As Orphan Black winds down its run, we’re spending time out on the island where P.T. Westmorland has created his secret society, and in the first episode of Season 5, we found out that itÂ exists under a security presence. One of those security folks charged with keeping people in (and perhaps something out) is Amar, played by Vas Saranga, who also has a recurring role on CBS’s new summer drama Salvation, which begins Wednesday. I chatted with Saranga about both projects and his appreciation for genre fandom.
Saranga had circled roles on previous seasons of Orphan Black before Amar came his way, and he loved the character. “I auditioned many times and I wasn’t the right fit, and then this one came up. Amar is a hunter and specializes in dog tracking. He commands two Dobermans. They work at Revival, the camp based on Neolutions and run by P.T. Westmorland,” he explains.
“There’s not a whole lot that’s been revealed yet. We’re going to find out why everyone is there, what’s been going on, and how [Westmorland] has been living so long, and what allegiances people have to him vs. the clones when they come into contact with them.”
“I couldn’t have been more excited to jump into it. There’s a lot of action in the woods, a lot of running and tracking with the dogs and discovering some creepy stuff, some dangerous things going on in the woods, which we’ll learn more about as the season progresses.”
In the Season 5 premiere, we saw Amar question his colleagues about what he was seeing when they were more inclined to toe the party line, and that aspect of the character appealed to Saranga. “At this point, viewers don’t know who to trust. The instinct is, ‘trust no one,’ because they could be a Neolutionist, they could be anyone,” he says.
“To play a character that right out of the gate is questioning what is happening added a layer of depth to someone who could come off as a bad guy. I think audiences will be curious to see his arc and [relationship] with the other two hunters [Salvador and Cooper]. We can see the hierarchy between them. They’re the senior trackers who are receiving instructions from above and he’s forced to follow their lead and they need him because he is the one who controls those dogs.”
Saranga was in the dark coming into the show about whatÂ Amar’s arc would be, given the secretive nature of the production. “I knew almost nothing. You only get the scripts for the episodes you’re in, very close to when you shoot,” he points out. “You’re not allowed to talk about it. I had a very rough idea, but I was excited to get the new scripts to see what happens with my character and everyone at Camp Revival.”
As a day one fan of the show, Saranga knew about the rig work involved in shooting Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles, but says the location filming for the camp scenes was done differently, so he didn’t get to see that first hand. “There was a lot of handheld camera work. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s frenetic and quick,” he says. “There were drone shots. It’s shot differently than I thought it would be.”
In Salvation, Saranga plays a Pentagon specialist named Dexter. “It’s a really cool show. It’s a thriller about an asteroid that’s discovered to be on course with Earth. An MIT grad student and a billionaire genius take this discovery to the Pentagon and try to figure out how to save the Earth,” he says.
“It’s a very high-stakes show, super-high adrenaline. Lots of character drama. The story arc continues throughout the season. It’s not a typical procedural. The sets are really, really cool. I think it’s going to be really exciting to watch. So far, I’ve already shot five episodes.”
Similar to his Orphan Black experience, Salvation has been an exercise in “need to know.” “It’s very secretive. They don’t want any of the plot details to slip. I only find out a few days or a week before I have to shoot,” he explains. “It’s always surprising to me to see how the story develops. I hope I’m going to do a couple more.”
Saranga appeared in Season 1 of The Strain and has stayed with the show as a fan.Â Genre fandom in generalÂ isÂ important to him as an actor and a viewer. “I get a kick out of being really engrossed in the worlds that have been built. It’sÂ extra satisfying. I love being a fan of a show and following them before and after I get roles in them,” he says.
“Getting the opportunity to work in comedy or family drama or even dramedyÂ or [something more] auteur–there’s such a variety of projects right now, that being able to take part in a broad spectrum of stuff really helps you develop as an actor. There’s punchy humor, there are broad moments, there areÂ dark themes.”
“Genre is a collection of all the other types out there fused into one. Doing straight drama and comedy helps you bring those moments intoÂ a genreÂ show when you’re a guestÂ actor so you can do [all of] that well. The fan response and level of engagement with fans surpasses any other kind of work out there. It’s all love.”
Orphan Black is taking its final trip Saturdays at 10 pm/9c on BBC America. Salvation will air at 9 pm/8c Wednesdays on CBS beginning July 12th. Here are sneak peeks of the next Orphan Black and what to expect on Salvation.
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