Jordan Gavaris and Dylan Bruce Talk BBC America’s ORPHAN BLACK, How Much Their Characters Know, Keeping the Audience Guessing, and More

     March 29, 2013


The new BBC America drama series Orphan Black tells the story of Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), a young woman whose life changes dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks just like her.  She hopes that cleaning out the dead woman’s bank account will solve all of her problems, but quickly finds herself caught up in the middle of a mysterious and deadly conspiracy.

During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, co-stars Jordan Gavaris (who plays Felix, Sarah’s foster brother and her one true confidante) and Dylan Bruce (who plays Paul, the dead woman’s boyfriend) talked about how they each came to be a part of this intriguing new series, how the story will continue to keep viewers guessing, how much their characters know about what’s going on, and what they might do, if they came face-to-face with a clone.  Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.

Collider:  How did each of you come to be a part of this show?

JORDAN GAVARIS:  I auditioned, just like I think everybody in the cast did, with the except of Maria Doyle Kennedy because she’s Maria Doyle Kennedy, and a lovely woman to boot.  I auditioned.  I live in L.A., but I was back home for the summer and this script landed in my email box.  I had worked with (co-creator) John [Fawcett] on another series, called Unnatural History, which was the last series I did for Warner Bros.  He had done an episode, and I thought he thought I was awful.  I mean, just the worst.  The show was really great, but I was just hamming it up.  So, I got this script and I read it.  We read a lot of bad scripts, as actors.  There are a lot of bad scripts.  But, this script was really different.  What struck me most was that, not only did it feel new, it was unapologetic and it was very graphic, which is always fun for an actor, when you feel like you’re not limited by the FCC or any boundaries.  It feels so cinematic.  All of a sudden, you feel so much more free to really go there and not have to think about, “Well, can I make this move?  If I improv this line, is it going to be cut?  How is this scene going to work together?”  I saw that John’s name was attached and I thought, “Oh, no, he doesn’t like me, at all.  I’m not going to get this part.  Well, fine.  There’s no chance of me getting this role, so I’m going to go into the audition room and just go no holds barred.  I’m just going to go for it because they’re going to laugh me out of the room, anyway.”  Well, isn’t my face red. 

DYLAN BRUCE:  I actually put myself on tape in Los Angeles.  I’m based here.  And then, I had to do a Skype audition, which I’ve only done a few times before, and those are kind of weird.  But then, I flew to Toronto and screen tested with Tatiana [Maslany].  It was a dream come true.  Reading what we’ve read in the script, up to that point, and the character synopsis that I saw, it looked like such an interesting concept.  To be a part of it is just a dream come true.  Now that we’re a part of it, the scripts that we get are like candy to us.  We really don’t know.  We kind of have an idea what directions our characters are going in, at this point, but we don’t know for sure and it’s a surprise to us, on a weekly basis, which makes it more fun to play than anything that I’ve played.  And all the layers that the characters seem to have are an actor’s dream. 

How would you describe the characters that you play and how they fit into this world?

BRUCE:  My character is thrust into the storyline.  He’s Beth’s boyfriend, who’s a stable, good guy.  When Sarah, who’s the lead character, played by the wonderfully talented Tatiana Maslany, assumes Beth’s identity, she’s thrust into my life, as well.  I can sense something is amiss, but there’s a new spunk to this girl in my life and my character really enjoys it, to say the least.  

GAVARIS:  Sarah was raised in the U.K., fostered by a woman named Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and I was fostered with her.  They leave the United Kingdom under somewhat mysterious circumstances.  Nobody really knows what’s happened.  It’s left very open.  So, we’ve grown up together, for the most part.  We both have English accents, in the show.  I stay in character, while I’m on set, and Tatiana does, as much as she can.  So, Felix is Sarah’s confidante.  They are fiercely loyal to one another.  As siblings do, they have disagreements and arguments, but when the chips are down, they’re there for each other.  That’s fun for me to play because I understand the relationship between siblings.  I have two older sisters, and she’s got a younger brother, so capitalizing on that relationship was really something necessary and something great for this show.  It’s so authentic.  It’s just there. 

BRUCE:  And the chemistry between them really reads on screen.  It’s really good.  It jumps out at you and it’s really believable.  It’s pretty wonderful. 

GAVARIS:  So the story goes, during the network tests, we had to do what’s called a chemistry test, where all the actors go in, in pairs, to read with each other.  There were four people testing for Felix and four people testing for Sarah, and I had a chance to rehearse with every other option that was testing for Sarah, except for Tatiana because she was rehearsing with another young gentleman.  I hadn’t even met her or said hello to her, but we were first up in the room.  I walked in just a few minutes behind her because I was chatting with someone out in the hallway.  So, I walked in and say the panel of network executives, which was really intimidating.  There was a big X on the ground and I thought, “Oh, my god, that’s where I’m going to die today!”  And then, I saw her and it sounds very existential and I apologize for the pretenses, but it’s like riding a wave, when the scene grabs hold of you.  You’ve made all your choices.  You know where you’re going to stand, how you’re going to say things, what you’re going to do to the other person, and what you want from them.  But, it all went out the window because she was so open and so different.  Inherently, there was just a trust.  All of a sudden, in that moment, Felix and Sarah were real.  I knew something special had happened, the network seemed to know that something special had happened, and she knew that something special had happened, as well.  It was really something special, and the chemistry has just been there, from day one.  I like to think that maybe we were a brother and sister, in a past life.  I think it’s possible.

BRUCE:  My experience with Tatiana was the exact same thing.

GAVARIS:  Felix gets pulled into all of this.  From the first five minutes of this show, the tree trunk is open to the rabbit hole and we slowly dive down until, all of a sudden, you find yourself in Wonderland and nothing is as it seems.  Felix just happens to get pulled down the rabbit hole with her.

Does this show keep up the level of twists and turns that the pilot has, from episode to episode?

GAVARIS:  That’s what this show is like.  It keeps you guessing.  And nothing is certain, in this show.  You think you have things figured out, but in reality, you don’t.  And every episode has a very interesting cliffhanger, as well.  

BRUCE:  None of us are safe.  We don’t really know.  We get the scripts and, instantly, we’re going through all the pages thinking, “Okay, what revelation or surprise is the character going to find today?”      

GAVARIS:  There’s a surprise in every script.  There definitely is.  

BRUCE:  It’s all need-to-know.  Even the network executives, a lot of the time, will be some of the last people to find out, along with the actors.  The writers’ room is just like a government lab.  

GAVARIS:  As an actor, you don’t want to know the beginning and end to your character’s arc.  It makes it more fun.  You’re not playing the end.  You’re playing it realistically.  You don’t know where this character is going to go and what’s going to happen to him, which just makes it more interesting for the viewers to watch.  They’re going on the journey with you, as the actor and the character.

Jordan, is it fun to play a character that’s clued in a bit, as to what’s going on?

GAVARIS:  Oh, yeah, absolutely!  There are still some secrets, obviously.  There are things that Felix doesn’t know.  He’s an artist.  He loves it.  He gets juiced.  It’s all a big art project for him.  Felix, as a character, is a showman.  I like to imagine that he’s got an outfit in his closet for every occasion, and half of them are see-through, mesh, bondage gear.  If he was going to dinner at the President’s house or slumming it with the guy’s on skid row, he’d have something for the occasion.  The budget for my wardrobe is crazy.  

BRUCE:  I have two suits, and then the rest of the budget goes to Felix’s wardrobe.  

GAVARIS:  And the loft set is beautiful.  It’s really quite something.            

BRUCE:  How our show is shot is beautiful, too.  The detail in everything is fantastic.  Our director of photography did Spartacus, so the show’s got that dark, sci-fi, edgy feel to it, but it’s done differently than a lot of the other sci-fi shows.  Our show has a dark undertone.  And the way that the show just looks and the feel of it and the gravitas just brings you in. It’s just really beautiful to look at, aesthetically.  They put a lot of effort into that and the sets.  We are very specific to detail because we know it’s very important to the sci-fi audience.  They’re very diligent with a lot of things. 

Is Felix aware that there are so many different clones?

GAVARIS:  He’s definitely aware that there may be more than just Beth, but even now, we still don’t have all the information about where they’ve come from, who they are, or how many there are.  He knows there could be more, but that’s all he really knows.  That, in and of itself, is juicy enough. 

When you do a show like this, do you think about what you would do, if you were presented with a clone?  Do you think you would be able to tell the difference?

BRUCE:  I don’t know.  That’s an interesting question.  If you saw your doppleganger in real life, would you be able to recognize that person?  Would you go, “Wow, that person looks like me?” 

GAVARIS:  People often have a very skewed idea of what we actually look like.  We don’t really know what our races look like, so would you even recognize that person? 

BRUCE:  No, probably not.  I don’t think I would.  But, I would take advantage of my clone.  I would try to be like Michael Keaton in Multiplicity and have them do work for me, so that I could be in different places at once.  

GAVARIS:  It totally blows the door open to the nature vs. nurture argument, as far as personalities go.  Some traits would be inherent, but there’s a lot of stuff that is a product of your environment, so would their personalities give them away?  I don’t know.  

BRUCE:  It’s great because it’s such a morally-charged issue.  There are so many different storylines that can derive out of cloning, and it’s so prevalent in today’s society.  It’s a real thing.  It’s not science fiction.  It’s the real world.  That’s what makes our story and our show so interesting.  There are also different religious issues that rise out of it.  Is it morally right to clone a person, just so that you can harvest their organs, if your organs aren’t working properly?  

GAVARIS:  There are so many avenues to go down, and I’m sure the lovely creators will explore them all. 

Orphan Black airs on Saturday nights on BBC America.