Two weeks ago, WonderCon was very much the place to be for Orphan Black fans. Not only were Orphan Black images adorning carrier bags and the backs of the convention guides, but the cast and crew of the BBC America show were present for a Press Round Table and a panel that hosted a number of spoilery teaser clips that attendees were asked to keep a lid on. It was an excellent initiation into what's coming up in Season 3, which opens this Saturday, April 18th, on BBC America, AMC, and other platforms simultaneously.
From what I had the good fortune to witness, this is certainly going to be the most dramatic season fans have yet seen, taking the interrelationships of the characters to whole new levels as the threat of a fleet of male clones closes in and the mystery of Project Leda deepens as Project Castor is revealed. The cast of the show are wildly enthusiastic about their experience filming this season with central actress Tatiana Maslany, who plays all the "clone" parts herself, and co-creator Graeme Manson was also present at WonderCon to confirm that this story is still very much about Sarah and the ways in which she has become a "leader" even as the series expands in plot and cast.
Jordan Gavaris (Felix) Dylan Bruce (Paul), and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mrs. S.) joined us first for the Press Round Table at WonderCon.
Jordan Gavaris: I would love to lay claim to the art. I attempted to paint once. Tatiana bought me an easel for my birthday. I think she thought it would be great for me to get into character, so I tried and it ended terribly! I wanted to burn it. I was really upset (laughter).
Gavaris and Maria Doyle Kennedy were asked if with more characters introduced this season, Felix and Mrs. S. will be pushed to the wayside as a result.
Maria Doyle Kennedy: No, there's plenty of them there. Obviously the Castor/Leda theme is huge in Season 3. But I don't think the smaller groupings are any less important. There's still some really serious family stuff going on, with some time looking at our backstory, and some looking at how we are developing as a family. Within our crazy, dysfunctional world, we are finding some place of true trust in each other where we can depend on each other and act like a proper family. I don't think you'll wish for more or less of us in Season 3.
Gavaris, Doyle Kennedy, and Dylan Bruce were asked if Paul can be trusted this season.
MDK: Mrs. S. has an uneasy alliance with him, but she's made some serious decisions herself. She always feels like she's making them from a point of a strong moral compass and that they are justified in securing the safety of her family. But Paul has some kind of moral compass too. She feels somehow that there's redemption within him still. But trust would be the wrong word.
JG: Paul is still on the radar, but our problems have grown so much bigger. There's that expression about [wanting] the devil you know versus the devil you don't know. Dyad is known and we've been fighting against it since the first season, but Castor is a whole different dimension.
Maria Doyle Kennedy was asked about the trajectory of Mrs. S.'s character, who started off somewhat "cuddly" but became more "sinister" last season, and whether she is told the backstory for the character or encouraged to fill it in herself.
MDK: The writers on the show let me know that Mrs. S. was based on Patti Smith, so that was always interesting to me. The first season was about minding Kira, and nurture her, and her only reaction to Sarah and Felix was to chastise them for not helping her do that. So, I kind of knew that beyond that, it's alluded to a little bit, that she came from an interesting place, and that she'd thrown everything away to bring the children to a new place.
JG: I think it's safe to say that Felix can't resist the drama of a good campaign, but I can't tell you in what capacity he's involved. What's interesting for me this season is that we see brand new shades of Felix. There's still a lightness to him, but there's also a depth. We're starting to get more toward the core of who he is, as a powerful grown up, though very afraid. He's scared all the time. These were easy parallels for me, since I'm 25 years old, and find the world a scary place. These were natural progressions for the character, and it was great to play that dynamic this season.
MDK: What's interesting about Sarah and Mrs. S. is that they are very alike, and I think that's why they have clashed all the time. In Season 3 you get to see her realize that these are not her little kids anymore, but adults in their own right. And realizing that they do sometimes get things right, and she doesn't always get things right. So she's starting to finally trust them as adults.
JG: And sometimes helping to pick up the pieces. We're always having to lean on Mrs. S., but sometimes we pick up the pieces as a family.
Jordan Gavaris and Marie Doyle Kennedy were asked, lastly, if they find the male clones frightening, and which is the scariest.
Doyle Kennedy said that one "beats the shit out of her" in Episode 1, so he's pretty scary, while Gavaris agreed that "Scarface", aka Rudy, the one we meet at the end of Season 2, seems a little "unhinged" and is definitely frightening.
Evelyne Brochu was asked how Delphine's new role this season as a person of authority at Dyad affects her relationships with the other characters.
Evelyne Brochu: I think that in real life, if you get a promotion, it changes your relationship with everyone. If you're going to be in a position of power, sometimes you have to hide your true intentions. You have to accept the fact that you're going to be lonely, make sacrifices and difficult choices. But with power also comes the chance to use that power and to get revenge (laughter). But it's going to be a hard season for Delphine, and these challenges will bring out a darker side in her and in Cosima.
Kristian Bruun: It's a great season for Delphine as a character, and it's a season that doesn't let up.
Dylan Bruce: It's very action-packed.
Dylan Bruce was asked where Paul's loyalties lie this season.
DB: You'll have to watch to find out! I think it's with the military this season. It was a great opportunity for me this season, because I felt I got the chance to make some strong character choices for Paul and come out of my shell.
KB: It's a great season for answers. And because of those answers, more questions come up as well.
EB: The closer you get to the truth, the more danger there is, so the stakes are way up this season.
Kristian Brunn was asked about the "sexiest" couple in the show, Donny and Allison (which provoked laughter), and whether they'd continue in their "post-murder" honeymoon phase.
KB: It's now Team Hendrix, which is great. We see Donny and Allison working together for the first time, on the show at least. The things you love about them are still there. She's always wearing the pants and bickering at Donny, but at the same time Donny loves it. Seeing them work as a team is so much fun. It's been much more fun to be teammates and tackle new problems that come our way. It's the suburbs, but it's not boring. Stuff comes to us.
DB: Donny is awesome. Donny is unreal this year (laughter). There's a new side to Donny.
KB: There's a scene that we shot last season where I got to play opposite Allison. It got cut due to time constraints, but it really threw me. I had met Sarah, and Allison, and they look similar at least. Sitting off-camera with Tatiana playing, and sitting as Rachel, and thinking, "Who are you? I spent two seasons playing with you and this isn't you". It's amazing to see how she fully embodies these characters.
EB: It's funny because there's a different energy in the room depending on who she's playing. It's a vibe. It's about the way people are and it changes the energy in the room. She's that good. There's something different as soon as you step into it.
DB: I don't think I've ever met anyone who had the amazing energy of Tatiana Maslany. She can only do what she can do because her energy level is so high.
EB: For me, it's the fearlessness that I admire. I learned from an article in the New York Times that she had done a lot of improv and that makes sense. She grabs onto anything and makes it her own. She's fearless in that instinct to do so. It's jaw-dropping.
KB: In terms of our characters, we're all in Clone Club now, so there's potential for us all to meet other clones and explore those relationships as well.
KB: Yes, of course! I didn't know that was on my bucket list until it happened.
HMS: I think you're in Issue 3, Kristian.
DB: I'm in number 1! I went to four different comic shops to try to pick it up and it was sold out everywhere. It was number 1 that whole week. It beat out Darth Vader! I'm so proud of those guys, it's a smart way to market the show.
KB: A dream come true!
EB: When we have kids, we can say, "Granny was in a comic book once" (laughter).
The group were asked if Rachel will be returning, and they teased around the issue, laughing.
EB: How deep did that pen go? That's the question.
Manson was asked what was really driving the Castor vs. Leda conflict of the "clone war" this season.
Graeme Manson: I don't really want to frame it as boys vs. girls. But that's the mystery. We are in Sarah's shoes, and she knows nothing about Castor. The spine of the season is who are they, what do they want, why are they after us? As it remains Sarah's story at heart, this question of 'Who are they' is going to lead her closer to the question, 'Who are we?' And it's not just Castor, it's who controls them. Who's pulling their strings? It's not the only thing they are up against this season. They are up against their own internal divisions and ploys, and they have Dyad as well as this new division above Dyad, Topside, to contend with.
Manson was asked if, when he started working on Orphan Black, he envisioned the position he is in now with the show and with the show's plot.
GM: Maybe generally, if not at the very beginning. By the end of the first season, we knew we wanted to introduce a male clone, and that it was going to become part of our mythology. Project Castor and Project Leda were going to be these two factions. That's part of the organic process. We always have big tentpoles of story and character. We know some things we want to do next year now, but we remain organic enough. For instance, when we decided not to kill Ari Millen's character, we made him the male clone, and we didn't know it was going to be him. When we got to that end point, wondering if we were going to cast someone new, we doubled the show back on itself. We then worked very hard to make that make sense and make us look really smart, as if we'd planned it the whole time.
Manson was asked to speak about Paul's "power play" this season.
GM: Yes, Paul has a great arc this season. He was revealed to be a double agent at the end of last season. But where does his heart lie? We're going to explore that, and maybe even answer it. Maybe we'll know who Paul is by the end of this season.
Manson was asked what part the Prolethians will play this season since Helena and Gracie are pregnant with babies fathered by the cult leader. How will that play into Season 3?
GM: One of the male clones is Mark, and Mark and Gracie have this sweet little love story, and we left them on the run. It's safe to say that Mark and Gracie are going to crash back into us this season.
Manson was asked how many male clones will be featured this season.
GM: I think it's kind of out there already, isn't it? It's safe to say there are four or maybe more…
GM: Well, while Leda was raised in a nurturing context where they were separate from each other and had their own environments to grow up as normal individuals, Castor haven't had that. They've grown up in this little wolf pack, and again, it's like their family. That's their all-male wolf pack family, and such a family would be barking mad, insane. We'll get to know more about how they were raised and who raised them this season.
Manson was asked if when writing the clones, he hears one particular voice clearer in his mind.
GM: I'll tell you which is the hardest, and that's Sarah. It isn't he English accent, but Sarah is always the hardest. Because she's the center of the story and carries the mystery, which is the hardest part for the writers. Allison is the easiest. She writes herself and is a lot of fun. All the writers would say that. I have a gas writing Helena, she's the funniest. And then Cosima is very challenging too because she's smart. I really like writing Cosima. She's got a unique intelligence. Although I'll often hand off her jargon to our go-to writer for science. I've absorbed their voices, so getting them right isn't hard, but what they are actually doing with their voices is the challenge.
I asked Manson how the show will still continue to be Sarah's story despite the bigger canvas Season 3 will introduce.
GM: It's that she is the one at the leading edge of the mystery, and she's the one pushing others to do things. That's been Sarah's journey, to become this reluctant leader. From the person we met in the first frame, who was someone willing to do something rather immoral and make a terrible decision, but for the right reason, to now. And I think she's a lot more of a moral person now, with moral fibre, and she's taken on that leadership.
Manson was asked if Kira will show any more special "powers" this season as she seemed to last season.
GM: Yes, a bit. I would say that Kira has an ineffable power or quality. It is mysterious, but to me I always think of it as human. Whatever it is with her, it's the human factor, and the things we don't know about ourselves. Our own telekinetic or empathetic abilities. She's an empath, really, and you don't really want to define that. But it's a beautiful thing.
Orphan Black Season 3 returns to BBC America, AMC, and other platforms simultaneously on April 18th at 9/8c.