All posts by A.R. Wilson

A.R. Wilson has been interviewing actors, writers and musicians for over 20 years. In addition to TV-Eh, her work has appeared in Curve, ROCKRGRL, Sound On Sight and Digital Journal. A native of Detroit, she grew up watching Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant on CBC, which led to a lifelong love of Canadian television. Her perpetual New Year's resolution is to become fluent in French.

The Detail: Co-showrunners Ley Lukins and Adam Pettle on producing the first season and breaking free from Scott & Bailey

Showrunning a TV series is a huge job. In fact, it’s so big that it sometimes requires the help of a friend to pull it off. That was the case for Ley Lukins and Adam Pettle, who acted as co-showrunners during the first season of CTV’s new detective series, The Detail.

“It’s amazing to have a buddy in that job because it’s the job of two people at least,” says Pettle. “But it’s also got to be with someone you not only get along with but whose artistic and creative taste and sensibility are like yours.”

Luckily, that’s just the kind of working relationship Lukins and Pettle have. The pair first hit it off several years ago in the Rookie Blue writers’ room. Then, when Pettle was showrunning Saving Hope, he made sure to hire Lukins because “she’s one of the most phenomenal writers I’ve ever worked with.” So when CTV gave Lukins the green light to put The Detail—an adaptation of Sally Wainwright’s U.K. hit, Scott & Bailey starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharpinto productionit seemed natural to have her co-run the series with Pettle.

“Adam has a lot of experience,” says Lukins. “He’s run other shows, so he was sort of a great teacher for me. This is the first time I’ve ever co-showrun a TV series, so it was a wonderful experience for me to be paired with somebody who I already had a working relationship with and who I already implicitly trusted.”

The Detail, which focuses on the professional and personal lives of three female homicide detectives, is approaching mid-season and picking up steam. Last week, Jack (Shenae Grimes-Beech) confided in Stevie (Angela Griffin) that she’s pregnant with ex-boyfriend Marc’s (Ben Bass) baby, while Stevie and Kyle (David Cubitt) dug into an old, unsolved case. Meanwhile, Fiona (Wendy Crewson) bet on Jack’s interrogation skills to keep a serial killer behind bars and her professional reputation intact.

Ahead of Sunday’s new episode, “Secret Liars,” Lukins and Pettle joined us by phone to discuss the development process for the series, how they worked to distinguish it from Scott & Bailey, and what’s coming up next for the show’s characters.

Ley, you worked for around two years developing The Detail. How did you first become involved with the show?
Ley Lukins: Ilana Frank, one of the executive producers on the project, optioned the rights for the British format, Scott & Bailey. She had been developing it herself previously, so she sort of came to me and needed to secure a writer on it and asked if I would be interested in developing it with her. And I said I absolutely would. I watched the British series and thought it was fantastic, and then we sort of went from there.

Adam was brought in as a co-showrunner after the series was ordered. Did that lead to any changes in the show’s direction? 
LL: We sort of talked through and mapped out where we thought Season 1 could go. Initially, there were two episodes written, and the pilot remained the pilot, and the other episode we moved down the line and instead did an original for Episode 2 to kind of start planting that we were going to be diverging from the original adaptation.

Adam Pettle: Because I have showrunning experience and it was Ley’s show, I feel like I kind of brought different things to the party. I never wanted to take ownership or control and make it into my voice or my thing because Ley had worked for two years in development on it, and it was so obviously her thing. And the whole idea was for me to do a year and then for Ley to run the show on her own.

So Ley would be the sole showrunner for a hypothetical Season 2?
AP: That would be the arrangement, yes. But hopefully, I’ll write on it.

Ley, what was the biggest showrunning lesson you learned during Season 1 that you would bring forward into Season 2?
Honestly, the most valuable thing I learned was that it all comes down to trust. Despite how many balls there are in the air at any given time, everything will get done at the end of the day. You need to trust yourself, trust the team, and most importantly, trust the process.

Is the development process different when a series is an adaptation, as opposed to an original concept?
LL: It’s different in the sense that you already have a sort of roadmap of what the series is and what it looks like. And it’s unique in the sense that, a lot of the time, people will adapt things that are in different languages, and this was already in English, so that was a bit of a challenge. Instead of just taking it from a foreign language and putting it into English, it was sort of more gearing it toward a North American audience.

And, obviously, it comes with the characters. Scott & Bailey have five seasons or five series as they say in Britain, so it basically came down to kind of preserving all the things that everyone loved about the seriesbecause the original series is so phenomenalthen slowly sort of diverting from that and making it into its own thing. The pilot is very similar to the pilot in the original, and then slowly we moved the series in a different direction. We changed up elements of the characters. We added more diversity to the show because that was something that we wanted to do. And we also changed the serialized case. We have lots of original episodes as well.

AP: There are definitely challenges. I think the first one is that we all loved the original show, so there’s, not an intimidation factor, but you don’t want to f**k it up, and you don’t want to write something that everyone thinks is god-awful. And, on the other hand, we wanted to make it our own thing and wanted to make a new original show for Bell [Media]. So we had this great magnum, this great raw material in the original scripts. We were told we could use as much or as little of it as we wanted to, which is amazing. But I think the process is separating yourself from the original material enough so you can create your own thing. And that takes some time.

Let’s talk a bit about the casting. What was it about Shenae Grimes-Beech, Angela Griffin, and Wendy Crewson that made you say, ‘They’re the ones’?
AP: Well, Shenae just is [Jack]. Shenae is a badass. Shenae is super smart. She has an edge but also an amazing sense of humour, and she’s so quick on her feet and also, I think, has lived. I think there’s a lot of actors who would shy away from someone being hungover, someone sleeping in their car for an episode, and Shenae just gets it and loves going there. She’s just an amazing fit, I think she’s brilliant.

And Angela is just a powerhouse actor. The audition search, the net was cast far and wide, and obviously, it’s a big show for Bell, and they didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. I remember seeing Angela’s audition tape from the U.K., and she lights up onscreen.

LL: Ilana Frank is amazingly skilled at casting. She has sort of a preternatural ability for it. And I think the minute Shenae’s tape came in, she knew she wanted Shenae. We were all very excited about Shenae’s audition and felt that she just had something about her that felt very true to who Jack’s character is.

And Wendy was someone who we kind of always had in mind, even in the development process for Fiona. Because she worked with us on Saving Hope and she’s such a force of nature and she’s such a wonderful, amazing actress. It just didn’t seem that anyone else could do that part.

And Angela, there was just this unbelievable competence and warmth about her audition. Stevie is a character that kind of has to be very hard and very soft at the same time. She’s a bit of an iron fist in a velvet glove, and it can very hard to find that balance in people, and Angela had that perfect sort of balance of those two things that really spoke to us when we saw her audition.

The Detail is focused on Jack and Stevie’s relationship, but Fiona is almost a third lead character. Did that present any challenges in the writers’ room?
AP: It’s a balance. The relationship between Jack and Stevie, that potential loss of their relationship and friendship and love affair is kind of what created the spine of the show, so all the stories kind of branched off of that. And then Fiona, Wendy is such an amazing actor who could be the lead of any series, so it was just a matter of fitting that third part of the triangle into the stories. But because she’s their boss, and they’re not all really on the same tier, there’s a power dynamic inherent in their relationship, she fits into the story.

As far as the personal stuff goes, that was more challenging to know what we were going to reveal. In [Scott & Bailey], Jillwho’s our Fiona characterreally in Series 2 and 3, we learn way more about her. But Wendy Crewson really felt that she didn’t want too much personal stuff about Fiona early on because she feels that she wouldn’t reveal it. And being the boss, you’re going to have to play your cards a little closer to your chest. So, the personal stuff was more of a challenge.

But it’s always that balancing act in any room. I love the fact that it’s three women that we were talking about because so often on cop shows it’s skewed the other way. It was such a refreshing dialogue in the writers’ room.

Some of the criminal cases reflect what’s going on in the characters’ personal lives. How did this impact the way you chose cases for the show?
LL: Some cases very fully reflect things that are going on in the characters’ lives. We did try to sprinkle in some cases that maybe weren’t as deeply linked, just so it didn’t become too redundant or too predictable. And we didn’t want it to ever dictate a case too much, in the sense that we were only telling this case to get this character point across. Because wanting to match those two things every time, it can feel inauthentic.

Our writers in the writers’ room also came in with personal experiences or cases that they wanted to investigate because they either had first-hand knowledge or it was research that they had encountered that they felt they could tell a really great story. And so there were times that the mystery of the case trumped character. It was sort of a mixture of the two.

When we spoke to Shenae Grimes-Beech and Angela Griffin, they told us that they loved how much Jack and Stevie supported each other. Was that a theme you were purposely trying to drive home?
LL: Yes, I think that was something both Adam and I were adamant about right out of the gate. We said the primary love story of this show is between these women, and it’s their relationship. It’s not dissimilar to the original, and we wanted to make sure that we preserved that element of it, and when people tuned in, they were going to see women supportive of each other’s successes, who advocated for each other and who always had each other’s backs. Because that’s the way women are.

Can you give us any hints about what to expect in the next few episodes?
AP: The baby being Marc’s comes back into play. And then Stevie and Jono’s relationship is to be tested with the reemergence of Kyle Price.

LL: There’s a very exciting court episode coming up, which I think is a very important episode, and I think it deals with a very important issue that’s in the news a lot. We will get the answers to some of the questions that have been planted earlier in the season. It’s getting good!

And do you already have storylines in mind for Season 2? 
LL: We have lots of ideas for Season 2. I think we left Season 1 off in a really good place that gives lots of opportunities for stories in Season 2. So I’m excited.

AP: There’s definitely a Season 2 that’s well-formed already. So hopefully, we get the chance.

The Detail airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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The Detail: Angela Griffin and Shenae Grimes-Beech bond over murder cases, messy personal lives in new CTV detective drama

While female cops are, thankfully, commonplace on TV, it’s unusual for a crime series to centre on three female homicide detectives, as does CTV’s new crime drama, The Detail, which premieres Sunday, March 25, at 9 p.m. ET.

“You usually get a single female,” says Angela Griffin, who plays Stevie Hall, an experienced and disciplined homicide detective on Toronto’s Metropolitan Police Force. “You get your sole female lead, and you might get a sidekick, but it’s really rare to have three female leads in a show like this–and it’s great that it isn’t punctuated, it isn’t whacked over your head.”

The show focuses on the professional and personal lives of Stevie, her rough-around-the-edges rookie partner, Detective Jacqueline “Jack” Cooper (Shenae Grimes-Beech), and their tough boss, Staff Inspector Fiona Currie (Wendy Crewson, Saving Hope). The fact that these characters come from three different generations makes it all the more compelling.

“We’re on totally different pages in our journeys in life, and I think that gives people a lot to relate to,” says Grimes-Beech. “That, and the fact that these women truly are supportive of each other in today’s whole movement of female empowerment.”

That kind of support is on display in The Detail‘s debut episode, “Wake Up Call,” as the detectives investigate an apparent suicide the day after Jack learns a shocking revelation about her personal life and publicly acts out. The fallout makes Fiona question whether it’s worth keeping her on the team, otherwise known as “the detail,” but Stevie quickly comes to her partner’s defense, pointing out that, despite her screw-ups, Jack “sees things other people miss.”

According to Grimes-Beech, a Toronto native best known for Degrassi: The Next Generation and 90210, Jack’s penchant for trouble actually helps her on cases. “She definitely is a bit of a rule breaker because she thinks outside of the box,” she explains. “I think if Jack got her shit together, she may not be as good at what she does. But I think it lands her in hot water at work, and it certainly does not play out well in her personal life.”

That makes Stevie the apparent adult in the partnership. “Stevie’s really methodical, she comes from a family of cops,” says Griffin, a British actress with dozens of TV credits, including Coronation Street, Inspector Lewis and Brief Encounters. “There was never really any chance of her doing anything else, she always wanted to be a cop, and she absolutely plays by the rules. I think that’s one of the draws to Jack. There’s a real attraction because she’s so much more raw, she plays so much more on instinct. And Stevie can’t do that.”

However, while Stevie appears to have her professional act together, Griffin says the mother of two is dealing with some very real family problems. “There’s an honesty to Stevie that I think you don’t often get on TV,” she says. “Which is sometimes, when she closes the door on her family to go to work, she breathes a sigh of relief because it’s actually sometimes easier to go and deal with the dead bodies and deal with the murderers than it is to deal with a teenage daughter.”

As the season progresses, things will get messier for Stevie and Jack, as their professional and personal lives intersect in painful ways. An old lover (David Cubitt, Medium) and an old case present problems for Stevie, while the personal trauma Jack encounters in the pilot continues to evolve and fester, eventually threatening a case and straining Stevie and Jack’s partnership.

But, again, it comes down to support. “These women are putting their lives in each other’s hands every single day,” says Griffin. “They have to trust each other. They have to have a really quite incredible bond, and I think that they work at that.”

As for Griffin and Grimes-Beech, The Detail–which is very loosely based on the U.K. series Scott & Bailey–has provided each of them the opportunity to grow as actors.

Grimes-Beech never envisioned herself landing a detective role. “When I was in the audition waiting room, I felt very out of place,” she says. “But once I read the dialogue, I felt I had stepped right into this girl’s shoes.”

Executive producer Ilana Frank (Rookie Blue, Saving Hope) felt the same way and fought for her to play Jack. “Because of my age or whatever, people were a little unsure of giving me the job,” Grimes-Beech says. “But she really had my back the whole way along.”

Meanwhile, Griffin had to polish the North American accent she’s been keeping in her “back pocket” since she–and a wave of other British actors–began regularly participating in the annual pilot season for American and Canadian productions. “You’ve really got to get that accent off if you want to have a chance with a part, so I’ve been doing it for a couple of years,” she says. “And I was fortunate that we had an amazing dialect coach who came onto set and helped me out.”

Still, she was nervous about getting it right. “I’ve got to say, the first couple of weeks of filming, I was probably thinking about how I was talking more than what I was talking about,” she says.

To help, Griffin chose to stay in Stevie’s accent “from the moment I got up in the morning” until the show wrapped each night. She would then suddenly revert back to her British accent–a switch that sometimes startled her co-stars.

“We would forget, and then we would wrap, and she would [speak in a British accent],” Grimes-Beech laughs. “We all totally forgot that she wasn’t from here.”

The Detail airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Orphan Black 510: Co-creator Graeme Manson on the ending he always envisioned

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen Orphan Black Episode 510, “To Right the Wrongs of Many.”

“I survived you. We survived you, me and my sisters, together.” —Sarah

In the end, Orphan Black‘s Big Bad, dying eugenicist P.T. Westmorland (Stephen McHattie), was dispatched less than halfway through the series finale, his self-important, patriarchal sputterings cut short when Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) smashed an oxygen tank into his skull. Then the show turned its attention to what really mattered: the enduring sisterhood of Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena.

After five seasons of trauma and loss, the clones were given a relatively happy ending. A six-month flash forward showed that Helena was raising her twin boys with Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun), Cosima and Delphine (Évelyne Brochu) were traveling the world to cure hundreds of Leda clones (with a list given to them by Rachel), and Sarah was struggling to raise Kira (Skyler Wexler) without Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy)but finding strength and comfort in the support of her diverse group of sisters.

According to Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson, it was the ending he had envisioned when he originally pitched the series to BBC America several years ago. “I think myselfand all of uswanted a happy ending,” he says. “We wanted enough time to take a breath, come back and see what freedom meant to these sestras we’ve come to know so well.”

That the sisters defeated Neolution by banding together and embracing their differences also means a lot to Manson. “You know, a show about clones that at its core is about diversity, there’s something ironic and beautiful in that premise,” he says, “and to pull it off is kind of still a little bit flabbergasting.”

Manson joined us by phone to tell us more about the series finale, the show’s influence on Canadian television and what he plans to do next.

Overall, Orphan Black’s ending was happy and hopeful, with all the core clones surviving. How important was it to you that all the main sisters make it to the end?
Graeme Manson: I think it was very important. Behind the scenes, our four core sisters were off limits. It would come up once in a while, like when we needed to do something dramatic, like to kill someone, but then it would be like, ‘OK, who? Are you serious? Are you gonna kill Alison? Are you going kill to Cosima? We’re going to have to carry that?’ So in our minds those four sisters, including Helena, were safe. But then Rachel’s head was on and off the chopping block right up until early this season, but we made a decision that it was dramatically more interesting, and it would be a deeper and more interesting journey for Tatiana to play this sort of partial redemption of Rachel.
You’ve said that you knew the way you wanted to series to end when you originally pitched it, yet I understand that you made some fairly significant changes—such as moving parts of the action from the Island to Dyad—to the final two episodes. What was the reason for that?

Well, I would argue that they were, in fact, not major story changes really. Like the resetting of what we planned to do, closer to home, I mean the biggest thing [that moving the action from the Island to Dyad] did with the story is allow us to have the supportive characters play a bigger role. But it wouldn’t have made any difference. We would have come back and spent the final two acts at home anyway, we would have cut ahead six months after Sarah’s climax had occurred on the Island. So the change wasn’t actually that massive. What was difficult about the change was that it late in the game, and it was hard on production.

So that six-month jump forward was the ending you’d always envisioned?
I had a shape for the finale that jumped six months later, after the climax of it, after we dispatched the Big Bad, and I think myselfand all of uswanted a happy ending. We wanted enough time to take a breath, come back and see what freedom meant to these sestras we’ve come to know so well. And I think it was pretty early on in the season that we envisioned that Sarah was the stuck one. The brave woman who we’ve followed since she got off a train on the way home to steal her daughter and has gone through so much and has grown up and gained maturity and stepped into her late mother’s own shoes, that she would be the one who would still need to be carried over the line by her sisters. I think that was pretty solid pretty early. Quite honestly, we had large parts of the finale in mind since the end of last season.

I really appreciated that Sarah didn’t get a pat ending, that she still had some of the restlessness and rebelliousness in her that she’s had since the beginning. 
Yeah, she was in danger of being right where she was when we met her. She was in danger of taking Kira away again. She was in danger of running away. But over the course of this thing, Sarah has learned responsibility.

Meanwhile, Cosima, Alison and Helena seem to finish the series with a sense of peace and purpose. Beyond the flash forward you showed us in the finale, have you given any thought to how the clones will spend the rest of their lives?
That’s entirely up to the fans. It really is. You know, I have ideas on where we could pick up another story, but I set them free, too. I don’t sit around wondering what they’re doing today. [Laughs.]

Since you mentioned it, are there more Orphan Black stories to tell in the future? Could we see another series or a film?
Yeah. I think that there’s a chance. I think we all need a break from it, and I think the characters need a break. But we’ve talked about a feature. I’d love to think of that someday.

I was thrilled that Cosima and Delphine got a happy ending, which—as you know—is pretty rare for a lesbian couple on TV. Did you always envision them making it to the end, or were you at all influenced by the backlash the show received when Delphine was almost killed off?
No. The truth is that I think I really understood the ‘Kill Your Gays’ trope, perhaps more than a few people as we were driving toward the dramatic end of [Season 3], and I absolutely refused to have that character die. I was OK with a cliffhanger that we could claw our way back from, but I was 100 per cent against ever killing [Delphine]. I knew we were going to take heat even cliffhanging it, but as long as we could bring her back, I was willing to take the heat.

But bringing her back was very difficult. I mean it was pretty obvious what was going on when you realize that Évelyne Brochu was the lead in another series. I mean, I don’t know what all the hoopla was about. [Laughs.] I mean, come, look, she’s got another series, what do you think happened here? And the fact that she was carrying another series made it extremely difficult, but I was 100 per cent determined to bring her back, even though I knew that we would get her back very, very lightly in the next season. I made the case hard to our people, to the producers to keep the thread alive, and I made the pitch hard to Évelyne and said, ‘This is not the end. We want to bring you back. It’s the right thing for the show. It’s the right thing for these characters. You started the show, you’ve gotta end the show.’ And Évelyne really took it to heart, and we made it work.

What was the final scene that you filmed before wrapping the series?
The final moment was a piece of the birth with Sarah already wrapped. It was Tatiana as Helena and Art [Kevin Hanchard]. That final clone scene and that amazing birth were our final two days.

Was it very emotional for everyone?
It was four o’clock in the morning, and starting at about one o’clock in the morning, the cast started arrivingpeople that had long wrapped, crew who had been wrapped, people from past seasons, producers, network people. The number of people behind the monitors grew and grew until there were about 70 people behind the monitors waiting for that final cut. And it was super emotional. Everybody just stood in silence for a little while, and then people began to speak, there were testimonies. Maria Doyle Kennedy sang a song. And then we ate bagels with cream cheese and had champagne.

Orphan Black is credited with ushering in a Golden Age of Canadian television. What does that mean to you?
First of all, we’re thankful for coming up in the Canadian system and getting a show over the wall and being given the reins by our network and by our producers. And anything that we did to inspire others, whether that be business models or to inspire more confidence in the business or inspire more confidence in creativity, giving creatives full reign, that’s just great. We came up in Canada, you know? I’ve spent my whole career here. If it is true that the show has done that, then I’m very proud of that. You know, I’m certainly happy to see so many writers and actors that have come through the show going on to other stuff, and to keep the bloodline going I think is important to all of us.

What about Orphan Black makes you the proudest?
Oh, wow. I think it has something to do with wrestling this main character, Sarah, through this long journey and spending so much time with a character that formed the backbone of the show. And then working with so many incredibly talented women like Tatiana, like [science consultant] Cosima Herter. To have created a show that really did manage to break some molds as far as putting women at the centre and a show that managed to have a message underneath really fun storytelling and the action, edge-of-your-seat shit.

But that’s not as important as a show that’s main thrust, main messageespecially in this political climateis that there is strength in diversity. That’s a biological truth, and at its core, that’s what this show is about. You know, a show about clones that at its core is about diversity, there’s something ironic and beautiful in that premise, and to pull it off is kind of still a little bit flabbergasting.

What’s next for you?
I can only tease, but suffice to say that I’m continuing to explore some of the themes of Orphan Black in terms of science, citizen science, the limitations of science. I’m continuing to explore these themes with the real Cosima, Cosima Herter, with [series co-producer] Mackenzie Donaldson and with some other members of the Orphan Black family.

And so many people who have come up from Orphan Black are now onto their next things. Some of them are original. Some people have gone higher and further. I continue to be inspired by the themes and ethics and political stance of Orphan Black and continue to be super proud of everybody else and their own next steps, too.

Is there anything else you’d like to say now that the show’s final trip has ended?
Just a huge thank you from me and all of us at Orphan Black to Clone Club and all the supporters of the show.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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Orphan Black 510: Sarah faces down Neolution and her own demons in the series finale

This is it. The final episode of Orphan Black‘s final trip. After meeting dozens of clones—and almost as many villains—during Sarah Manning’s five-season quest for identity and freedom, it all comes down to Sarah and Helena. When we last saw the yin and yang twins, they were attempting to escape Dyad just as Helena went into labour. The finale jumps right back into that crisis, but, as series co-executive producer Alex Levine told us in last week’s postmortem chat, the episode will ultimately be more than just “run and jump/battles. We will get to see our sestras as they come to terms with life after the war.”

Here is what Bell Media had to say about “To Right the Wrongs of Many,” written by Renée St. Cyr and Graeme Manson and directed by John Fawcett.

Now in labour, Helena is forced to brace herself for delivery in the basement of Old Dyad. It’s a fight for survival as Sarah and Art struggle to protect her in a desperate last stand against Neolution.

And here are some spoiler-free tidbits we gleaned from watching the screener.

And where I did begin, there shall I end
Orphan Black started with Sarah’s discovery that she is a clone, and it will end with a look at who she is now, after enduring so much. As with the other clone-centric episodes in Season 5, expect some flashbacks and a cameo by a character from the (not so distant) past.

You gotta have Art
After being one of the most loyal Clone Club members for five seasons, Art plays a pivotal role in the finale and has some touching moments with the sestras.

A happy ending for Cophine
This is not a spoiler; it’s been telegraphed that Cosima and Delphine were going to be endgame from the moment that Delphine was resurrected from the “dead” in Season 4. Plus, the writers have told us as much in our chats this season. However, it’s still rare for a lesbian couple to make it to the end of a TV series alive and well, so it is worth noting and praising. Expect lots of heart-warming Cophine goodness in the finale.

They stick the landing
Orphan Black has been guilty of dangling story threads in the past—What happened to Marion Bowles? Where in the heck is Cal? Is Shay still wandering around Toronto with Delphine’s business card?—and some fans may quibble about a few unresolved plot details in the finale (don’t expect to learn why Kira feels the clones, for instance). However, the details of the conspiracy have always been less important than the emotional ties between the clones and their allies, and “To Right the Wrongs of Many” absolutely delivers on that front. There are several deeply moving character interactions, as well as a few unexpected ones, and the ending shot put a lump in our throats. So, stock up on tissues and some wine, and enjoy the final ride.

The Orphan Black series finale airs Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Space.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.

 

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Orphan Black 509: Alex Levine breaks down the series’ penultimate episode

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen Orphan Black Episode 509, “One Fettered Slave.”

“You are shit mother.” —Helena

Orphan Black has come full circle. Season 1 ended with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) trying to kill her twin sister, Helena (Maslany), and the penultimate episode of Season 5and the seriesends with Sarah trying to save her. Imprisoned in the bowels of Dyad by P.T. Westmorland (Stephan McHattie)and emotionally tormented by Virginia Coady (Kyra Harper)Helena makes the only choice that makes sense to her: to commit suicide to spare her unborn “bebes” from the life of torment she has endured. (And flashbacks showing the unholy acts of monsters wearing holy clothes emphasize that she has been viciously abused from a very young age.)

Luckily, Sarah’s non-convincing impersonation of Rachel (Maslany) lands her in the right place to offer a life-saving blood transfusion, which allows Helena to take out Coadya “shit mother” if there ever was onein brutally satisfying fashion. But we’re left with a major cliffhanger, as Helena’s water breaks while she and Sarah are trying to escape Dyad.

Joining us to break down all the plot twists in the second-to-last episode of Orphan Black is co-executive producer Alex Levine, who tells us more about Helena’s flashback scenes and gives us a few hints about next week’s huge series finale.

Penultimate episodes can be tricky because you want to build momentum, but you don’t want to outshine the finale. And “One Fettered Slave” isn’t just any penultimate episode, it’s the penultimate episode of the entire series. Did that pose any special challenges for you?
Alex Levine: Oh man! Every episode of Orphan Black poses special challenges, but yes, you’re right, the pressure was high on this one. And frankly, we shifted gears very late in the process. As a creative group, the decision was made to set the story on the mainland, in Dyad, during prep, rather than return to the island. We actually overhauled the story and rewrote half the script well into the prep process, which is very unusual. But we all knew we were making the right decision by changing course.

It’s an honour to write such an important episode of the show, and I was willing to do whatever it takes to make it as good as possible. But it wasn’t easy! I am confident that we made the right decisions. And I have to give credit to a posse of young creatives for pushing to change the direction of the episode and make it great: Mackenzie Donaldson, Renee St. Cyr and Tatiana too.

This was Helena’s episode, and we find out lots of details about her backstory. How did the writers’ room decide what portions of her dark past to focus on?
The Helena flashbacks were challenging but so fun to dig into. The genesis of the early convent scenes was a scene from a classic Faulkner novel, Light in August. There’s a killer in that story who has a seminal event in his childhood. So I riffed on that, and with Tat’s help, created a visceral early moment in Helena’s childhood where we see that she isn’t just an evil child, she’s a victim. The other scenes were key moments of her past we knew we wanted to explore, and it was about choosing the moments we felt would resonate with Helena’s current predicament. John was always eager to show her first kill, and the twist of her not knowing she’s a clone really made it sing. Graeme and Renee deserve much credit for the Barbie scenes with Tomas. The Barbie house that our art department created was brilliant.

Cynthia Galant played young Rachel in Episode 507. Why was Habree Larratt cast as young Helena for this episode?
Cynthia was cast to portray young Rachel, and we love her in that role. She’s composed and obedient and restrained. She’s a wonderful young actor with great chops. But in portraying young Helena, we wanted to be sure we had an actor who could explode emotionally, who is wild and untameable. And Habree really blew us away during the auditioning process. Her portrayal gave us the confidence to expand the scenes with Young Helena.

I thought the scenes between Helena and Dr. Coady were fascinating, with their back and forth about Coady killing her kids and Helena being an unfit mother. 
In any pairing, we are looking for the deep dramatic juice. We wanted to dig into this relationship anew, because they did have a number of scenes back in Season 3 at the Castor camp. We knew Coady was struggling with her responsibilities as a mother and that helped crystallize the line in which P.T. forces her to euthanize Mark. And we figured she would want to drag Helena into that nightmare with her. Tatiana actually pushed for Coady to be harsher in the final climactic scenes. She wanted Helena to be destroyed by this woman, to properly motivate Helena’s decision to commit suicide.

The scene where Coady killed Mark was both chilling and heartbreaking. Why did she go through with it?
I think people forget that Virginia is a ruthless eugenicist. She bought into P.T.’s grand vision and had the cold, evil heart to do certain things that no other party would do. She started this thing with him and she had no moral qualms about using humans as experiments. She always saw the big picture, even with the Castor sterilization plan. And she was very loyal to P.T.; she knows he has the grand vision, that she can’t do it without him. But she also grew to love Mark and became a mother by default. The struggle you see is the amoral heartless scientist suffocating her own maternal instincts. Kyra is a terrific actor and she definitely showed depth in that relationship and in that scene.

I’m sure you gave half the OB fandom a heart attack when Helena tried to kill herself to save her babies from Neolution and herself. Tell me about the decision to have her attempt suicide—and, after all she’s been through, can she handle being a mother?
We had a number of discussions about this choice. We know it’s a very dark choice, that it’s almost anathema to lots of people, specifically mothers. But we saw it as a heroic choice. Helena saw that these children would end up being tortured, being used and manipulated, being twisted and corrupted as she was corrupted as a child. And she believed by making this choice that she was saving them from a lifetime of horrors. I likened this choice to the siege of Masada, one of the final events of the Roman-Jewish war in 73-74 AD. The Jews were trapped on their mountain top village, Masada, surrounded by the Romans. It was only a matter of time before the Romans, who were building a ramp, would invade and enslave them. Having resolved never to be servants to the Romans, the Jews in Masada decided to die free instead. They killed each other and last man committed suicide. But Helena is so resourceful, we had to take her to a place where she truly felt she was out of options. And it sure helps to have an actor as strong as Tatiana sell that moment and make the emotionality credible.

As for Helena being a fit mother, I think she’ll be OK, in that she’ll probably let them run around like wild pigs and climb trees and eat dirt.

If there was any doubt about it, this episode proved that P.T. Westmorland is an evil, crazy misogynist—and he’s also bald! What do you think of him as the ultimate villain of Orphan Black? Is he someone that you and John Fawcett and Graeme Manson envisioned all along?
P.T. was always supposed to epitomize the misogynistic patriarchy that still pervades the world. But he really lets his flag fly in these last few episodes. I think we always knew he had to say some evil things to represent this accursed, awful world view that is the root of all the horrors of Neolution, we just needed to get him to a desperate enough place where he would let loose. I think he and Coady are joint grand villains, sort of a 1a and 1b. And by the way, Stephen McHattie isn’t bald. He’s got some hair, but he thought the better choice would be to shave his head once the wig came off, and it turned out great.

OK, this episode ends with Sarah and Helena—who’s in labour!—trapped in Dyad with Westmorland. What can you tell us about the big series finale?
The best thing I can tell you is that the finale is not all run and jump/battles. We will get to see our sestras as they come to terms with life after the war. And that, to me, is the most interesting and rich part. I have to give Graeme full props for carving out of each episode and each season ample time to explore these characters simply as human beings in a very credible version of our world. I forget who, but somebody smart said sci-fi is just a vehicle to explore how people react under different circumstances. It’s only good when the characters are truly relatable, no matter how cool the sci-fi ideas are. And that’s the best part of Orphan Blackthe mundane, the realistic, the human.

You have been with Orphan Black since the beginning. How has the show changed you as a writer? What will you miss about working on the show the most?
I have grown so much as a writer working with Graeme and some of the best writers in Canada. Everything I write now is coloured by what I’ve learned on Orphan. The reason I stayed with the show all this time is that the material and the characters speak to me. I don’t think any other show being produced in Canada offers the same canvas in terms of all the story and humanity we get to put on screen. And Orphan Black is really three or four shows in one: a thriller, a love story, a horror movie, and a suburban satire. Where else am I going to find that, all in one script?

John and Graeme are experts at what they do. John is such a seasoned director, his instincts are so good in prep and on the floor. And obviouslyOBVIOUSLYwe have the best actor in Canada, and working with her is such an incredible treat. To watch her transform material is really rewarding. She is such a professional in every way and sets a tone for all the other actors and cast and crew; and us as writers and producers. And we have a bunch of other amazing actors as well. Jordan and Kevin and Kristian and Maria, just to name our core cast. I’ve been on other series where there are difficult people, people who put their ego above the show. And that never ever happened on Orphan Black. Not ever. And that’s a testament to the quality of the bosses and department heads. Special shout out to Kerry Appleyard, our exec from Temple Street, who’s also a lovely person and brilliant creative who always helped set the tone. End of the day, I’m extremely humbled and grateful to have been part of the series.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Space.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

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