plays in the series may be unprecedented. Should actors who play just one character get the same amount as someone who does several? “I keep bringing it up,” she tells the Huffington Post, half-jokingly. What is the key to getting comfortable acting while creating so many different characters and accents?
“You have to find a natural way of acting within these (verbal) confines. It’s the same with a dialect,” she tells BBC. “A dialect gives you a little box that’s the rules of the dialect and the accent. And you have to find a way to act and express yourself within that. That’s what makes it so difficult because you need to get it to the point where it’s unnoticeable. People stop listening to the accent and listen to what the actor/character is saying.”
On Orphan Black, Malsany plays many roles, including Elizabeth “Beth” Childs, the local detective for the police department who commits suicide in the very beginning of the story leads Sarah into the greater conspiracy. Then, there is Alison Hendrix, a homemaker who strives to become the perfect housewife. This is hindered by addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs, with side effects of her jumping to wild conclusions. Corporate executive Rachel Duncan of the Dyad Institute has always known she was a clone since she was created in 1984. Helena is a Ukranian assassin dealing with the after-effects of having endured abuse for as long as she can remember, and she is Sarah Manning’s twin sister. Tony is a small-time transgender thief who is the exact opposite to Rachel; he did not know of his clone background until most recently. Finally, Cosima Niehaus is a graduate student who happens to be bisexual. She is majoring in “Evolutionary Developmental” or “Evo-Devo” biology, as she calls it. She continually works to understand the biology of the cloning she experiences.
Neither Orphan Black nor Tatiana Maslany has garnered much Emmy consideration, even for a nomination, regardless of the accents and diversity of her role. That has not stopped Maslany or Orphan Black from gaining a huge following and bringing current technology issues like human cloning to the forefront. Maybe the third season is the charm for her, and Orphan Black, gaining the industry recognition they deserve.
By Evander Smart