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Sarah’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2013: Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany 

Photo Credit: BBC America
Photo Credit: BBC America

Every year there is a stand out new show that no one ever expects will take off. But something unexpected clicks: the air time slot works, the theme hits an audience nerve, stars align. In the case of Orphan Black (BBC America), the little Canadian show that could, the winning factor really is in the casting of its lead. Tatiana Maslany makes this show work and deserves to be 2013’s All Star. 

A quick look at her IMDB and you realize that Tatiana isn’t a newcomer to the scene. But it may just take that right show to really give an actor the opportunity to break open. Orphan Black, a sci-fi show about a clone conspiracy with edgy, swift writing and sharp special effects, has given Tatiana the tools to really showcase her talents. In the first ten episodes, she played seven different clones, each with their own quirks, backgrounds, speech patterns, and attitudes. In one episode, she managed to play a clone impersonating another clone. (The mind boggles at the prep needed to pull that off.)  For any actor, playing a twin could be a challenge. To play seven separate roles and give independent life to each is phenomenal.

It’s not enough to just play seven people and give them each a special accent. Admittedly, the show wouldn’t be that compelling if that was all we were watching. But Tatiana breathes something powerful into each. She virtually shape-shifts into each clone. There’s Sarah, the rough punk who has one driving mission: protect her daughter. There’s Alison, the borderline psychotic suburban mom. Or Cosima, the evolutionary biologist student with a weakness for leggy blondes.  And the antagonist clone Helena, the disturbed religious fanatic assassin. Each clone is a fully-formed role, not simply a replica of a single character. A mixture of gripping writing and Tatiana’s masterful take on each character make this show stand out. Even while playing the broken Helena or the manic Alison, Tatiana manages to make the audience empathize with the clones. You don’t just root for them (even the twisted ones), you ache for their losses. The audience cheers for them, even when they are on separate sides and have different end goals. How else does one explain actually cheering on Alison as she’s having a mental breakdown and interrogating her husband via torture by hot glue gun? Not many actors could pull that off or even be up for the challenge. It’s hard to believe the show would have had its success without Tatiana.

We at TV Goodness aren’t the only ones who have noticed Tatiana’s considerable talent. So far in 2013 she’s won a Critics Choice Television Award, a TCA award and been nominated for a Golden Globe for her roles as Sarah, Alison, Beth, Cosima, Helena, Rachel and Katja. Time for the Emmys and SAG to wake up and give her the appropriate nod next season.

Season two of Orphan Black premieres April 19, 2014 on BBC America.

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