Tag Archives: Graeme Manson

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.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Orphan Black: The cast and creators say goodbye

This is it, Orphan Black fans. The last dance. The final farewell. Or, as the production sheets said during filming of Season 5: Swan Song. This Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on Space, that beloved club of clones returns to the small screen for the last 10 episodes.

Earlier this year, TV, Eh was among a handful of media who were invited to the set for a super-secret tour guided by co-creator John Fawcett (I’ve included some images in this story) , got up close and personal with the experts on hair, makeup and wardrobe and locked in a few precious moments with Fawcett and Graeme Manson and stars Tatiana Maslany, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jordan Gavaris, Evelyne Brochu and Kristian Bruun.

Here are the answers we got to the queries we gave:

Co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson
What are you most proud of when it comes to Orphan Black?
John Fawcett: There are so many things. I think I’m most proud of the fact that this was a show that shouldn’t have gotten made in the first place. Nobody wanted to make it and the show is a bit weird. What Graeme and I had in our brains was a mashup and I don’t think there was a lot of conviction from anyone. It was a ludicrous premise that we somehow made a believable place and garnered enough support from the media and from fans that we could keep the thing going for five seasons. It’s been a really, really wild journey. Graeme and I were new coming into this. Tatiana was new. We had all worked in the industry before but this was kind of our first show. It’s been life-changing.

Graeme Manson: We’re also all very proud of the fact we took this somewhat ludicrous sci-fi conceit, grounded it enough and imbued it with enough character that it became inspirational for so many young people, so many young women and that Tatiana and so many other women who work on the show kept the feminist themes of the show—identity, nature versus nurture, themes of diversity, inclusion—this is the fabric of the show and we were able to say important things on this crazy clone show. That’s something we’re all pretty proud of.

Did you always have the same final scene for the show in your heads from Episode 1 of Season 1?
John Fawcett: Graeme and I have had the same thing in our head from the very beginning. The process of making this show … there has been a very organic nature to it. Sometimes you absolutely know how things are going to go and often it doesn’t and it goes in a different direction. Our collaboration goes beyond just us. We have a much bigger collaboration because we have a very talented group of writers and really talented performers and we have a small family around us from the beginning and we’re very tight. The inspiration comes from all different directions. Things have altered, but have kind of stayed the same.

Season 5 will be a hair-raising ride

Jordan Gavaris and Maria Doyle Kennedy
Jordan, you said you grew up on Orphan Black. What did you learn about yourself as an actor and a person?
Jordan Gavaris: I learned I’m an activist. I learned that, if I wasn’t an actor I’d probably have gone to law school and probably working for the ACLU or in politics. What I learned more than anything is about the intersection between genders. I’ve been watching some very interesting artists over the years and the really, really great ones that everyone seems to celebrate culturally are these people who understood that gender is not real. David Bowie is a really good example. He got the intersection between masculinity and femininity, men and women. He figured out that women are great. And they always have been great. I’ve also learned a lot about leadership watching Tat. She moves through a business that is very much about aesthetic and it can be very oppressive. She is a unique paradigm when it comes to how she leads a set and there is a trickle down effect of her leadership. That perspective is what makes Orphan Black so unique. Her voice is in everything you see. Felix was such

Felix was such an exploration of all my feminine parts and I think it’s important to take the femininity to other characters that aren’t necessarily Felix or look like Felix or sound like Felix. They might be an attorney or doctor or whatever … I can bring what I discovered about my own feminity to them.

Are you taking anything from the set as a souvenir?
Jordan Gavaris: Oh yeah, I’ve gone full klepto. I’ve taken paintings, necklaces, cool pieces of costume. I’m stealing stuff.

Maria Doyle Kennedy: The only thing I want to take aside from my memories is this little wire bracelet. I think it’s the only thing I’ve had since Season 1 and I pretty much never take it off.

Kevin Hanchard
What are these final episodes going to be like for fans?

Kevin Hanchard: I don’t think we’re going for cheesy gotcha moments, it’s about the wonderful base and the wonderful story we’ve built and the tangents we’ve built from that. It’s time for the laser focus. It’s only 10 episodes, so it’s gotta go really quick. It builds to a head. I think fans will be happy.

Tatiana Maslany
Where did you put your Primetime Emmy?

Tatiana Maslany: My mom didn’t know it was in this box and she put a plant on top of it. It’s in a pretty chill zone.

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

Want to make Alison’s face lotion? Here’s the recipe!

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail