“Orphan Black” was one of TV’s best kept secrets over the course of its first season on BBC America, but now showrunners John Fawcett and Graeme Manson are gearing up for Season 2 just as the sci-fi series’ fan base is starting to blow up.
A groundswell of support for both the clone conspiracy drama and its amazing star Tatiana Maslany has made “Orphan Black” one of the buzziest young series on TV and Fawcett and Manson hope to continue building on that momentum.
During a roundtable discussion in the BBC America press room at Comic-Con, Fawcett and Manson revealed some of what fans can expect next season (new clones! Jordan Gavaris’ scene-stealing Felix getting his fight on!), at what point they realized the show was connecting with viewers and whether or not we’ll ever see Patton Oswalt as a special guest star.
[Warning: The discussion involves spoilers from the end of Season 1.]
What can you share about the plans for Season 2?
John Fawcett: We know where we’re going with our mystery in a broad and general sense. We love our cliffhangers, at the end of episodes and the end of acts. So we knew what we were building to, we knew a lot of the elements for the climax of the season. We really liked putting Sarah back where we met her. She’s on the run, she hasn’t got her daughter and she’s got a pocket full of change. We’re gonna pick up Season 2 pretty much where we found her in Season 1.
Graeme Manson: A big part of the focus for Sarah is getting her daughter back, obviously. Figuring out who took her, where they went and getting her back. Sarah’s gonna kick ass at the beginning of Season 2.
JF: We’ve got a new clone to explore in Rachel — or a new orphan, as we don’t use the C-word. We’re really interested in that dynamic because in a lot of ways Sarah started a war with Rachel. And we’re really interested in whatever the heck is up with Mrs. S.
At what point in Season 1 did you realize the show was connecting with viewers?
GM: We knew it was connecting with us. The things that we wanted to do were working. Tat was riveting and we realized that early in the process.
JF: Really early in the process. To be honest … we knew that Tat was special and we felt good about the way we cast it. But we were still nervous about making a show with a premise that relies on one actor playing multiple characters in the same scene — pulling that off to the degree that audiences and critics don’t go, ‘This is stupid.’ Early on we started realizing it was working better than we ever thought it was gonna work. Even just from people reviewing the show early on, we were like ‘Wow, we got way better reviews than we thought we were going to.’
GM: But it didn’t translate to numbers right away.
JF: It’s a very small network.
GM: It took until the season finished airing. The online fanbase just kept growing exponentially. The Clone Club and the Clonesbians and all the people on Tumblr — all that stuff is super rewarding. We were like, ‘Wow, it has connected.’ We said in episode two or three, ‘You know, people might have favorite clones.’
JF: Because we did.
GM: And sure enough. It’s a testament to Tatiana, but that’s what happened.
Does seeing all that passion from fans give you any extra pressure to deliver in Season 2 or does it make you feel more confident to stick with your plan and trust people will like it?
JF: This has been fantastic, but we’ve always had a plan for Season 2. I think we know we have a really good evil plan for Season 2 and we’re just excited to get about doing it. Is there extra pressure? Maybe a little bit because people are so keen on the show. Obviously we don’t want to let people down. But we set out to make a show that we loved to be excited about and I think if we stick to that it’ll all go okay.
GM: We constantly push each other, we’re constantly going ‘I’ve seen that before’ or ‘How do I make this better?’ We put that pressure on ourselves from the beginning. We’re both perfectionists in a number of ways.
JF: It’s also about trying to give the audience stuff they haven’t seen before. Really trying to do things that are ahead. We like that.
GM: You’ve never seen anyone rave dancing with a man-tail.
Is there any chance we’ll meet another character who also has clones?
GM: We’ve thought about it.
JF: I think at the moment we’re too enamored of Tat and we have way more things we want to do with her. Is there a possibility sometime in the future? Sure.
GM: Season 7. Definitely.
JF: At the moment we’re way too fixated on our new clone Rachel, probably introducing [another] new clone and challenging Tat — seeing as much more as we can of her.
Do you ever feel like you’re pushing her too far?
JF: Last season I was afraid we were gonna kill her.
GM: She only got sick once.
JF: But it was a bad sick, she lost her voice.
GM: You end up having to ADR not one character but all of them.
GM: None of us realized how grueling it was gonna be.
JF: I think we all knew it was gonna be a lot of hard work but none of us knew how much. We were all a little naive to be honest. Now we know better. In Season 2, now that we’ve established the world and almost killed ourselves doing it, we feel like ‘Yes we want to see clones and challenge Tat, we love her.’ But we also have these great side stories and a really cool supporting cast.
I think in Season 2 we want to allow some of those storylines to breathe a little bit more and let them carry the ball a bit. Let Jordan go and let him have something to do without a clone character. Partly so we can rest Tat, and partly because we love those characters.
GM: Yeah. But also, you’re not gonna let up until we now put four clones in one scene. You’re gonna want to do it once at least.
JF: I directed the scene with the wine pour — the three of them — it was very challenging. It’s like, ‘What can we do that’s even more?’
GM: A four clone scene would take two days to shoot.
Jordan has said he expects Felix will see a little more action next season, and not just in bed.
GM: Oh really? No, it’s gonna be in bed.
JF: Jordan just wants to get naked all the
time. [laughs] No, we love the character of Felix. He’s always been a fun, hilarious character. Our whole thing in setting out with the tone of ‘Orphan Black’ — we were making a clone show and it was always important to us that it was fun, not just mysterious and thrilling and stuff like that, but funny. To say ‘We’re gonna make a clone show’ is absurd first of all. I think it’s important to have a good sense of humor about it and I can see that the fans respond to that.
GM: I just found out Jordan is actually a ninja. He has done years of martial arts — I had no idea, it’s true. Felix the ninja, maybe, just maybe.
How much support do you feel you have at BBC America and are they different from other networks or studios you’ve worked for?
JF: BBC America was the only network that loved this show when no one else wanted to make it. Our partners at Temple Street went crazy for it and they worked tirelessly to get ‘Orphan Black’ made.
GM: The deal came together, fell apart, came together, fell apart numerous times.
JF: We went to LA and took meetings. We had lots of great meetings with different networks — everyone loved the script because Graeme wrote a great script with a killer concept. But no one wanted to make it. No Canadian networks, no American networks. BBC America was the first one that went ‘We love the show, we want to make the show.’
GM: ‘Not only do we want to make it, we want to put it on Saturday nights after “Doctor Who.”‘ In the first meeting! We just looked at each other like [‘Wow’].
JF: They’ve been very supportive. Their notes and feedback have been only helpful. It’s great when you get smart notes from the network that actually help you make the show you want to make.
GM: And our Canadian network, Space, have been very good partners too. They’re smart creative people too. We haven’t been given free reign but they’re letting us go with our vision, both networks and the producers.
Was it hard to kill Helena in Season 1?
JF: Super hard, but it was always the plan of Season 1. Even when we sold the show, we knew what we were gonna do with her. It was difficult because by the time you get there she’s a real character. She’s not just something on a piece of paper anymore. We invested a lot of time in creating her.
By the time she died she was actually a very sympathetic figure, but it also seemed like she was so damaged she couldn’t be helped.
JF: I’m glad that that worked. It was a really important part of it for us. We wanted to start her as a really scary villain, essentially a serial killer, and then bend her around into this sympathetic place. And actually have some fun with her, turn her into a character that had some comedy. And make her loving and make her sympathetic. So by the time we got to the final episode you actually gave a s— that she died. That speaks to the mad skills of Tatiana also, because she’s the one who made you love her.
Patton Oswalt has made it known he’s a huge fan of the show. Any plans to give him a guest role?
GM: John and I keep missing him in rooms by like two minutes.
JF: I don’t know that he actually exists.
GM: It’d be great to find something for Patton.
JF: He’s such a huge fan of the show and been such a supporter, we’d love to do something with him.
GM: I don’t know if we’d clone him…