Tatiana Maslany has never shied away from a challenge, and #CloneClub has never given up hope for more Orphan Black. Thankfully for all involved, this fall Serial Box, the premium audio and reading platform, brings us a canonical new Orphan Black adventure, starring Tatiana Maslany as every character in the series along with the omniscient narration.
Many fans have been excited at the prospect of any new Clone Club content, but scratching their heads a bit at what, exactly, this new iteration of the beloved show would be. From a strictly logistical standpoint, through the Serial Box app or website, users can either read or listen to each episode and easily switch in between without losing their place. For Orphan Black, this means 11 all-new episodes written by a stellar writing staff, released each Thursday.
The audio format of these new chapters is the most exciting, as it’s narrated by Tatiana Maslany. The 11-episode season picks up roughly eight years after the events of the 2017 Orphan Black finale on BBC America. The first four episodes are out now, and a new episode will release each week.
Here’s the show description for Orphan Black: The Next Chapter:
Two years after the show went off the air, Orphan Black (BBC America and Boat Rocker Media) is back with The Next Chapter, which picks up the story eight years in the future and features many of the same characters. The show wrapped with the destruction of the clone program, Project Leda. Since their victory, the sestras—Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and those they love, have been free to live quiet, anonymous lives. But the cost has been high. All of them are living less-than-full lives in order to protect themselves and each other. Everything changes when the sestras discover that there are more clones out there.
Den of Geek, along with several other outlets, spoke to star/master-of-clones Tatiana Maslany about bringing the clones back in an audio format, playing every character, and whether she could ever see a future for Orphan Black on television again.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Interviewers: So what was your reaction when you were pitched bringing Orphan Black back as an audio and ebook format?
Tatiana Maslany: I was really excited because the storylines that they pitched me sounded really great and really within the world of the show and kind of a nice extension of what we made with the show. And also I knew that the fans were still very loyal to us and I thought this would be a really nice way to kind of give them some more story to follow and more concepts.
The physicality was such a big part of what made your performance of each of the Leda clones so distinct. So how were you able to transform that into bringing to the roles as a voice actor on this platform?
Yeah, a lot of the work was physical, but vocally I worked with a really cool dialect coach named John Nelles on the series and the work we did to differentiate the characters and work with breaths and with speed of thought and all of that kind of was really integral to me finding the characters as well. So it seemed like a natural kind of thing to do to sort of distill it down to just vocal performance.
I guess also like a fun challenge for me to do. I have a lot of reverence for people who are skilled voice actors that I hope to do that at the drop of a hat. Great. We want to shift from all of that, so it’s a fun thing to get to try.
When you’re shooting the series, you had different days where you would take on different characters—like Alison, Sarah, Helena—and so, when you’re stepping back into audio format, do you have to go through like a similar process getting back into character or was it just like riding a bike again?
I have to kind of remind myself of where they sat in my body and, vocally, where they sat, but it was kind of bizarre how quickly they came back. It’s fun to get to revisit them and to play those characters again and try things out. And the voices, as they’re written on the page, are really similar to how the characters were in the series. So, it’s like a bizarre kind of dream. There’s a lot of muscle memory involved, for sure.
Where does this story pick up?
Well, it picks up like 10 years after the series ended and where we left them, with kind of the best result… sort of together and and speaking to your, the remaining clones that hadn’t been given the inoculation against clone disease, a genetic disease that they had. And where we pick up … everyone’s been living their lives and continuing to deal with [day-to-day] problems, but also being clones and the threat of being discovered.
So it’s hanging over them and they never will have normal lives, and when we pick up with them we see how they continue to navigate that … They’re forced out into the public in a way that is unexpected and unwanted by many of them. So we definitely get to see them or hear them go through that.
Can you tell us about how many new clones we might meet? And what they’re like?
Well I don’t want to spoil the new clones—and also, I haven’t finished the recording the book yet, so there’s probably a bunch more coming or I would assume so—but there’s quite a few that we get in the first episode. One of them is… you know who Vivi Valdez? [She] is an interesting character who has, as a kid, experiences with other kids who looked identical to her. And those experiences have been reformatted by her family and therapists to be imaginary friends.
And so when she starts to become more self aware of the clones and realizes that there are women out there who look identical to her, she starts to rethink that belief system that she grew up with.
From the sample I listen to, it sounds like there’s an omniscient narrator, which is new to Orphan Black. What opportunities does that bring to the storytelling?
Yeah, so there is that, but also there’s a sense of whoever, whichever character we’re kind of following in the chapter that we’re in, there’s a bit of a feeling of we’re kind of inside of that person’s head, too. We’ve been playing around with that idea, me and the director. But it makes sense, I think, that the clones who are a monitored group would have this sort of idea of a monitor, of somebody dictating their lives and speaking from an outsider’s perspective of what they’re doing. Sort of like a science experiment.
How has the transition from acting for the screen to acting for the audio experience been?
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I really love the audio book format because it feels very contained and requires a quiet creativity that you don’t have when you’re on set and there’s a thousand people everywhere.
When I was doing an audio book this summer, about the same time as I was doing Broadway, and the difference between being in front of a thousand people every night versus being in a small space, a small studio and getting to just sort of explore something with my imagination, it’s a very different process and I really love it.
It feels very creative and very going back to the basics of what it is when you’re a kid and you’re reading a book and you’re acting out all the characters. It hearkens back to that.
When we see the characters, the clones especially, there are distinctive character traits. How have you tried to make those distinctions in audio?
All of the clones in the series also had different voices, different accents, but also different registers of speaking, different ways that they communicated depending on where they were from and also how they’d been raised. So that definitely would come into play. The work I did vocally in the series has just been amplified now and kind of distilled. Yeah, it’s been fun to revisit those voices.
You were playing the original clones on screen for so long. I’m wondering is it hard to drop the physical stuff? Do you find yourself still doing their mannerisms and physical stuff that we as viewers can’t even see just because they’re used to it when you’re recording certain characters?
Yeah, I think there’s definitely postural things that come into play that that just helped me to in my body feel where the different clones live, more rigidity for Alison and the slump for Sarah, and there’s definitely arm or hand things that help me to get into Cosima. But, yeah, it’s just about putting the info back into body as opposed to having them out and expressed. It’s a fun challenge. I really enjoy it.
I think when the series ended, Charlotte was still young and she’s self aware so it you get to explore a little bit of audio theory. You get to explore what it was like for her growing up self-aware, versus Rachel who had a much different experience.
Yeah. That’s actually one of my favorite aspects of the audio book is that we get to see Charlotte and Kira’s friendship and their lives, how they’ve managed to survive with the way they’ve been brought up and how it’s affected them and how they’re breaking out and becoming their own people because they’re now in their early teens.
Yeah, I really enjoying their storylines and seeing where they have come to because they were also outsiders within the clone group, not entirely in the same bracket as the rest. So it’s kind of fun to see how that impacted them.
With several non-clone characters returning, are you voicing all those people as well or might some people come back? Or if you’re voicing them, what does it like then to voice characters you’ve worked with?
It’s so fun. It’s a trip and it’s going to be so disappointing for people that Kristian [Bruun] or Evelyne [Brochu] aren’t back in the series. But, yeah, it’s been really fun to watch those performances and be my own version of them and see what they were doing vocally and all of that, and do a really bad impression of Kristian Bruun is a fun thing to do.
What about the show got you back to it after it ended ten years ago?
I think, for me, a lot of it comes back to just the fans being so supportive of the show and continuing to be so. And it was nice to get to make something for them. I know that there’s so many shows that I love and [love] any extra little bit of content, so it’s really exciting. It’s been fun to get to make that for them.
And also, we’re at a different place in the world right now in terms of the history and science and all of that. It feels relevant to be re-exploring it and re-imagining it.
Can you talk a little about some of your fan interactions that you’ve had since this series has ended? Obviously, there’s a very dedicated Clone Club. Have you had any memorable interactions with them since the series ended?
Yeah, when I was doing Network on Broadway, I would come out sometimes after the show to meet people who had waited, who had seen the show and waited after for autographs or whatever. But it was just surreal to me to see how many people came from really far to see the show and to talk to me about Orphan Black and say how it has impacted them, even after the show’s been over. And I continue to get fanart. It’s cool that it’s continued to have a life outside of it.
The show has always been into themes of women’s bodily autonomy and other forces trying to control, which seems more important now than ever. How will this series try to update that and take it on again?
Yeah, the idea of privacy and of the right to your own life and they way you live it, it’s something that comes up and it’s been a recurring theme for us all on the show and I think it just never stops being relevant, really.
You know, there’s so much to explore in it and we’re still so far behind in terms of that idea in our culture. Privacy is a big issue, the right to your own privacy … so I think this idea of being monitored and of being owned or your information being held by corporations, it’s really relevant, unfortunately, right now. And we continue to explore that.
What’s the thread that brings everyone back together?
In the vein of Orphan Black, there are forces outside of the club that are messing with them and making it impossible for them to function in a normal way, whatever that is. And they’re continuing to fight for their freedom and their freedom to live as they want to.
What about the story are you most excited for fans to explore with Cosima?
I think they’ll be excited to hear the old voices back again and to see and hear Cosima and Delphine and see where their relationship is at. There’s a lot of cool stuff between them that comes up.
And then I think it will also be exciting for them to hear new clones and to see new storylines. And she has a clone path to go through all kinds of new mysteries and difficulties and all of that. But I think Cosima and Delphine will probably do something that everybody is very excited about.
Can you tease anything about how their relationship has progressed?
The two [are] together and they are contending with all the things that that means being in a long-term, loving relationship with a fellow scientist, one of who is framed to be public about her work and the other who is sort of relegated to staying more in the background and how’s that creates conflict. It’s a really kind of interesting and relatable dynamic.
What is Helena up to?
We haven’t gotten all the scripts yet and we also just haven’t recorded them yet. So I assume that Helena is going to play a more pivotal role, I hope, in the next few episodes. But she’s kind of off to the side right now. She’s sort of off in the woods somewhere, in classical Helena style. But I hope she comes back, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process for coming up with the voices for the new clones? Because even when the show was on, I was always amazed that you hadn’t out of dialects yet. So how do you come up with what each one will sound like?
I guess the catch is… I don’t know. It’s a different process all the time and, and I draw from other people’s voices and I use my imagination for a lot of it. Like, I’ll find a voice that’s interesting to me and try to emulate it. And then also just let the writing speak for itself and find the nuances as we go because they’ve written very differently, which is super fun.
But, yeah, it’s really about finding a little something that differentiates them because they don’t have all the external stuff to go off of.
Can you talk a little bit about your process for when you’re recording? I’d imagine that there’s times where you’re doing conversations where it’s just you doing all these different voices, talking to yourself. Are you recording those pieces separately? Are you reading it like a script and just rapidly changing, like some sort of talented maniac?
Sometimes, I can do that, if I’ve been reading for a few hours but it feels like the flow is clearer to me and it’s easier to switch between people. But then, sometimes, it requires going back and clarifying a voice or something and just doing that one perspective, that one side of the conversation.
But, if I’m warm and not an idiot, I can do both. But it’s very rare because it’s a complicated thing and I have so much reverence fo voice actors. I think they’re just incredible, what they’re able to do.
Are Orphan Black showrunners Graeme Manson and John Fawcett involved still in any capacity?
I don’t know if they are involved in it explicitly. There are a couple of people involved in it who were part of the series in different ways. Heli Kennedy who’s writing for the books was on set a lot during the series. Because she’s definitely a continuity between, but, yeah, I think it’s quite a new creative team, which is kind of cool—inspired by obviously, but not exclusively from this series.
What about these Leda clones do you find most interesting? Do you have favorites that you like playing of these clones and not more than the others?
Well I enjoy playing Alison always because she’s kind of a nut and so much fun to play. It’s fun to get back to her.
But the Cosima/Delphine stuff was really interesting to me. There’s a softness to it, a quietness to it, like a personal, more human stuff between them, which I really enjoy.
And it’s also just been fun to play other people’s characters and do my interpretation of them. There’s always something interesting for me to get to sink my teeth into with stuff like this, when I get to play so many characters.
What has been the most challenging part of this series?
The most challenging is probably creating the new voices and consistently bringing new voices forward, whether they’re clones or characters outside of the clones, because there are new characters who aren’t even in the Orphan Black canon yet who come up. Yeah, that’s probably the most complicated part of it. Also the most fun.
When you got cast for Orphan Black, did you foresee the show having this kind of longevity and timelessness?
Oh my God, no, not at all. We didn’t even know how we were going to get through the first season. So, yeah, I foresaw none of it. I just was so excited to be part of it. And so, in the moment and not looking too far ahead, but as we grew in terms of a fanbase and stuff like that, it definitely felt like the expansion was more possible and just more likely in terms of the fans wanting that kind of stuff and creating it on their own—from writing books and essays to songs and all of that about the series, which is just super inspiring. It was fun to get to meet them in that and make something for them.
Now that you’ve come back for the audio, would you ever be open to coming back for … I don’t know, even if they did a mini-series back on TV or revisit on Netflix or anything?
I’m so happy with the visual version that we’ve done. I think that it ended as it should and I’m happy to do other things that are in different mediums. I think that’s a cool way to continue to explore it without rehashing the same thing. But, yeah, I don’t know if I would be up for that. It would depend on the writing and all of that, but for me, it feels like it was like a closed chapter.