The Force that is Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black

I remember the speech Jennifer Beals gave in Break a Leg about how a woman has to be both beautiful and as good as Meryl Streep to make it in the movies. (You can catch the speech at the 8:29 minute mark in this video.) It is generally accepted in American culture that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress since the origin of the human race. We don’t even have to discuss it – we’ve seen her prove it time after time.

So when you see a great performance, it’s easy to compare the actress’s talents with Meryl Streep. For example, I remember watching Toni Collette in The United States of Tara and thinking, Why have I never noticed how amazing Toni Collette is – she could rival Meryl Streep.

I’m telling you right now that if Streep was a verb, Tatiana Maslany streeped the hell out of Orphan Black. Here’s the trailer for season 1 of this BBC America series, which started in 2013.

This is the preview for season 2.

Here’s the preview for season 3.

Tatiana Maslany is a young Canadian actress who had quite a few roles before she got this part in Orphan Black, but her career will never be the same after this performance. She is simply electrifying.

Orphan Black is a clone story. A nature vs. nurture story. Maslany plays all the clones. You sometimes see her on the screen in two or three personas at the same time. She’s so good at making them unique that you don’t even get confused about who is who – you willingly accept them all as different women. The central character in this web of clones is Sarah Manning. She’s the criminal you saw in the trailer who steals the purse of her look-alike, moves into her flat, and attempts to live her life long enough to empty her bank account. This scheme drags out into a hellish impersonation as Sarah attempts to be a cop named Beth Childs. In season 1, Maslany played at least 7 different clones.

tatiana maslany
Tatiana Maslany

As Sarah gets pulled further and further into Beth’s life she discovers more women who look just like her. She doesn’t immediately realize they are clones – does she have a twin, is she a triplet? Nor does Sarah grasp the implications of what it all means. As various clones are killed off – one assumes by the person who created them – it becomes clearer what danger they are all in. They begin to work together to solve the mystery of who they are, why they are, and what they can do to protect themselves.

The clones include the wild-haired Helena, Cosima a brainy scientist who is a lesbian and Alison, a soccer mom. The other clones don’t show up as often. Helena is a wild animal on the prowl, dangerous and unpredictable. Cosima is trying to work out the genetics of the clones and why some of them (including her) are suffering from respiratory ailments. Alison is hilarious as the uptight suburban wife with undiscovered depths. They look different, sound different, move differently, carry themselves differently. There’s no mixing them up.

Jordan Gavaris plays Sarah’s foster brother and her best friend and confidant. His quips provide some of the comic relief. He gets deeply involved in the danger and adventure as the story unfolds.

Maria Doyle Kennedy is the mysterious foster mother, Mrs. S, who raised the two foster children. She is also the guardian of Sarah’s young daughter and has the power to keep Sarah from seeing her child. We are never sure if Mrs. S is good guy or a bad guy.

Dylan Bruce is Beth’s boyfriend, and possibly something else. He realizes after finding Sarah in Beth’s apartment and boinking her on the kitchen counter that she isn’t Beth, but he goes along with the whole thing without letting Sarah know he’s on to her. Assorted ex-boyfriends and bad guys fill out the cast. Inga Cadranel, who is Bo’s mother in Lost Girl, plays one of the cops. A favorite of mine, Matt Frewer – Max Headroom himself –  shows up near the end of season 1. I won’t spoil it for you as to what his part in the cloning story is, but he is a key character.

Tatiana Maslany as Helena
Tatiana Maslany as Helena

Seasons 1, 2, and 3 were each 10 episodes in length. Season 4 is in the works now. I started recapping the series in season 2 and have continued since.

Have you seen Orphan Black? Have a favorite clone or a comment on where you think it’s going in season 4?