The executive producers and stars of BBC America’s ORPHAN BLACK were met with cheers, Clone Club Masks, and clone cosplay at this year’s PALEYFEST, as they looked back on the bonds they’ve formed as a group, and what we can all look forward to during the final season. Tonight’s Orphan Black panel was highly anticipated, being that this would be their first (and perhaps) last time to grace the PaleyFest stage.
Tonight’s panel was moderated by IndieWire’s executive editor, Mike Schneider who, from the moment he stepped foot on stage, gave high energy that set the tone for the rest of the night.
Before Schneider even brought the panelists on stage, the audience was surprised to find out they were going to be blessed with the first chance to watch the premiere episode of Orphan Black’s final season (which won’t premiere until June). While I can’t spoil it here, I can attest that members of the Clone Club will not be disappointed with Season 5, and that the final first episode had the audience both clutching their stomachs in laughter, and clutching their seats in anticipation.
After the viewing and what seemed to be a decade of applause, Schneider brought on the actors and executive producers. The stage was full of director’s chairs, as nearly every main cast member decided to take part in the panel, including: Tatiana Maslany (Sarah & Clone Co), Jordan Gavaris (Felix), Kristian Brunn (Donnie), Maria Kennedy (Mrs. S), Ari Millen (Mark), Kevin Hanchard ( Dt. Bell), Evelyne Brochu (Delphine), Josh Vokey (Scott Smith), Kathryn Alexandre (Tatiana’s body double), and executive producers John Fawcett and Graeme Manson.
The cast had literally just officially wrapped production for their final season on Wednesday morning, so naturally, Schnieder spent a big portion of the panel discussing their post-mortem emotions. The actors all mused on how somber their last few days were together, Tatiana mentioning that, “everyday was someone’s goodbye.” Brunn recounted what it was like once the final shot of the show wrapped, saying that at first the cast and crew started clapping, but that didn’t feel quite right, and then the energy shifted and people started shouting and cheering. Maria joked that it was “like being at a wake.” It was even brought up that Maria made up a song on the spot when the show wrapped, but when urged to sing it on stage, the cast let the audience know it was a once and a lifetime thing she couldn’t repeat. As all of the actors expressed how they felt as the show wrapped, it was clear how tight-knit of a family the crew had become.
There was also a big focus on the character, Rachel, being as how she has become the big bad coming out of season 4. The team discussed her overall arc, and how exciting it will be to see her climbing back to power. Tatiana took time to dissect Rachel’s character, explaining that Rachel “not wanting to identify as a clone takes away her power, because she’s still a part of the system.” Tatiana mentioned how there will be quite a few character driven episodes in the next season, and that Rachel’s was her favorite to portray. Graeme expressed that although it’s clear that Rachel is a terrible person, he and John like her so much that they also made sure to make her a sympathetic character who will often contradict herself.
The mysterious Dr. Westmoreland was also mentioned, and while the John and Graeme stayed vague, they let the audience know that they’ve always had an idea of who that person was. Graeme noted that in this feminist show, they wanted to have a man at the top that the women would have to take down. When met with playful jeers by the audience, Graeme mentioned how Dr. Westmoreland might represent the patriarchy in a sense.
One of the most touching moments of the night came from Tatiana and Kathryn, her body double. When it was Kathryn’s turn for a few questions, the cast showed so much respect for her work and how (sadly), all of it will go unnoticed. Tatiana noted a particular scene where although the camera was on her, Kathryn gave a performance “ten times of what [Tatiana] was giving,” and how the entire room was affected. Maria went on to mention that Kathryn gives such outstanding performances, and how sad it is that the audience misses it all, stating, “I’m in awe of your work.” A humble Kathryn nearly fell into tears as she expressed her gratitude in working alongside Tatiana, and the two of them jokingly began to argue about who was more gracious of the other.
Continuing on the idea of the show’s finale, much of the night was spent talking about what the cast took away from their characters and/or each other. My favorite response came from Jordan, who actually learned about himself through the accent he had to put on for his character. He stated how Felix and his accent allowed him to express an inner femininity, which was freeing for him– something he normally feels like he has to hide. He mentioned that he would like to live his day to day less afraid of doing what he would like because of social norms, much like Felix. Maria said she would love to take Mrs. S’s bravery. What Evelyne loved about Delphine was that she doesn’t care what people think.
The panel continued with each of the cast discussing their own processes in becoming their character, along with what audiences can expect in the up and coming season. Before the audience Q&A began, the cast went around picking their favorite clone, with Tatiana unable to choose between Alison/Rachel/and Helena, Graeme picking Sarah because she’s the hardest to write, and John saying that his favorite has shifted from Alison to Rachel.
The Q&A was fairly short and sweet, mostly with the audience taking that time to comment on how the show has personally affected them. Kristen was gifted with a bright orange “Free Donnie” shirt that an audience member and her posse made.
Finally, and rather abruptly, Schnieder wrapped up the panel by proclaiming that it was time for a “Clone Dance Party!” prompting some techno music to begin blasting through the speakers and the cast standing up to greet audience members at the stage.
From what was premiered tonight, the final season of Orphan Black is bound to be one of their most exciting yet, and unfortunately for most of America, they’ll have to wait until June to continue the next chapter.
Vanessa Jay | Contributor