Tatiana Maslany on taking Orphan Black back: 'It was surprising how hard it was'

The star of the sci-fi thriller brings fans a new audiobook -- in which she plays clones, an omniscient narrator and her TV co-stars.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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Jennifer Bisset
3 min read

Tatiana Maslany x5.

BBC America

Orphan Black, BBC America's TV show about a woman who (spoiler) sees a clone of herself on a subway platform, is making fresh tracks in a very different medium. The series seemed to end for good in 2017, but its star Tatiana Maslany is back with Orphan Black: The Next Chapter, an audiobook that picks up eight years from when the show left off.

"It's been really fun to go back into it," Maslany tells me over the phone from LA.

You can download the audiobook from Serial Box, an audiobook and ebook app that released the first Orphan Black episode in September. The episodes are over an hour long, with six out of the 10 available so far -- a new episode comes out each Thursday.

Some background on the TV show: Not only did the famously humble and hard-working Maslany play 13 clones, she voiced a hallucinated scorpion (don't ask). The fifth and final series ended with Cosima (played by Maslany) and Delphine (Evelyn Brochu), two scientists in love, committing to a globe-trotting journey inoculating 274 clones slowly dying from genetic illness.

Orphan Black is dark, romantic and endearingly funny (read: hallucinated scorpion). That's largely thanks to Maslany, a 10-year improv veteran who won the Canadian Improv Games in 2002 during high school.


Tony Goldwyn and Tatiana Maslany in Network.

Jan Versweyveld

That talent rolled into an acting career that's included shows like Being Erica, indie movies like Picture Day, a cameo in Parks and Recreation, starring roles in Hollywood movies like 2017's Stronger and 2018's Destroyer, and most recently, Broadway. (Her Drunk History episode about the Suffragette movement is worth mentioning too.)

While there's no improv in the tightly scripted audiobook -- "the writing is king," Maslany says -- the actress got to play with the voice of a brand-new clone named Vivi Valdez, the adopted daughter of Cuban immigrants who happens to be a CIA agent.

Creating the character's voice involved bouncing off how Valdez speaks in writing, "using that as a jumping off point, and what people say about her, how she comes off to other people. And then either finding a source voice, like an actor or some person who I want to imitate or use a version of their voice," Maslany explains. "That's how I get to creating new voices."

Orphan Black the TV show goes deep. It explores the concepts of identity, body ownership and nature vs. nurture, drawing parallels to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World throughout.


Cosima and Delphine, aka Cophine.

BBC America

At least three of those concepts crop up in Chapter 1 of the audiobook, but it's all comfortingly accessible. Through multiple perspectives, you follow Cosima, Delphine, Valdez and other new clones as they unravel an ethically-dodgy government study into clone technology. Cophine fans note it heavily features the smart-is-sexy couple.

Maslany voices every single character, including Brochu's Delphine, as well as the omniscient narrator, who sometimes doubles as an inner monologue.

She had to remind herself of who the characters were and get back into the "flow." Two years after the show's finale, it wasn't easy.

"But it also felt like riding a bicycle. I got back on it pretty natural."

The vocal gymnastics were made easier by Maslany's director, who let her repeat sections during recording when a character didn't feel totally grounded.

"Often I'll go back to redo a character, to focus on them, but not switching back and forth."

When it comes to her TV co-star, Maslany says that if Brochu ever listens to the audiobook, she'll get her to "give [her] notes."

Maslany's next project is Perry Mason, a "beautifully written" HBO miniseries following a criminal defense lawyer in 1932 Los Angeles. Maslany plays Sister Alice, the leader of the Radiant Assembly of God. The press release describes her as: "Entertainer, politician, God's conduit to the City of Angels."

If anyone can cover multiple roles, it's Maslany. But in the future, the multitalented winner of the Best Actress in a Drama Emmy in 2016 for Orphan Black has new territory in mind: cartoons.

"That's the stuff I love watching."

You can buy the first season of Orphan Black: The Next Chapter for $10 on Serial Box.

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