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Just cloning around

Saskatchewan-born actress Tatiana Maslany excited about Orphan Black's second season

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You might think it would be easier the second time around.

You'd be wrong.

"It was daunting to come back to it because I knew kind of what to expect," Saskatchewan-born actress Tatiana Maslany says of returning to work on the second season of Orphan Black, the surprise-hit sci-fi series in which she plays about a dozen different characters, all the result of a top-secret cloning experiment that has spun out of control. "I knew how much work it was going to be, and the physical and the emotional challenge of it.

"But at the same time there was a sense of, OK, so we've done this, so there's not that pressure of will this work or (whether) people will buy the gimmick of it. So it was time to go deeper with it, and I think that's to me what was exciting about coming back for Season 2."

The second season of Orphan Black premières Saturday, April 19, 8 p.m. on Space, with main clone (for storyline purposes) Sarah Manning on the run, being pursued by very dangerous people, and quickly running out of options as she races to rescue her daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler), who is in the hands of those who seek to bring the clone program back under control.

When the series arrived on TV last year, not much was expected of it or its largely unknown star. Flash forward a year, and Orphan Black has transcended the sci-fi genre market and become a mainstream international hit, while turning Maslany, 28, into a star whose work has garnered numerous accolades, including a Canadian Screen Award, a Television Critics Association Award and a Golden Globe nomination.

Also worth noting is the groundswell of outrage that followed when Maslany was snubbed in the Emmys' best-actress category after Orphan Black's first season.

"We were completely sort of blown away -- or, at least, I was -- by the critical response that we received and (media types) who wrote about our show or promoted it for us by discussing it (and) analyzing it, which gave us that leg up and got us seen," Maslany said when Orphan Black's cast and producers met with TV critics during the U.S. networks' winter press tour in Los Angeles. "We're a niche, odd little show that could have kind of fallen under the radar, but because bloggers and the Clone Club (podcast) and all these people were talking about it, it got out to a wider audience and, I think, in second repeats it had an even bigger following.

"And it's wild to be seen differently, I guess, or to have more visibility, but it's rewarding, you know -- I'm an actor and I like having attention. There's a reason I like being onstage. There's a reason I like being in front of camera and it's that interaction.... We're living in a world where the response is kind of really instantaneous, even though it's delayed by a few months (after filming ends). But it comes at you pretty fast, and it's rewarding to hear people enjoy the show."

Series creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett said they're more confident than ever that their star is up to the heavy workload Orphan Black demands; the evidence of their belief lies in the fact they've asked Maslany to handle even more challenges this year than in the very ambitious first season.

"We haven't said how many (clones) are out there, and part of the wonderful process of this is when John and I are coming up with new ideas and pushing the story forward," said Manson. "(It's about) who can we meet without exhausting the concept so, you know, it's not a clone-of-the-week show.

"Obviously, we take a lot of care and time with developing our clones. The first thing we do is we go to Tatiana and begin really involved conversations about that (new) character coming up. For instance, last season we went to Tatiana in about Episode 5 or 6 to say, 'So, we've got this (pro-clone adversary) Rachel Duncan character,' obviously to give Tatiana enough time to prepare. And then it's become a really great process where we work on these characters together."

Adds Maslany: "You know, I love all these characters so much, and Graeme and all the writers have continued to deepen it and flesh out the worlds of each of the clones and that, to me, is what's so exciting.... We left them all at very tense places, kind of high-stakes places, so there was so much to work with and the challenge of it continues every day. It's what keeps me absolutely obsessed with the show and with the job, and so grateful for it, too."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2014 C7

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